Never mind that I let them go to the corner store and load up on enough junk food to choke an Apatosaurus, with nary a warning aside from 'if you eat 'til you puke, you have to clean up your own vomit'. Never mind that I let them watch a PG-rated movie with no P-G whatsoever. And never mind that I let them stay up 'til eleven o'clock, which is a full two hours past my bedtime.
But ask them to clean up their trash, popcorn and spilled drinks from the living room floor, and what do I get?
Sotto voce: "Your mom is really... strict."
Ah, strict. That six-letter, four-letter word that kids toss around like they'll one day toss out off-the-cuff judgments like "bitch" or "asshole" about anyone who knots their knickers in the slightest.
Strict. My gawd, I hear that (and trust me, do I hear it!) and it brings me *this* close to losing my mind - you ingrates! Junk food! Movies! I didn't even make you floss before bed! (Mossy little critters, blech!) Then I waffle - Strict? What if I am too strict? Children shouldn't have to be responsible for tidying up their own messes when they're having fun, should they? Saturdays only come once a year, right? Maybe I should cut them some slack on this special occasion.
But I quickly return to my senses: Hmph. Strict. Strict my ass. Why, back in my day...
Let's consider this carefully for a minute. Strict. The opposite in this case is lenient - synonyms include 'doormat', 'pushover' and 'my kids are going to get knocked up when they're fourteen' - and that's a word I never want my kids to associate with me. You ungrateful little turkeys, I give you tons of autonomy within the frame of acceptable behaviour but you can fully expect me to lay the smack down sometimes, particularly when it comes to your treading on someone else's good nature. How else do you expect to grow up into considerate human beings? Pick up your own damn garbage!
Strict. Suddenly it has a certain ring to it, doesn't it? I hear strict is hot this season - why, it's practically the new black! So all you strict parents out there, roll that delicious word around on your tongue; learn to relish the weight of it on your conscience; wear your scarlet letter S with pride. Because they're worth it.