Tracy Lee Curtis

Mom plants chip for good decision-making

The strangest thing about becoming a mother is that it happens in an instant. You literally go from being the child to being the parent in a single push. But the best thing about becoming a mother? Getting to say, “Because I said so.”

It’s hard to know how to be a great mom. There’s no manual for it – at least no one’s mailed it to me yet. But I have this theory that our job is to plant that chip in their brain – the chip that discerns right from wrong, polite from impolite, moral from immoral, and “this is a great idea” from “this is the stupidest thing I’ll ever do.”

I got the idea back in 2007 when Britney Spears, in the middle of her epic meltdown, was having her head shaved when she looked in the mirror and said, “My mom’s gonna kill me.”

You got that right. Now – how do we embed the chip? Well, it’s painful. It takes a lot of discipline and consistency …

When they’re toddlers, it’s all about reacting. When they try to open a drawer, you have to say, “No, NO!” When they throw something on the floor you have to GASP! And if they talk back you have to open your eyes really wide and make them think your head is going to explode.

If you do this consistently for the first six years, they hear “no” and GASP and your head exploding before they even do anything wrong. Its like Pavlov’s dog in reverse.

It gets trickier as they get older, because now you have to lead by example. And life gets really dull and uninteresting. Because you can’t swear, over-indulge, speed, gossip, talk on the phone while driving or take more than one free cookie at the Harris Teeter. One wrong move and you’ve basically given them permission to do it.

But then they do it anyway. They break a rule, or fail a test or leave their sweaty lacrosse socks in your car that smell so bad you’re sure you’re gonna have to sell it.

And then you have to go back to reacting. You have to demonstrate all the disappointment and disapproval you can possibly channel from your own mother. Shame them so deeply that they pray they never let you down again.

(Tip: Try not to show your delight at how good you are at this. This includes high-fiving Dad.)

It’s tedious, but impactful. I really think if I embed all the data on the chip, they will instinctively consider the consequences and my reaction before they make a move. And I’m not talking about smelly socks now, I’m talking about drinking and driving, cheating and lying, and holding their moral compass upside down.

So son … see my face. Feel my wrath. Squirm under my burdensome disapproval …

And then let’s go grill some burgers, does that sound fun?

Curtis: tcurtis@charlotteobserver.com

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