Mom to Mom: Celia Rivenbark Answers Your Pressing Questions
In an exclusive excerpt from her new book, Rude Bitches Make Me Tired, New York Times bestselling author Celia Rivenbark answers your most pressing questions about the gray area of mom-to-mom relationships. (Warning: candid Southern humor ahead!)
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The following excerpt is taken from the new book, Rude Bitches Make Me Tired, by New York Times bestselling author and humorist Celia Rivenbark (St. Martins Press; October 22, 2013)
Question #1: I’m confused about how to approach a mom friend who allows her children to call me by my first name only. I have taught my kids to always call adults “Mr.” or “Ms.” [last name]. What’s your best advice for handling this?
Celia Rivenbark: My best advice isn’t the easiest thing, unfortunately. The easiest thing is to make an inflexible decree and stick to it. For example, as a daughter of the South, I was taught to call people “Mr.” or “Ms.” [first name], which is just a little more personal and friendly than saying Mrs. Smith, but probably a Southern thing. Neither answer is right. You should teach your children to address adults exactly the way that adult in particular wants to be addressed. For example, if the school bus driver likes to be called “Ms. Linda,” well, that’s what your kids should call her. Adults usually make this clear by introducing themselves to a kid by saying, “I’m Mr. Kevin,” or “I’m Mr. Timkin,” or if they’re a little odd, “I’m Mr. Kevin Timkin, but you can call me ‘Dude’.”
That said, I sometimes hate what adults ask kids to call them. My friend’s kids attend a private school where all the students from kindergarten to eighth grade are told to address their teachers by their first names. I think this sounds ridiculous and fairly disrespectful, but I can’t say anything, mostly because the huge stick wedged up my ass has now found its way all the way up to my vocal cords.
I can’t help it; it’s weird hearing a preteen talk to her teacher like he’s her friend who watches iCarly with her after school instead of a guy with a PhD in Global Studies from Penn.
Question #2: I have a couple of mom friends who are always bragging about their kids’ accomplishments. My daughter makes straight As and has won a decent number of awards in school and for extracurriculars, but it’s not something I talk about, because I know how much I hate it when others brag. On the other hand, I think they think my kid is an underachiever since I never join in the brag-fest, which makes me feel almost disloyal to my kid. What to do?
CR: I know exactly how you feel. While a normal amount of catching up on the kids is great when parents get together, some parents don’t know when it ceases to be interesting news and disintegrates into unpleasant bragging and one-upmanship. Susie won the Science Olympiad. Susie got first chair in the all-state symphony. Susie’s senior project is to build an affordable assisted-living facility for blind children.
Christ, I don’t even know her and I’m already sick of this kid.
So you end up swirling your vino a bit too wildly in its glass, dying to say: “Oh, shut up, you braggy cow! Your kid is about as special as mildew. Move on!”
But the only thing you can do is change the subject. This isn’t disloyal; it’s self-preservation. Just as the offending parent is revving up to discuss Susie’s athletic prowess (shot put record for the school—seriously?), throw something completely random out there. Say: “You know I read somewhere that people who brag about their kids all the time have very unsatisfying sex lives. Is that true?”
I’m kidding, of course. Although it would definitely be the talk of the Fit ’n’ Forty Zumba class at the Y the next day and, therefore, totally worth it.
When tempted to brag about your kid, remember that Karma ain’t just a dive bar on the Jersey Shore. Play nice. And keep your mouth shut. At least until the inauguration/Nobel acceptance ceremony/space flight. Then, yeah, you can do the superior dance. But only for a minute.
You don’t want to sound like Amy Chua, the now-famous “Tiger Mom.” Ever since I read about Chua, I’ve pictured her oldest daughter scratching rebellious little marks into her bedpost, counting down the days until she can leave for college. You have to feel like a prisoner when your mama won’t even let you take a pee break from 5 hours of violin practice. In my mommy-fantasy world, I’d love to run into Chua’s daughter one day, hanging out with the scruffy guy wearing pajama pants at the Redbox kiosk. I’d laugh my ass off.