The parents suffered. They muttered among themselves, behind closed doors, over back yard fences to sympathetic neighbors. As often as not, the neighbors had suffered, too. While waiting in line with complete strangers, the parents found the same thing happened. They tried so hard to please, and the children walked all over them.
Resentment festered. How much could the parents endure? The unwashed dishes, half-eaten sandwiches, board games and puzzles with itsy bitsy pieces that got underfoot. The articles of clothing that had clearly been worn and dropped just anywhere. Instead of picking up, in silent protest they left the stuff in plain sight. And there it stayed. The children seemed to be struck blind.
Now and then the parents vented. They let fall a sharp word or an ambiguous comment that might be heard as irony or satire: “Excuse me” and “Don’t bother about us.” The children swept past as if they had gone deaf.
The parents found it impossible to refrain from leaving notes where the children would find them, anonymous lines that were sometimes lighthearted, sometimes wrung from the heart. The handwriting was clear, in blue-black ink, with standard spelling and punctuation. The notes stayed put. The children never alluded to them, even when prodded. They must have lost the ability to read.
At last, things reached a breaking point. The parents carefully assembled a meal, a healthy balance of the four main food groups, with a stab at presentation, as seen in an upscale chain restaurant, like Olive Garden or Applebee’s. The children glanced at the table and edged toward the door.
“Come back here!” the parents erupted in anger. “We can no longer tolerate this behavior.”
“And wipe that smile off your lips.”
“We are innocent.”
“And don’t play dumb.”
“What is this all about?”
“You deliberately ignore all the wonderful things we do for you, the special treats, and the bursts of spontaneity. Do you ever thank us?”
“Oh! If only you meant it.”
“Of course, we mean it.”
“Do you ever think of us as human beings, as people who matter?”
“Why are you springing this all of a sudden?”
“We are fed up.”
“Our friends are waiting outside.”
“Let them wait. We demand the right to be heard.”
“This very minute.”
“Okay. So talk.”
“We work full time at demanding jobs, and we work at making a safe and happy home, and we work at fostering interpersonal relationships that work. We are tired, worn out, and weary to the bone. What do you contribute?”
“We are your children. We didn’t ask to be here.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“We are the consequence of marriage.”
“You think you’re smart, don’t you?”
“We got it all from you.”
The parents faltered. They knew their position was strong, but sad experience of the world at large and awareness of their own misdeeds weighed them down. Their weapons were old and clumsy, like garden spades and pruning hooks. The children were clever and light on their feet. They were armed with the latest electronic gadgets.
The revolt bogged down in negotiations. The parents sat at the table, while the children pranced beyond arm’s reach. The food got cold. Each side made promises they had no intention of keeping. The parents made empty threats. The children gave worthless guarantees and slipped away unscathed.
The parents expected help from their counterparts, teachers and athletic coaches, but it never arrived. Hungry and tired, they let their defenses slip. They were caught off guard.
The reprisals were bloody and narrowly targeted.