Our Kids Are Snitches
Tattle-Telling Spawn Keep Parents in Check
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Running for office requires a hardy hide. Detractors lob accusations as easily as jugglers hurling torches; politicians expect it. But Oklahoma judicial candidate John Mantooth is being pelted by a particularly painful source: his own grown daughter.
Jan Schill (formerly Mantooth) recently took out a newspaper ad that read, “Do Not Vote for My Dad!” on the grounds that he’s “NOT a good father, NOT a good grandfather,” and would make a lousy judge. She launched DoNotVoteForMyDad.com, linking to legal documents that call his integrity into question and describing a Christmas gift she once received from her pop—a box of chocolates infested with worms and weevils.
Eww. I don’t care if you vote for him, but do not under any circumstances invite this guy to a secret-Santa swap.
The candidate claims his daughter is embittered by his ugly decades-gone-by divorce from her mother, which may be true. But it’s hard to ignore the shocking shriek of a child blowing the whistle on her own badly behaving begetter.
Cops heeded just such a shriek last week when a 13-year-old New York girl called 911 from the backseat of her mother’s swerving car to report that mom was driving drunk. The good news: Troopers hauled in the besotted mama before anyone was hurt. The bad: Dinnertime conversation at their house will be awkward for quite some time.
Wrong is wrong, and I’m impressed that these informants were brave enough to squeal on family members who endanger other people’s lives—or, you know, their digestive tracks. (Note to Mantooth’s daughter: I wouldn’t even open his Christmas gift this year. Seriously. And no regifting.)
But a small part of me—the very selfish part that’s not actually as small as I’d like you to believe—finds these stories a smidge unsettling, and here’s why:
As a child, I didn’t narc on my weekend-toking parents when the 6th grade health teacher told us marijuana was the devil’s herb. I didn’t drop a dime on them when they “sampled” grapes from the market’s produce section, or played hooky from work. I wasn’t even allowed to contradict my mother in front of people; interruptions like, “Actually, Mom, we’re not late because of traffic; we’re late because you were flirting so long with that guy at the bank, remember?” never went over well.
I learned how the world works by watching my family move deftly—if occasionally immorally or, um, illegally—through it. What they did, by definition, seemed “right,” even when I knew it was wrong.
So as a parent myself now, I’m uneasy about having snitches in my midst. I’m not sure I would have taught my kids the whole “be a good citizen and stand up for what’s right” bit if I had realized they could turn it against me.
I’m not running for office, and I can’t even find my car keys after a single, weak appletini. But there are myriad ways that the stool pigeons formerly known as my children could humiliate me if they were so inclined. And since they know me best—or, dear god, worst—I fear strangers might believe them.
I can just see the campaigns they’d launch, exposing my secrets:
“Do Not Befriend Our Mom. She checks caller ID when the phone rings and says, ‘Oy, ignore it’ unless it’s someone with a swank vacation home who may be inviting us to use it.”
“Do Not Hire Our Mom. She steals pens and Wite-Out from the office supply cabinet to fulfill our teachers’ Mandatory School Supplies list.”
“Do Not Eat Our Mom’s Cooking. You know that nasty box o’ worm candy the Oklahoma dude gave his abnormally resentful daughter? We should be so lucky.”
Starshine Roshell is the author of Keep Your Skirt On.