Sorry Teachers, My Kids Are Feral Now

by Amber Leventry
Amber Leventry is a queer, nonbinary writer and advocate. They live in Vermont and have three kids, including twins and a transgender daughter. Amber’s writing appears in many publications including Romper, Grown and Flown, Longreads, The Temper, The Washington Post, and Parents Magazine. They are a staff writer for Scary Mommy and LittleThings. They also run Family Rhetoric by Amber Leventry, a Facebook page devoted to advocating for LGBTQIA+ families one story at a time. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

Every day since April, I have told my kids that they need to go back to school. Their education is important, and they need to continue their careers in the public school system.

But it’s not their lack of proper math and literacy lessons I am worried about. It’s their decline into behavior that lacks etiquette, grace, and any semblance of common courtesy. It all happened faster than I expected and into depths deeper than I imagined. The day has arrived for my kids to go back to the classroom, and I am apologizing now: I’m sorry teachers. My kids have become feral.

I admit that it has been pretty lawless around our house, and some of that is on me.

My kids — a 9-year-old and 7-year old twins — have taken advantage of my need to work and the schedule-free summer vibes.

They are on screens more than normal. They are dipping into the snack cabinets with abandon and are eating more fruit snacks and yogurt tubes than usually allowed. I don’t have the energy or really see the need in being strict just for the sake of controlling everything. However, I have lost all patience for the messes they make while living like wild raccoons. Eat all of the gummies, kids, but throw the wrappers in the trash. I find food and trash in couch cushions, under furniture, blowing in the yard, and next to the trash can. It’s like they are using their wrappers as confetti in the parade they throw for themselves every day.

This parade also includes musical sounds of farting and burping. The gas symphony is all day long and involves coordinated efforts by my kids to point their butts directly at someone (usually on said someone) before letting it rip. I told them at dinner that not only can’t they lean over their seats at school to better blast one out, but that they probably should do their best to be discreet about the need to pass gas. “We can’t hold it in!” they whined.

No, I don’t want them to be uncomfortable. But I reminded them they can go to the bathroom, walk away from someone, or at the very least say excuse me if they do let one slide. They don’t need to announce the fart, name it, or sing, “I farted, my butt cheeks wiggled, it was warm and toasty so I did it again!” each time they have gas. The nonstop burping needs to stop, too. No one trying to educate you is impressed with your ability to burp on cue, children.

Clothes became optional sometime in May. The kids practically eat out of boxes and bags. Doors and gates are left open. Bathing is a rare occurrence, but there plenty of “foot baths” before bed. Again, some of this is my fault, and, yes, they are fine. They are safe and loved, but it is loud and gross over here.

I remind them to use utensils, brush their teeth, comb their hair, and wipe the Nutella from their faces. I even enforce these things sometimes. But the absence of peer pressure and external adult influence that normally holds them accountable has taken a toll on my kids’ behavior.

At the beginning of the health crisis, my children regressed emotionally. Their reactions were appropriate and right on cue for children who were experiencing a trauma-like upheaval of their day-to-day life. Once those big feelings were regulated, it seems like they ran out of gas to tap into anything else from their pre-virus existence, specifically their manners. I know my lack of energy to uphold certain standards (because who really cares if someone is naked or uses the inflatable pool to clean themselves?) has contributed to their behavioral regression, too.

They don’t have a teacher or principal looming to put a bit of fear or respect into their actions. And they don’t have friends to call them on their bad behavior. They aren’t watching friends do the “right” thing or experience a negative consequence when they don’t. It’s like they have forgotten how to be civilized because they haven’t seen society’s expectations of etiquette in action very much in the last six months.

The stakes aren’t high enough for my kids to not stand up on their chair in the middle of dinner and spit their ravioli into the yard because it tastes funny. It’s the opposite of risky because their bad behavior has been my kids’ greatest source of entertainment. As much as having three kids during a global health crisis has been exhausting, I am grateful they have each other.

They have grown closer, and I know they have made memories that will last for a long time. I just wish the memories didn’t include so many butt cheeks, smells that mimic dead animals, and behavior that would make Emily Post roll over in her grave.