I’m starting to feel like my wife. At least, how I think she must feel, when she’s dealing with our kids. She gets no respect.
Now, let’s be clear. She does get the kind of respect that is required of children by their parents. For the most part they come when called and do what they are asked. Some days they are on the ball, and some days they give her just enough respect in the right areas to avoid physical harm, but on the whole, they behave themselves for her. It’s in the area of knowledge and opinion that she gets the short end of the stick. They will not take her word for anything, but they will believe anything I tell them.
Neither of us knows why that is, but it has been the case for as long as we can remember. At least it had until a few days ago. Apparently, God is finally feeling sorry for my wife, and has sent our third child, Boy Number Three, to set things straight.
The turning point occurred the other day when my three-year-old son sat down on the floor to put his flip-flops on. He gets one on his foot, looks up at me, and asks, “Is this the right foot?” I tell him no… and he argues with me.
Excuse me? I am your father. I know which foot is which, and which shoe goes on which foot, thank you very much!
“No, Son, that is not the right foot.”
“Yes it is.”
(Not only was it the wrong flip-flop for the chosen foot, but it was also his left foot, so there was no way I was misinterpreting his question. He was just flat-out wrong.)
“No it isn’t. That one goes on the other foot.”
“You don’t need to ask Mommy. I know which is which.”
“No you don’t. Mommy!”
“I assure you, I know all about shoes and feet. We don’t need to consult Mommy.”
I was dumbfounded. Not only was my three-year-old ignoring my shoe advice, but he was blatantly telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about. We were in brand-new territory for me, here. Up until this point, my knowledge and opinion on any subject had stood without question. Not with my wife, mind you, (or any other adult for that matter), but with my kids.
With the first two, I could tell them anything and they would believe me. I told them Jell-O was made out of cow bones, and they just said, “Cool." If their mom told them that the sky was blue, they would run and check with me. (Both of those things are true, but which one would you question?)
When Mommy showed up to help out with the shoe debate, I was forced to stand there and listen while my wife explained to our third child that Daddy knows how shoes work, just like she does, and it’s OK to listen to me about which foot is which. Then she stood up, and with a wry smile, gave me a consoling kiss on the cheek, and a not-so-consoling giggle.
Later that day, my wife was going to be gone for a few hours at dinner time. She cooked us a pizza before she left, kissed the boys, and headed out the door. Five minutes later, I told the boys it was time for dinner. Boy Number One and Two headed for the table, but Number Three argued with me.
"No! Mommy said it wasn’t dinner time yet. Mommy said we have to wait. Mommy said her chart sayed below for drain." (Sometimes he’s pretty hard to understand, especially when he’s worked up.) I actually had to pick him up to keep him from trying to drag me out of the kitchen, calm him down, and show him the cooked pizza before he would believe me.
Now, I guess it wouldn't be so bad if I thought that Son Number Three just didn't trust my opinion on certain subjects. It would be weird, but it would at least be semi-tolerable. The problem is, I'm getting the feeling he doesn't think I have any authority in any matters. I have received some pretty clear evidence that this is the case in the last few days.
We have a rule in our house. No answer shopping. If you don’t like daddy’s answer to your question of, “May I go play with this real sword I just found,” you are not allowed to go ask your mother the same question in hopes of a better answer. (That’s actually a bad example, because I would have probably said, “Yes.”) Anyway, the rule is, you take the answer you get and don't go looking for a better one somewhere else.
Boy Number Three is apparently so off the rails with his lack of trust in my ability to parent him that he has actually started reverse answer shopping. Here is an actual conversation I had with him the other day:
“Daddy, can I have a cookie?”
“Mommy! Can I have a cookie?”
I mean, seriously! What kind of logic is that? Is he honestly thinking, "Well, OK. This man here just gave me the answer I was looking for, but I'm not confident that he has my best interests at heart. I'm not sure that I trust his judgment, and as such, even though I really want that delicious cookie, I think I will consult an adult that I know loves and cares for me."
This newfound situation has me thrown for a loop. My wife thinks it is endlessly humorous, but I am at a loss. Why doesn't my third child trust me? What have I done to bring this on?
Maybe... Just maybe, like his mom, he doesn't think that kids should play with real swords?
Naw! That can't be it.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen
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