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Lessons From My Father, Sort Of

Lessons Father

I had a run in with The Boy the other day.

The Boy is my nickname for my five-year-old son. Stick with me for a while and you’re going to hear some great stories about The Boy, but for now, all you need to know is that The Boy is very much like his father. Not only is he the spitting image of his father, but he can be stubborn like you wouldn’t believe. He can be the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen, but that only makes his not so-sweet side seem all the more bitter.

The other day his mom made a terrific meal (I don’t recall exactly what it was that she made, but I am 99.9% certain it had chicken in it). The Boy likes his chicken plain. He hates sauces, spices, color and flavor on most food. He makes five exceptions: pizza, salsa, fries, chicken nuggets and ketchup. This is going to be a problem for years to come because his mom comes from a long line of dippers. She’s the type that needs a side of sauce for hot wings already soaked to the bone (yes, I am lucky to be married to a woman that does not hide her love of hot wings). After five years of trying to accommodate The Boy’s dining wishes, his mom and I decided to put an end to it and we insisted that he eat the same thing the rest of the family was having for dinner. This caused a great deal of weeping and wailing. My wife, bless her heart, decided to let him off easy, but I refused. I told The Boy that he was not leaving his chair until he ate four bites of the dinner his mom prepared and that if he refused, he would sit there until 7:30 at which time he would go to straight to bed. This was at 6:30. My wife would have defended The Boy, however, her social calendar required her to be somewhere else that evening.

So there we were. The two of us. His older sister was outside enjoying the sunshine and his younger sister was distracted in the other room with numerous dolls and blankets. I sat across from The Boy and he stared me down for a solid hour. He took a couple of swigs of water and ate most of his roll but he didn’t touch his fork, let alone the main course. He wouldn’t touch his salad because it had been tainted by coming into contact with the main course and its sauces and spices. At one point, his older sister, red in the face after enjoying the evening sun, walked past him with a orange popsicle in hand making very audible slurping sounds — The Boy didn’t even flinch. On a couple of occasions he pointed out how unfair and mean I was being, but for the most part, he sat there in silence. 7:30 came, he pushed his chair back and, without saying a word, marched upstairs, put on his pajamas climbed into bed and yelled down the stairs: “Dad, come tuck me in!” Not only did he beat me, but now he was taunting me. I was impressed and terrified all at once.

This got me thinking about two things: First, if I can’t win the battle of the chicken dinner, I stand no chance when it comes to the real substantive issues going forward (and now The Boy knows this which only makes things worse), and second, this is only the latest in a long line of horrible lessons I’ve tried to teach my children over the years. 

Chicken Dinner Lesson

As noted above, this was a complete failure. The object was to teach The Boy about respecting the effort his mom put into dinner. What lesson did The Boy actually learn? He learned that no one can force him to eat something he doesn’t want and he learned his dad doesn’t stand a chance. I should have known this was coming. My parents did the same thing to me when it came to eating mushrooms. I’d stare at the plate forever but eventually I caved and ate a bite or two (but my hatred for mushrooms only grew and I’m now at a point in my life where I won’t get within 10 feet of a mushroom). 

Splash Mountain Lesson 

The family frequently visits Disneyland but my young children are terrified of most of the rides. While they get really excited to ride Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and The Tea Cups, they are terrified of Splash Mountain (which is a huge deal because it’s my favorite ride and someone has to ride it with me). So, of course, I forced my six-year-old daughter and The Boy (aged four at the time) on the ride with me explaining to them that “life isn’t always Dumbo rides and Tea

Cups, sometimes life throws a Splash Mountain at you.” Yes, my daughter and The Boy had no idea what I was talking about. Things went great until we got stuck in the dark at the bottom of the big hill right before the plummet. I had my arms around The Boy and I’m guessing his heart rate was close to 275. Eventually we were escorted off the ride when they had to fix it and neither child has been on the ride since. What lesson did they learn? They learned absolutely nothing other than if life does in fact throw a Splash Mountain your way, you will probably get stuck in the dark at the bottom of a terrifying hill. Pure genius on my part.  I’ve now lost any chance of having my children accompany me on Splash Mountain for the next 10 years.

Dog Under the Bed Lesson

In order to persuade (i.e. scare) my oldest daughter into not getting out of bed too early in the morning, I convinced her that there was a dog under her bed that would nibble her toes if she got out of bed. This actually worked. However, there were some unintended side effects, namely my daughter now won’t go within 20 feet of any dog. She’s stopped playing with one friend altogether because her friend has a dog. I tried a similar lesson with The Boy, but instead of a dog hiding under the bed I told him there was a tiger in his closet. In my defense, if you knew him circa 2004 to 2006 you would understand the need to keep The Boy in his bed as long as possible. Like I said, I have many, many stories of The Boy, none of which justify placing an imaginary tiger in his closest.

These are horrible, horrible lessons.  And in the background of each one of these lessons is my wonderful wife slowly shaking her head saying something like “and you wonder why The Boy doesn’t get along with you.” Between you and me, I think my wife likes seeing these lessons fail miserably. She’s hoping that maybe one day I’ll learn my lesson.

Author: Anonymous Husband

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