I was sitting at the dining room table when Big Man came up and stood beside me. “How long before I grow up and get to be a daddy?” he asked.
“That won’t be for a long, long time,” I told him. “Do you want to be a daddy?”
“Well, parents get to tell people what to do.”
This is our relationship through four-year-old eyes. He’d like to get a little taste of the power he imagines I, and Mommy, have. The only problem is he got it a smidge wrong. If he would replace the word get with the appropriate word, have, he’d be much more accurate.
Parents have to tell people what to do. This little change drops parents down from perceived household aristocracy to their true place as household public servants.
If the children did the things they were taught to do, we wouldn’t have to tell them to do much. In reality, we have to tell them to do lots of things:
“Do your homework.” (12 times a day)
“Put your dirty clothes in the hamper.” (16 times a day)
“Take your dishes to the kitchen.” (34 times a day)
“Get in bed.” (>100 time a night)
We even have to tell them what not to do.
“Don’t wrestle at the top of the stairs.”
We don’t like having to say these things. It’s not a perk. I long for the day when Big Man is empowered to chase resistant children to bed.
In reality, it is children who get to tell people what to do. If you’ve ever heard your little kid yell, “I’m done!” from the bathroom, you know your duty. And you’d better hop to it before the little ruler gets tired of sitting on the throne.
“I need some juice.”
“I don’t like this dinner.”
Children are masters at implied demands, and if their desires are necessary, or even reasonable, they usually get us to do what they want. They don’t realize this because their demands are so many, and so often unreasonable, that it seems we acquiesce to a miniscule percentage of them.
“You only bought me chicken nuggets one time when I asked for them about a million times.”
That’s a low percentage of satisfaction.
Having to tell a child to put on his coat 11 times in a row is no fun. On the other hand, children do not feel the fleeting moments of life left to them slipping away with each repetition, which is why they have no problem demanding chicken nuggets with every breath.
At the end of our discussion, I asked Big Man if he were ready to change baby diapers like daddies have to.
“Nobody showed me how to do it,” he answered.
Well, that’s another shock in store for you, kid. No matter how many times somebody tries to show you, you won’t be ready.