Day 16: Sausage…No, Eggos…No, TV
Dressed in pinstripe baseball pjs that are getting tighter and tighter every day, Harry wanders into the living room and points at the TV.
“Speak,” I say.
“Pretend I am blind, but I can hear. Use your words, please.”
To drive home the point of my rather pointless scenario, I close my eyes. I wait. I wait some more. I hope. I hope some more. When I open my eyes, Harry is still pointing at the television, so I return my focus where it belongs: to the cup of English Breakfast tea cooling on the table before me. I glance out the window at the breaking sunlight, wondering two things simultaneously: how quickly is global warming going to wipe out our planet, and is Harry, a mercurial but, for the most part, fun four-year old, going to break my balls today from sun up to sun down. Who knows? I need a Magic 8 Ball. And a vacation. After only three short weeks of being a stay-at-home dad.
Harry makes a sound like a baby velociraptor who’s just been given a flu shot directly in the eyeball. He scrunches up his face, and then buries said face into the side of the Lazy Boy.
“Just speak,” I say. “I want you to speak, Harry.”
He sits up. Slowly. With a grimace on his face. As if sitting up is causing exquisite pain.
“I want to watch TV,” he says with the same expression on his face that the neglected kittens and abused doggies on the SPCA commercial have.
Unlucky for my son, I have developed an immunity to his charms and his whining. And, despite my many faults as a parent, I always have my primary parenting goal in mind, which is to teach this little narcissist that he isn’t the center of the universe, so I cup my hand behind my ear, a gesture the boy knows and despises.
“What do you say?” I ask.
“Daddy’s not a servant,” I say calmly. “What’s the magic word?”
“I didn’t like that tone. Try it again. Softer. Nicer.”
Lower lip comes out. “Please.”
To reinforce the idea that I, not he, is in charge, I nod, take another sip of tea, and then casually stroll into the living room to fulfill his request, but not before I stop to sweep up some dust bunnies along the way, which causes Harry to fidget and whine a bit.
“Yes,” I respond and wait for him to remove the menace from his eyes before I turn on Team Umizoomi for him.
Quick rant about parenting. I’m not trying to be a jerk by deliberately frustrating my son. I’m just trying to maintain a semblance of balance, a modicum of calmness in my own house because to me, parenting isn’t about yelling and screaming and spanking and threatening. Parenting isn’t about coddling and complimenting and constantly inflating our little one’s self-esteem, either. Parenting, to me, is simple: if you remain calm, compassionate, and consistent, things, generally speaking, turn out well. Perhaps I’m cynical, but I have no illusions that I can make my son (or anyone else) do anything. All I can do is set a precedent, a straightforward cause-and-effect situation, whereby Harry learns consequences. Harry, you throw food against the wall, you clean it up. Harry, you hit Daddy in the leg with your plastic ninja sword, Daddy locks you in your room for five minutes.
As Harry watches his show, I suggest sausage for breakfast, and he shakes his head.
“What I want you won’t give me because you’re a Dad and you’re mean.”
“Tell me what you want.”
I feel like a million bucks. I feel like the Father of the Year people are in the next room waiting to hand me a big trophy and a gigantic cake. But I refrain from gloating, from saying, “You’re damn right you can’t have marshmallows for breakfast. And guess what, you’re getting a job when you turn sixteen.”
“No marshmallows,” I say, attempting to tamp down the pleasant wave of schadenfreude flooding my body. “But what else?”
He asks for Eggos, and, feeling on top of my game, I say, “Sounds good. You come in here make them.”
Then, without argument, he turns off the TV, walks into the kitchen, and pushes his step stool up to the counter. “Eggo,” he says like a no-nonsense surgeon asking for a scalpel. I hand him one, and he puts it into the toaster and turns the dial to BAKE. He watches the waffle toast, and after exactly thirteen seconds, he says, “This is boring.”
“Only boring people get bored,” I say, and he says I’m weird and continues staring at the toaster. When it dings, he drowns the waffle in syrup and carries his breakfast to the dining room table. “Come on, Daddy. Let’s eat.”
After he makes sure every square inch of his Eggo is covered in sticky syrup, he aims his fork at me and says, “Tell me stories about you when you were a kid. And not the one where you shaved your jersey number into the back of your head because you’ve told me that one like a million zillion times, and I don’t want to hear it again.”
So as he eats, I tell him about how I used to trim the carpet in our living room with scissors because I thought the carpet grew like grass, and I had to cut it once a week like I had to cut the grass.
Harry, laughing so hard I can see chunks of waffle in his teeth, says, “That’s a good one!”
The breakfast scoreboard now reads: