Like any good “ism” -- Marxism, Socialism, Capitalism, Modernism, what have you – your ideology needs a central tenet. In Marxism, of course, history moves forward in a dialectic. Capitalist pigs will become Communists once they realize the folly of their silly individuality and money-grubbing ways. Dialectic! Parenting kinda works the same way: the parental ideology goes head-to-head with the little bastard ideology until somebody gets their goddamn ice cream. . . .or not.
If we have a central thought to our parenting, it’s basically of the “Short leash now, long leash later” mindset. The idea being, I guess, that if we hammer things down now, they don’t come loose a few years from now when we aren’t with them every second of the day. As in, hopefully, I don’t have to follow people around the house, turning off lights; or, getting tossed in your room for sticking your tongue out at me means, 12 years from now, I don’t have to be picking you up at the police station regularly. Yes, I wish me luck too.
Much like any of the aforementioned “isms”, they’re great in theory (Socialism: everybody gets stuff and we’re all happy! Capitalism: everybody gets stuff and we’re all happy!) putting that theory to work can be a little trickier. With Parenting-ism, our little “short leash” experiment results in a lot of haranguing. Some might more politely call it debating, while another, equally accurate person might say nagging. I suppose it depends if you control the ice cream supply or not.
I don’t think this is a new or exciting theory of Parenting, it’s sort of just my way of rationalizing all the “No, Max! Max, no! Miles, stop it! Hey, eat your potato! Guys! Guys! Guys! Can we pick this up, please? Guys! Give that back to your brother! Give it back! Miles! Miles, could you not shovel that dirt onto your brother? Max, could you put on your pants for me, please? Max. Max. Max! Alright, I guess nobody wants ice cream.” that goes on around here. While it's tiring, I have to admit, it kinda works 'cause these boys can be amazingly polite and obedient.
But, admittedly, you can only push the harangue so far until even your kid let's you know you moved from firm parenting into asshole territory. To whit, one evening, not long before bathtime/bedtime:
Max: "Daddy, why are you so distracted tonight?"
Me, surprised/chagrined: "Wha. . What, Max?"
"Why are you so distracted tonight?"
At this point, of course, I knew he was just trying to express to me that I had been being a jerk most of the afternoon and evening. But, every moment is a teaching moment, right? So I tried to get him to flesh it out a little.
"Max, when you say "distracted", what do you mean?"
"Well, today you are just being mean to me and I'm sort tired of you yelling at me today."
Here's where even the most hardcore parent should turn to jerkbag-flavored putty and so, that's what I did. I pulled Max close and told him I was sorry and while I'm always going to be a little bossy, I would try to be nicer about it in the future. Max growled his little "Ohhhh, Ooo-Kay" that he uses when he really doesn't think "OK", he's just too tired to argue about it anymore. Plus, he got his ice cream.