Thursday, September 03, 2009

Because I'm Enjoying It...

To new parents and prospective parents, I offer this bit of hard-earned advice about kids:
Don't teach them to talk. There's no upside to letting children communicate. Oh sure, all the experts drone on and on about the importance of talking children, but the experts leave out some important points. For instance, did you know what the first thing kids do after learning to talk?
They talk back.
And they parse your words. They challenge everything you say, no matter how innocuous. Living with talking kids is like hiring lawyers to come live with you and sue you every second of the day.
The other morning at the kitchen table, my sons had just started their daily harassment of their little sister. I wanted to shut this down quickly for a few reasons. First, I don't want my sons to grow up thinking it's okay to bully girls. But also, little Riley was starting to get mad - you could tell by the way she clenched her five year-old jaw. And her tiny fist. If this kept up, one or both of my sons was going to take a ride on Riley's Choo Choo Train of Pain.
"Stop messing with Riley," I said clearly and simply.
Six year-old Julian looked me squarely in the face, nodded in the affirmative to let me know that he definitely understood my instructions and then plucked his sister in the ear.
So, I elaborated. "If you don't stop bullying your little sister, I will take away everything that you enjoy. Every video game. Every toy. Every single activity that you enjoy will be taken away for a week."
All of the kids stopped for a moment and considered this. Riley was smiling in rich anticipation of her brothers' potential suffering, which I expected. She was, after all, on my side in this. But Julian was smiling, too, which I had not expected. And then he let me have it.
"I enjoy going poop," he said matter-of-factly. "Are you gonna stop me from going poop?"
And just like that - I had been rhetorically bested by a six year-old.
"You know what I mean," I snapped back. I jabbed my finger for emphasis.
This was some pretty weak sauce, as retorts go, and even Riley seemed embarrassed for me - so embarrassed, in fact, that she switched sides right in front of me. She started laughing along with the boys who had been tormenting her moments before.
But that's okay. Julian can think he's won for now. He's gotta use the bathroom sooner or later. And then I'll knock on the door.
"Julian?" I'll say quietly.
"I'm going to the bathroom," he'll answer.
"Julian?" I'll say again.
"I said I'm going to the bathroom, Dad."
"Dad! Stop It!" Julian will yell. "I'm trying to go to the bathroom!"
"What!" he'll yell.
And then I'll let him have it.
"Are you enjoying yourself?"