What do you do when you’re having power struggles with your three year old son every night?
Every night in our house is a gigantic negotiation over something. Eating dinner. Taking a bath. Going to sleep. If we didn’t make our son do anything, all he’d do is watch tv, eat cookies and crackers, not bathe and stay up really late. In other words, he’d be like every guy in the world.
I’m just waiting for him to ask me to pass him the Bud light. If he had a beer, a bong, and stories about relationships that went awry, he’d already be prepared to be an adult.
What is it about guys and tv? I guess it’s true that we’re visual. My son watches cartoons like a dude watching football during the playoffs – just a glazed-over stare, lip hanging open, completely oblivious to what’s happening around him. It’s too bad he doesn’t have money or a car, because I could totally get him to give it to me when he’s in the tv trance:
Me: “Hey, son, can I have some money, food, iPads, stuffed animals?”
Son: No response.
Son: “What? Yeah. Sure. Whatever you need.”
And then I could just take whatever I want. At which point, I would leave all the other stuff I asked for and just take his youth, because, really, that’s his only possession that has any real value to me.
It’s gotten to the point now that if I want his attention, I have to put what he’s watching on pause. I can’t shut it off, ‘cause if I do, he has a tantrum. Just starts crying and carrying on, and then forget it. I’m gonna spend the next 10 minutes doing crisis management. Just time-outs, and wiping snot, and having to spend 2 minutes in my overly detached daddy voice saying: “Now, son, we don’t cry every time we don’t get our way now do we.”
As for dinner, what I don’t get is why won’t he eat? I’m not saying why won’t he eat vegetables. I’m saying why won’t he eat food? Every night, my wife goes through the same thing with him: “What do you want for dinner?” Then proceeds to go through the list like we operate a diner in our apartment. “Do you want spaghetti? Mac and cheese? Chicken and fries? Rainbow trout? Dover Sole? Spicy tuna Rolls? How about filet mignon with Lyonnais potatoes and seared asparagus tips with white truffle oil?” And, I don’t know where she gets this stuff from because whenever I look in the refrigerator there’s nothing there. So, I’m getting sautéed stringbeans and scallion pancake delivered from our local Chinese place for like the 39th time in a row, and my wife’s busy whipping up a dinner for my son that could be on the menu at Thomas Keller’s Per Se or French Laundry, but if I ever say “Hey, we should make a meal like that,” my wife says “You do it, I’m too tired to cook.”
Of course you’re too tired to cook. You just made a 7-course meal for a 3 year old who refused to eat any of it. That child just ate Pepperidge Farm goldfish, dried up Playdoh and boogers instead of what you made, so then you had to throw it all out and clean up the mess. That’s why you’re tired. Maybe if you just made what he wanted, which is a bag of goldfish and a glass of milk you wouldn’t be so damn tired.
Then, there’s the bath. The crazy thing about the bath is that he loves the bath. Loves it . . . once he’s in it. Once he’s in that tub, you try getting him out. He stays in so long, he gets so many wrinkles, it’s like he’s doing the movie Cocoon in reverse, just going from young to old by staying in the water. But, getting him in it — he acts like the tub is filled with acid, and I’m a hit man trying to get rid of the body.
And, the whole time, I’m thinking: “Man, I don’t even want to do this. Your mother said I have to. If it were up to me, you’d take a bath when the dirt gets so bad it walks you to the tub itself.” I don’t know why I feel that way. I really don’t.
Seriously, what’s so objectionable about getting clean?! I love a shower. Love it. I wish they made a shower that would cleanse your soul.
Finally, there’s the going-to-sleep ritual. Our son will not go to sleep. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was hooked on caffeine and amphetamines. He just doesn’t tire. He gets home from daycare, and he’s not tired, and by 9 pm, he’s picking up steam. By 10, he’s alert. At 10:30, he’s ready to surf the web to see whether HBO has movies that night. And, I just want to say to him: “What are you staying up for? There’s nothing to do. You can’t go out. You don’t have money. You don’t have i.d.. Where the hell do you think you’re going? And, it’s not like you can go pick up women. Sure you’re cute, but you live with your parents, wear diapers, and your favorite meal is Pepperidge Farm goldfish and a sippy cup of milk. Just see where that gets you!”
And, what I can’t figure out is – isn’t he tired? I’m tired all the time. There isn’t a day that goes by when I’m not exhausted. I would jump at the chance to be tucked in. But, my son, when we ask him to go to sleep, he acts like we asked him to walk down the gangplank before we hang him.
And, after thinking about this all, I realize it’s all about control. My son lives with two people (my wife and me) who control every aspect of his life. We tell him when to go to sleep and wake up. We tell him what to eat. We tell him when to brush his teeth. We tell him when he can exercise. We tell him when he can watch tv and what he can watch. We make him cleanup. We won’t even let him go out of the house without being supervised by us. For him, it’s like being in jail – but worse. Because in his jail, the warden and his wife are 3 times his size, and they’re constantly giving him orders in a language he barely understands.
So, he’s resisting to show us he won’t be dominated. He won’t be crushed. He will be bowed but he will not be broken. In short, he is a rebel, and for that, for sticking up for his individual rights, I respect and love him all the more.
Viva la revolucion!!