He looked up at her, and without hesitation, exclaimed: “I love Daddy.“
Now, in this tender moment, my Snuggly Son wasn’t trying to be silly or sarcastic. He was just expressing the innocence of his heart. As you may know, there is a special bond between Mommies and their kids – a Dad could never replace that position, nor supplant the bond between mother and child. However, several times in my son’s short life, he has had periods of absolute infatuation with me, his Dad. Sometimes, it’s good to be me.
With compassion for Mommy’s feelings the other night (we’ve both been laughing over this for the last couple of days), it is really fun to be in the middle of these storms of affection. I think it started when I promised to take him swimming last week. His sister was taking lessons and he was feeling envious. Our time in the pool was a blast. He absolutely loved the water and loved the contact the two of us shared. I think his favorite part though was the shower – he loved to mimic me in the shower.
Then on the morning of The Wife’s birthday, I gave both kids a couple of bucks to pick out birthday presents for their Mommy. While browsing the store, Sweet Smiling Son found a pair of sunglasses that fit him perfectly. He’s been wearing his sister’s pink ones for a couple of weeks, and I just figured out that he was mimicking me. He’s been doing a lot of that lately. He’s been actually walking in my footsteps at the beach; using the tools when I hang a window shade; and, the best one, repeating my half-muttered phrases while I’m working on projects.
Well, it turns out that $1.29 was one of the best gifts Smiling Son has ever received. He and his sunglasses have been inseparable for days. Rain or shine, he has his sunglasses with him. Sometimes he wears them upside down, and he rarely gets them on straight, but he always has them with him. In his hands, at the dinner table, in the bathtub, or on the toilet.
In the last several weeks, this Sarcastic Son of mine has found a creative way to disobey. When I ask him to do something, he reverts to silly mode, but when I call him on it, he looks me in the eye and utters one word: “Funny.”
I just say, “No, it’s not.” But it is kinda funny – yet like any good parent, I really don’t want to encourage this devious sarcastic attitude. But I think he’s beginning to learn that his “funny” act isn’t working, so he’s moved to outright refusal to obey.
Today, after a long day away – a fun day, mind you, but a long one, the kids were ready to be home. After a quick stop, my Son was not smiling, sarcastic, or silly – he was just plain mad. He wanted me to turn another direction, he wanted a different sandwich, he was just unhappy about everything. He began hollering and generally melting down into a tantrum.
Sometimes, it’s best to just ignore these tantrums – especially when I know they are fueled by fatigue or a lack of food. But after about 10 minutes, with no let-up, I told him he needed to stop this. “NO!” he said adamantly. I tried to reason with him, but obviously that wasn’t getting anywhere.
Finally, I pulled one out of the book of Dad Standbys, “If you don’t stop now, I’m going to pull over and spank you.“
“OK,” he said, and continued.
“Do you want me to give you a spanking?” I asked.
“Yes.” He replied meekly.
I repeated the question twice, and rephrased it twice. He was definitely giving me permission to pull over and spank him. “Oh crud,” I thought. Now I have to follow through. Unfortunately, pulling over along the freeway is not recommended, and some of the convoluted exits off of I-205 in East Vancouver are not easy to navigate. It took over five minutes to get off the freeway and find a suitable place to pull into. (It didn’t help that I had some hopped-up idiot tailgating me as I tried to negotiate with my son and find a place to conclude this madness.)
I got out of the car, walked around to my now Somber Son’s side of the car, opened the door, and asked him if he really wanted a spanking. (I obviously didn’t want to give him one.) At this point he changed his mind, so I gave him a good Dad-lecture about who’s in charge and how he should obey better.
“O – k Dad – ee.” He replied. And I got in the car and we returned to the freeway.
All was good for about five minutes, when the tantrum returned. After asking him to stop a couple of times, and warning him of the impending spanking, he continued. I pulled over along side of the freeway and walked around to his side of the car – dreading my mission the whole time. I unbuckled his car seat, took him out, and laid him across my knee. My five year-old watched me with wide-eyed amazement.
I love the part of being a Dad where my kids are absolutely enamored with me. I hate the part where I have to be the enforcer.
Two quick (and painless, I might add) swats, and I buckled my now crying son back into his car seat. Down the road we went, and after the tears stopped, the rest of the 45 minute drive home was uneventful.
Spanking is rare in our home, but it is not off-limits. It isn’t done in anger, and it isn’t done without good reason. Direct disobedience is what leads to disciplinary punishment – usually a time-out. But where some people say that time-outs don’t work with their kids, my kids know there will be an escalation if they don’t get it together. Sometimes a doubling of the time-out – or a repeat. Sometimes a loss of privilege or possession, where we try to match the punishment to the crime. However, when all else fails, sometimes a quick swat to the backside helps our kids to learn that their parents mean what they say.
As I told The Wife as we drove home, this was clearly one of those cases where it hurt me more than it hurt my son. I asked her if she thought he was calling my bluff. Although he seems a bit young to be that manipulative, he has certainly figured out the comic/sarcasm angle of disobedience. He even has a well practiced fake-cry that he pulls out several times a week. I don’t know if he was intentionally bluffing me (eg; “Sure Daddy, yes, pull over, cuz I do need a spanking!“), but I certainly had to follow through nonetheless.
I love the part of being a Dad where my kids are absolutely enamored with me. I hate the part where I have to be the enforcer. But because of my love for them, I know that a lack of discipline – especially the kind that leads them to not learn how to be self-disciplined, can have nasty consequences when they are older. Our goal, as parents, is to teach our kids to go beyond good behavior – we want them to have good values.
This is why I sometimes have to endure the pain of being a Dad. My kids need to learn that there are consequences to their choices. They need to learn how to make good choices. When they get older, the consequences aren’t always instantaneous, like when they are children. But rest assured my sweet kids, there are consequences. This is why being a parent takes courage. This is why we can’t ever be too lazy to do the right thing. This is why we need to remain balanced and reserve energy – all the time. I love my family too much to not put them first.
This is why I sometimes have to take endure the pain of being a Dad.
Yet, having good values doesn’t always mean we, as people, know how to practice those values. Sometimes we talk-the-talk, but we don’t always walk-the-walk. Learning to be self-disciplined, and to control our impulses, will enable us to delay gratification, endure our impatient wants, and work towards the ideals that we need.
This is what I want for my kids.