I tell myself that it’s parenting but sometimes it feels more like I’m getting away with the thing I’m telling my kid not to do.
“You’re not good at taking no for an answer,” I huff.
“I don’t care!”
“Well I do! And that’s the end of it!”
That was our good-bye this morning. No head buried in my chest for a quick hug. No fingers through hair for a quick fix. No I-love-yous. To anyone. Because my son was so intent on taking five books to school and I was so intent on telling him no. We argued about something neither of us was willing to give in to. I could see the stupidity of it as soon as he walked out the door and what-ifs began racing through my mind. In the quiet morning, I felt too dumb to run out in my pajamas and say, “I love you” to my family. I would forever be ashamed if those angry words were the last ones they heard from me. I was surprised when my kids offered limp waves as my husband’s car rolled away.
All year we’ve told our son he doesn’t need to take a stack of books to school. His backpack is thick with a school binder, lunchbox, and those reading books. He can’t even get it zipped some mornings. Extending a good foot off his back some days, he resembles the Hunchback and I worry it can’t be good for him.
But he needs those books. He needs that fix. One won’t do. He could finish it during the day and then be left without a book to read, the horror! What is a ten-year-old boy to do?
It could be worse. I know it could be worse. And I know I have to pick my battles. I just get so frustrated that he can’t take no for an answer that I find myself standing too firm when I shouldn’t be. No triggers a bad reaction in him, probably every kid. I always feel it’s something he needs to work on.
But when a kid comes at you wanting a chameleon that will eventually require a 30-gallon tank, or next week bats his blue-green eyes wanting a sweet brown guinea pig with promises to keep it in the bathtub until he saves enough money to buy its cage, you become pretty adept at saying no. You get creative. You point out that his father is the one who feeds his fish most days and didn’t he just get those two months ago for his birthday anyway? You never really say the word no, you just point out the facts.
Then during the busiest weeks, the kids spring on you that they want to go to skate night. It’s easy to say no. “No, we had sports last night and we have a game tomorrow night. I can’t do something tonight. No.”
Parenting is full of nos. Maybe I say it too much. Maybe some things can be learned the hard way. I thought a sore back would be the answer to too many books. But I have to stop being so hard on myself. I’m the parent. And when it comes to lizards in 30-gallon tanks, the answer is going to be no.