More often than not I swallow hard and let the negative word fade away. My kids are better off as a result, and my role as a father isn’t diminished in the process.
Being a dad is all about battles – the ones you pick and the others you quickly hoist the white flag over before a verbal shot is fired.
It’s like marriage, in a way. The power structure is far different, though, requiring a benevolent dictatorship rather than a representative democracy.
My boys are constantly in motion, from the time they toddle out of their bedrooms in the morning to those last few moments where they rage, rage against the dying of the night light. They want to eat the wrong things, use tools the wrong way and even pet the dog in a way that makes her cross.
I could shut them down at every turn, and frankly I do when it comes to our beleaguered puggle, Janey Girl. The rest of the time I quickly do a damage assessment and try my best not to tell them “no.”
Am I spoiling them? Potentially, sure. I’m also letting them be themselves, find their own boundaries and question their surroundings. What’s the worst fallout from Elijah drinking milk out of a bowl, Janey Girl style? Will he want to do so daily, or is it a childish whim to be satiated by a single serving?
Elijah loves his new soccer cleats so much that he wants to sleep with them. Every night (so far). It makes my teeth hurt to see him crawl into bed wearing them, but does it really matter? His infatuation will likely last another week – maybe less. And then it’s over. He still sleeps soundly, and in no time he’ll find the very idea of sleeping in his shoes to be absurd. So why tell him “no” now?
It may sound easier to shelve the word “no” as often as I do. It’s actually harder in practice, but my kids are worth it.