Thursday, January 12, 2006

outwitted by a child: my proudest moment as a father

At some point in every parent-child relationship, there is this inevitable passing of the torch where the child surpasses the parent. We tend to think of boys whupping the old man at roundball in the late teens, or young women blossoming into a fresh beauty that mothers have moved past.

My moment came yesterday at the hands of a 3 year old. On that day, I was bested by a mind against whose pure cunning I am hopelessly overmatched.

I am boundlessly proud, as Machiavelli's father must have been ("My son is published! He has made it as an author!").

The event was a rehash of the now-old 'pooping in her pants'. This is a regression thing related to a new baby in the house. We've been cleaning up poopy panties and bottoms for weeks. Something HAD to be done!

So, rational man looked rational child straight in the eye and reasserted the proper potty process - sit on toilet, ask adult for help if needed.

Rational man dangled a carrot to give the child incentive - use of the proper potty process will earn a reward pick of ice cream or french fries (the only two known motivating substances for this particular child).

The casual reader might pause here and say, 'Oh no. You didn't just make that bargain?!? You poor, stupid fool...'

The child hesitated for perhaps the half-life of a snowball in hell, then grinned brilliantly--

CHILD: "I have to poop!!!"

FATHER: (incredulous) "Wha?! "You just pooped your pants. You don't need to go right now!"

CHILD: "Oh yes I doooo!"

FATHER: (sick inside) "I don't think so..."

CHILD: "It's coming!"

MOTHER & GRANDMOTHER: (in other room cackling with glee)

FATHER: (unconvinced, but defeated) "Fine, go sit on the toilet. Pull up the steppy stool. Drop trou."

CHILD: (sits on toilet and issues forth the loudest grunting ever heard as she strives to produce.)

The rest of the scene ended with father sitting in chair, visibly aged and diminished in stature as mother reports a successful pee.



So much for rational man. What makes this event all the more amusing is I knew of a little kid who was bribed by another father not to bite classmates at preschool.

The reward for resisting biting and reporting it was a movie with dad. X-number of occurrences deemed to be equal to some weeks' worth of normal biting was the target. With similar, all-too-predictable results, that child racked up the winning number of "didn't bites" in a matter of hours. A truly staggering effort that took far more work than the original offense.

(It leads one to wonder how much faster New Orleans could be rebuilt if we but employed a mass of preschoolers and a manipulatable reward system.)

I feel a kinship with that other father. Probably because he was my father.


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