Parents can be so smug. We think we have life’s puzzles solved, and that our kids are callow dimwits desperate for our guidance. Admit it: We think of them as dense, doughy biscuits requiring the heat of our unparalleled wisdom to rise to their fluffy full potential.
Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if we’re wrong. If, in fact, our car seat-bound offspring are the ones who have the answers and we grown-ups are too culturally programmed, too set-in-our-ways, to see it.
The notion strikes when I ask my three-year-old to put on his shoes. Or clean up his toys. Or turn off his video, come upstairs and take a bath. That’s when he looks at me with utter impunity and says, “I won’t.”
There’s no willfulness in his voice. No shame. No guilt. “I won’t.”
He’s simply stating a fact, letting me know we’re going to have a problem here if I insist on pursuing this ridiculous mandate.
There’s a look of — is that peace? — that crosses his peanut butter-smeared face when he says it, and I’ll admit the whole situation stymies me. My linear adult thought process goes like this: How do I get the child clean if he won’t get in the tub? How “clean” does a person really need to be? What will his preschool teachers whisper when they notice the same dirt smudge that was on his knee yesterday…and the day before?