Okay. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that the single BIGGEST area of contention in the marriage between me and Randy the Perfekt husband is child rearing.
Yeah, I know, you’re supposed to be on the same page about the important things… morals, religion, life goals, child rearing, sushi. And usually we are but sometimes we’re NOT… (especially the sushi thing – ICK! but also the child rearing).
Mostly I think it’s to do with how different we were as kids. I was the straight “A” student who worked really hard at school and followed all the rules. Randy, who was super smart and felt unchallenged, thought school was a bore and mostly screwed around. One would think that’s an indicator of how you turn out in life. However, if you checked out our respective W-2s from our working lives… well, ‘nuf said.
Anyhow, our latest marital scuffle came on a recent Sunday night.
I should preface this by saying that our daughter Julia takes very much after me. In fact, Randy says that she’s so much like me that the 50% she got from him must be all in her internal organs. Anyway, like me as a kid, she’s a terrific student and an avid reader. In fact, she had been on a tear last year reading all the Harry Potter books. She was up to book six (Half Blood Prince) and was nearing the end when she got sidetracked by the holidays, her birthday and general life fun and never could seem to finish that darn book.
I finally gave her the mommy ultimatum. She had two weeks to finish the book or… well, there was no or else. It was more of a “just because I said so” which I swore I would never do, but I also swore I’d never color my hair, so never say never, right? Also I threw in the added incentive of 10 house points – a rewards system based on the Harry Potter books which actually works pretty well for us. And given that it can take days to earn 10 house points, this was the mother lode.
Well, naturally, despite my nagging encouraging to the contrary, The Half Blood Prince lingered. And lingered and lingered. Until, you guessed it, the Sunday deadline. The whole weekend Julia made choices that took her away from her reading. And the whole weekend, she assured me she would finish the book Sunday evening.
And then the Oscars came on. And Julia naturally wanted to watch them. She’s a HUGE fan of the fabulous gowns and she had seen TWO of the movies (Avatar and Up). I warned her that watching the show meant she wouldn’t finish the book as after the Oscars were over it would be her bed time… but she merely smiled and laughed at “the guy from Night at the Museum dressed like a N’avi”. And then the Oscars were over and predictably, the waterworks and remorse set in.
JULIA: Oh no! I didn’t get the book finished. I won’t get my ten house points!
TONI: Too bad. You made your choices.
JULIA: Please mommy, please, can I read the book now?
TONI: No, it’s your bed time.
At which point Randy the perfekt husband, who’d had nothing to say up until then, chimed in.
RANDY: Let her stay up and finish the book.
TONI: What the what the?! Uh, no. She shouldn’t be allowed to violate her bedtime because of her poor choices.
RANDY: (taking my logical argument to heart) Julia you can finish the book.
Normally this would have resulted in a marital standoff leading to possible curse-inducing, full-scale warfare over the center island (these things always occur with the center island between us). However, being the bigger (and I’ll admit, more tired) adult in the room, I decided not to go there.
RANDY: (suspiciously) Fine?
TONI: Yep. Let her stay up.
I said smugly and walked away, knowing full well Julia would never be able to stay up and finish the book and the lesson would be learned anyway. La dee dah.
Well, as with most things in life when one is too smug and secure about them, I turned out to be DEAD WRONG!
Not only did Julia finish the book, she stayed up past midnight to do it. Of course I didn’t know this until morning as I’d slept through it all.
When I found out I was STUNNED… and more than a little irritated not only with Randy but myself. I don’t like being wrong.
TONI: I can’t believe she finished the book.
RANDY: Yeah. Isn’t it cool?
TONI: No it’s not cool! What does that teach her? That she can put off things until the last minute and still succeed?!
RANDY: It worked for me. She’s gonna breeze through high school!
Randy went to Julia and proceeded to slather on the kudos – congratulating her on her determination and follow-through. I turned, ready to argue my point to the death… but stopped myself. Because I noticed just how pleased and tight the two of them were in this, Julia’s moment of ill-gotten triumph. I watched as they high-fived and hugged and suddenly it occured to me that there was more to this than met the eye.
I realized in that instant that Randy needed to feel like there was SOMETHING about Julia that came from him… besides her internal organs. And this choice of Julia’s, HOW she had succeeded in her goal, was Randy through and through. I backed off and let them have their moment.
When I picked Julia up from school that afternoon and she looked like something out of Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” I wasn’t entirely convinced I had made the best parenting decision by letting the whole thing drop. But remembering the look on Randy’s face that morning as they did their little victory dance in the kitchen, I was pretty sure I made a really good marital one.