I have always joked that if I ever write a Parenting book? The title would be stolen from one of old George W.’s speeches “We Will Not Negotiate With Terrorists.”
When I see an exhausted parent pleading, begging, bribing their screaming spoiled toddler in the checkout aisle at Target? I long to go over there and gently demonstrate how to be the adult. To put my arm around that Mom and say “Listen. Your child doesn’t need the frosted animal crackers, okay? Think about it-what does your heart say he needs right now? Then do THAT. Give him the nap, or the hug, or the spanking he really needs but most of all…give him a strong parent who models a strong God. One he knows is really in charge and can trust is truly strong enough to protect him, even if it’s only from himself.”
We all recognize abuse as power out of control. When adults use their strength to hurt, to intimidate, to push their children down beneath them. But the “opposite” is abuse, too, in my opinion. When parents are so desperate to be the child’s “friend” that they can’t say no, when Moms fear and insecurities are in charge, when the child’s wants are placed above the child’s needs. That’s abuse, too. It sets that child up for living a stunted, selfish life. It reinforces the lie (that we are all born believing) that says “I matter most, my needs are the only needs, my wants are supreme.” When what our parenting should be repeating over and over are these two truths:
1. You are unconditionally and forever loved because you are an eternal being, made in the image of God.
2. You, however, are NOT God.
We are modeling Him to our kids. So we need to be like Him. (Its okay. If you have any sense of parental responsibility, this should be terrifying!)
Only with His help can we be both firm and tender. strong and compassionate.
But I’ll never write that book. For all my opinions and soapboxes and “Don’t bribe your kids! Be firm and decisive and in charge!” The other 75% of the book would be chapters on what not to do and the last chapter would be “Never bribe your kids UNLESS…you really need to.” Then, as in all warfare? “Ya do what ya gotta do.”
Here’s a prime example.
Caleb, like all our boys, was born practically bald and remained that way most his first year. But the swirls and whorls all over his bald infant head cracked us up. I would trace them with my finger as he nursed, and say “Wow. What if his hair actually grows in these patterns?!” and sure enough…
This boy’s head? Made for a crewcut. When his hair is short, then the big blue eyes his Dad passed along become the focal point of Caleb’s face. I love how a crewcut has my boys looking all retro, a living 1950s flashback sitting in my vintage style kitchen. I love how fast their hair dries after a shower or swim. I like how the soft bristles feel under my fingers, and can’t help but give an affectionate rub of my boys heads, bent over schoolwork as I walk by. I enjoy the neat and tidy look. Most of all? I enjoy the freedom of getting out the door on Sunday mornings without contending with three heads, all covered in their Mothers stubborn cowlicks. Going to battle with a spray bottle of cold water, sharp combing and industrial strength hair gel while John honks the horn yelling, “We’re late! No Starbucks stop now!”
My own wild brunette mane is enough of a battle each week, thank you very much.
Now Samshine? He is no problem. What haircut does the military provide? Then sign him up for that ‘Do. Easy going and unconcerned with appearances, he happily sits for a buzz.
Caleb? well, you all know Caleb. If it wasn’t his idea? Then it isn’t a very good one. And a crewcut is ALWAYS Mom’s idea. And big brother Josiah, whom he both idolizes and fights with? He has shaggy, teenage boy hair. So Caleb wanted to grow his, too. I let him for the last couple of months, because he was faithful to comb it down each morning, and that was our DEAL. (Little Del is always making deals) But his hair cannot be tamed for long and that combing lasted about 12 minutes. The rest of the day, it caused me to wince. So I broke all my rules and I set down my right as the parent to make him comply and I leaned back on my DNA and would have made my Dad proud by the negotiating tactics learned at his feet. It came down to my sleek smile and that classic, used-car-salesman-but-who-cares-it-works question
“I want to earn your business. Just what do I need to do, to get you into this haircut, today?”
I read “Fast Food Nation” about a year ago and we eat at McDonalds pretty rarely, now. The fries there are gluten-free, so Caleb considers them health food and tries to convince me, too. He has always wanted to order TWO large fries. He has begged and I have said no to such gluttony and waste. But you know what? A couple bucks, 20 minutes of salt-fat-potato gorging and the resultant bloated tummy of my 9 year old? In exchange for 2-3 months of tidy hair?