Tonight for example I thought that I would use the spirit of Christmas to motivate my younger daughter, who is 4 years old to do her chores. I told her, "Hey, Sweetheart. You need to come over here and pick up your books and toys or Santa might put you on the Naughty List!" She walked across the room and after standing around for about 3 seconds she started to walk away. Hmmm.... Maybe she didn't understand... "Hey Honey, I saw you walked over here but you didn't pick anything up. Now come back here and pick up or you'll wind up on the Naughty List."
... Nothing... She just kept walking....
"Baby Girl... You need to come and do this right now or you're on the Naughty List."
"That's it... I guess you're on the Naughty List now."
"Did you here me??? I SAID YOU'RE NOW ON THE NAUGHTY LIST!"
Without looking up she replied her most matter-of-fact tone, "Ok, I'm on the Naughty List. Thanks for the news."
So maybe that wasn't my proudest parenting moment. Later in the same night we went to church to see a large exhibit of Nativity scenes from around the world. On the way home my little Naughty-Lister (She is still on it by the way) pointed up the hill by our house and said that she wanted me to drive up to the houses so we could see the Christmas lights. Her big sister, age 5, wasted no time sharing her stance on the proposal with a nasty strain of whines. Absolutely zero interest. So I decide to reprise my roll as Dr. Huxtable. I pulled over to the side of the road.
"Alrighty then, Love. You don't have to ride with us to see the lights. I'm just going to drop you off here by the side of the road and we will come back to pick you up. OH NO! you didn't wear a coat tonight! That's too bad because it's 30 degrees and really dark out there. OK, hop out so we can go see the lights."
She unclicked her seatbelt. Hmmmm....
"Ummmm. What are you doing?"
"I'm getting out Dad."
"I said its freezing cold out there and its dark and we are driving away."
"So can I just walk home then Dad?"
"No... you just have to wait here in this really cold, dark spot by yourself, ok?"
She hopped out and shut the door. Watching her in my mirrors I started to drive away very slowly. I turned up toward the hill on the other side of the street and watched her standing there waiting patiently for us to return. I rolled down the window and was shocked at how cold it was. I beckoned her across the street. She jogged over to the car.
"Ok get in the car."
"No, I don't want to go see the lights."
"Well we can't just leave you here because you'll wind up in a foster home and Mommy & Daddy will go to prison."
"I'll walk behind the car."
"Fine then I'll just drive behind you."
She then proceeded to stroll up the steep hill past decorated houses. I saw our pediatrician's house coming up and silently hoped that she would either get in the car or break into a big of a jog. But she just kept walking. About half way up the hill a dog came running out of a yard barking and started to chase her.
"HONEY! DON'T YOU WANT TO GET IN THE CAR NOW?!?"
"NO DAD! I'LL WALK ALL THE WAY UP THIS HILL THEN ALL THE WAY HOME!"
She just strode casually past the dog. At the top of the hill I had to come to grips with the facts.
FACT #1) The Cosby show has been of the air for decades.
FACT #2) There is only one Heathcliff Huxtable.
FACT #3) The problem with my kids is that they are smart, confident and determined.
FACT #4) FACT #3 isn't really a problem.... it's they way I'm trying to raise my kids to be.
I guess when all is said and done my little bits of creative parenting didn't wind up making them succumb to my awesome powers of fatherhood. The toys didn't get cleaned up and we didn't all ride together to see the lights. I just take comfort in the fact that I'm raising daughters who don't take crap from anybody, including me.
Maybe next time I'll try to bribe them with some Jello Puddin' Pops... They still make those right?