Johnny Cash was a parent, and you can tell this in his classic song “I Walk the Line.” Yes, that is what we do all day long. Whether it is walking the fine line between freedom and discipline, or the line between nurture and self-preservation, we parents are well versed in the art of line walking. One might also well call it the art of the compromise, because we often have to decide how much we are willing to let go of in order to get what we want. If it is a question of getting out the door on time, will we encourage things we otherwise would not? Things like potty talk? And of course the answer is yes. We will do any damn thing to get our children out the door on time.
Edward does not like leaving the house. He likes being outside just fine, and he likes going places; he just doesn’t like to actually leave. “Put your coat on!” I will say to him. “Put your boots on!”
“NO!” he will protest loudly.
“But we have to pick your sister up at school in 6 minutes, and it takes 5 minutes to walk there (if we go quickly), and if I am late they will not let her leave, and if I am TOO late, they will call the police for child abandonment and I will go to jail and then I will get in a fight with a large inmate and be killed and then you will have to avenge my death butyouareonly4soyouwillprobablydietoo ISTHATWHATYOUWANT?!” I ask calmly. But this argument does not work on him. He does not care if I die in prison. He only cares about not doing what I say. But then, one day, I hit on the magical secret of getting him to put his stuff on.
“Hey Edward,” I ask coyly, “do you want to put your farts on?” Okay, now he is intrigued.
“My farts?” he asks, slowing his tantrum, and inching closer to the door.
“Yes,” I say, picking up his boots, “aren’t these your farts?”
“Daddy!” he laughs, “those are my BOOTS!”
“Are you sure?” He is taking the bait. “You’d better come check…” So he comes over, and as he slips his foot into the first boot I make the grossest fart noise I can muster, given the time constraints. “See,” I say loudly above his raucous laughter, “I TOLD you they were farts!” He quickly shoves his foot into the second boot, prompting another potty noise from me. And once he starts getting things on we never have a problem. Once the boots are on, the coat follows, with hat and gloves, and we are out the door.
I have done this every day now for a month. On the one hand I super proud of this. What quick thinking! I am a genius! I should share this trick with the world! And of course, on the other side of that line I walk, I kind of think I should not tell anybody about this, because it is gross and embarrassing. This is why this is the first you have heard about it. I am encouraging something I normally do not encourage in order to smooth out the transition process. I am compromising. And you know, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to teach compromise to our children. Our society seems to hate the idea of it lately, with an “if you’re not for us, you’re against us” mentality, and all this has done is divide and anger. Maybe if we are not afraid to let the world see us giving ground, if we are not afraid to let our children see what happens when both parties meet in the middle, we can change this extreme way of thinking, get our heads and hearts out of the mud, pull our country back up by its fartstraps, and begin to live happier, more balanced lives.