I find there to be three elements to having Good-Bad Dad-Brain when dealing with my kids’ unending requests of me.
#1 – Meet the request, comment, complaint or whining with immediate skepticism.
#2 – Finding personal benefit in addressing the situation.
#3 – Reconciling the valor of your answer by asking “W.W.M.D” (or “what would Mom do”)?
My Good-Bad Dad-Brain is always working, as told through actual experiences detailed below:
8 year-old who is supposed to sit down to pee: “I didn’t pee on the toilet seat, I always sit down.”
#1 – The kid barely takes time to flush so no way he’s making sure of a tidy seat after doing his business.
#2 – A bathroom cleaning as punishment seems like an apropos solution – one that also checks off one of my “to-do’s” for later.
#3 – W.W.M.D. approval – I reinforced the need to sit down while going and instituted a punishment that limited my need to clean the bathroom.
3 year-old fighting about taking a bath tonight: “I took a bath yesterday – I’m clean.”
#1 – There are three layers of dirt on those little knees but I do remember giving him a bath yesterday. I see what this is – an attack on how thorough my bath was last night.
#2 – Even if last night’s tub-time was quick, he did change underwear this morning. That is basically like taking a bath in my book. After all, dirty knees are a staple for all little boys!
#3 – W.W.M.D declined: no kid that spends time playing outside is ever clean enough, no matter how fresh his whitey-tighties are. Re-bath required; this time with real scrubbing.
My daughter, age 6, twice a week at about 1:30 A.M.: “I had a bad dream.”
#1 – This is a first-class ticket to the couch for me. Nothing says a tired day tomorrow like sleeping next to the exaggerated R.E.M. sleep of a bucking-bronco-like little person.
#2 – Both of us really do need a good night’s sleep. I’ll walk her back and tuck her in again. I’ll reassure my daughter that I’m down the hall if needed and that everything is okay.
#3 – W.W.M.D approval – Mom is allowed to sleep and my middle-of-the-night bathroom break is done in the kids’ bathroom rather than clumsily turning on the light in the master.
My 10 year-old standing next to my 3 year-old’s freshly painted living room wall mural: “I told him not to do that.”
#1 – He really expects me to believe that the little guy got out the markers and force-drew those scribbles while he protested? No way.
#2 – The real issue is this art dresser – it’s in the middle of the living room and has been an eye-sore for a while. It’s time that is removed before the permanent markers start providing the splashes of color on the walls. I have just the place for it – next to my golf clubs in storage.
#3 – W.W.M.D decline – the art dresser, although ugly and tempting to the kids, is the vehicle for their creativity. Putting it into the spare bedroom would forever quell their inner Monet.
All kids, when asking to have a friend overnight: “Mom told me to ask you.”
#1 – I’m in the “no-win” zone here. Am I confirming her ruling or being asked to make the initial and final call? I need to figure this out quickly before I potentially get the double-whammy: contradicting my wife AND disappointing my kid.
#2 – After hearing the answer, “What did Mom REALLY say?” I can move forward. If the answer is “she doesn’t care” that is as good as a “Yes.” If Mom presumably said, “Dad has to decide”, that is a “No.”
#3 – W.W.M.D approval – this was nothing more than a power-play aimed at confirming my “second-in-command” status in our house. I fell into line – mission accomplished.
Long live the Good-Bad Dad-Brain – the fathers who work daily to perfect it, the kids that constantly test it and the thoughts of “W.W.M.D” that confirm our fatherly inferiority.