Do As I Say Not As I Do
He needs a haircut this boy of mine. It is kind to call it tousled because the truth is that he hates brushing it. Ok, maybe hate is too strong a word but he doesn’t like it. He goes to a religious day school so he wears a kipah (yarmulke) to school five days a week. He and his friends prefer a larger model that fits over their entire head. They like it because when they run it doesn’t fly off of their heads.
This battle of the brush is similar to the bed making battle. He doesn’t see the point of making his bed because he is just going to get back in it. I understand and I don’t fault his logic but I still make the bed each day. He figures that brushing his hair is a waste of time because he is just going to cover it.
I tell him that I understand his concerns but that he is going to do these things anyhow. Sometimes he glares at me and I am tempted to call him Paul, or Ringo. He doesn’t really look like them, but the hair reminds me a bit of the early Beatles mop top look. I look him in the eye and remind him that my job is simple- get him ready for life. That is what parents do, teach our children how to get along in the world.
He nods his head and smiles…most of the time. Sometimes he finds holes in my arguments, logical fallacies and asks about them. The inconsistencies irritate him and he tells me that life is unfair. I say that he is right and point out that he should do as I say, not as I do.
I remember the irritation I felt at receiving this sort of instruction and how I promised myself not to do it. Well, I broke that promise to myself for the same reason that many parents have, exhaustion. Children don’t have as many concerns as we do so it is easy for them to grind you about xyz. They have endless energy and sometimes you don’t so you go to the default answer, “because I said so’ or the “do as I say, not as I do” line.
Sometimes I tell him that parents are people and that I am going to make a mistake. He wants to know how many mistakes I have made and what I did. I tell him that I have made many and that I still think about some of them. I don’t get into details because he doesn’t really need or want those. What he wants is reassurance that we can recover from the mistakes we make.
The timing is interesting because his questions comes a few hours after we talk about what it means to get divorced. Several of his friends have parents who are splitting up and he wants to know if you can make a mistake and marry the wrong person. It is a legitimate question and I tell him that it is possible. He asks how you fix that kind of mistake and I tell him that it is hard to answer that, but that maybe for some people it is by splitting up.
He wants to know if people get remarried and I say yes. He asks me if people learn from their first marriage so that they don’t make the same mistake. I say that I hope so. He tells me that he still doesn’t want to get married. I say that it is ok with me and that he doesn’t have to. He asks me if I think that he’ll always feel this way and I say no.
This is not the answer he wants and he makes a face. So I tell him that he doesn’t have to, but I have to be honest and that one day he might find girls to be interesting in ways that doesn’t see now. He looks at from beneath that mop of hair and says that might be true but they’ll still say stupid things and play stupid games. I can’t help but laugh at this and I tell him he has plenty of time before he needs to worry about it.
He nods his head and resumes building his Lego Star Wars ship. I take a hard look at him because I can’t believe that it is just a few more weeks before he turns ten.Â Yesterday he was five, tomorrow he might be fifteen. I know that is an exaggeration, but I still can’t believe how fast it all has gone. For a moment longer I stare at him and wonder what the fifteen year old will be like.
If his growth is like mine I will still be taller, but he won’t be far behind. He’ll tower over his mother and sister. If he goes away to school than he is already half way out of the house.I am happy to wait for this to happen, happy to let time slow down for a while. Not ready to be the father of a teenager or a college student. Not old enough for either, doesn’t anyone remember that I am only 25.