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Dancing the parent polka

My son has some amazing latent talent. He has a solid future vocation as an evangelist, politician, psychotherapist or all three and he keeps me two-stepping as I try to parent him.

At age seven he canvassed the neighborhood in an effort to teach our neighbors about the evils of smoking. It turned out that he really took the school’s anti-smoking program to heart and was bent on saving our next-door neighbor in particular. I learned from my older children that every time our neighbor stepped outside to smoke my son was there to thwart him.

I was mortified and, knowing my son, I could just guess how the intervention went.

“You’re gonna die.”

“Thanks, kid.”

“Your lungs are going to get icky and black and your arteries are going to close up.”

I imagine our neighbor staring into space wishing the little bugger would just disappear.

I’m proud that my child knows how harmful smoking is and that he’s chosen not to try it. But I was beside myself because he’d been harassing our neighbor.

“But smoking is bad for you,” he insisted.

“Yes and adults know that, but it’s a very hard habit to break.” Too late I could see the wheels turning in his little head and, let me tell you, ever since that conversation my son has used ‘it’s too hard’ as an excuse every chance he gets.

“Son, why did you sneak candy from the cupboard when I told you not to?”

“Because I wanted some.”

“And I said ‘no’.”

“But it’s just so hard to stop!”

See what I mean? Now teaching him personal accountability is 500 times harder than it should be.

Furthermore, now he has this technique to get me to say what he wants to hear and do what he wants me to do. It’s driving me nuts.

“Mom, what time is it?”


“Is that dinner I smell cooking?”

“Noooo. I haven’t started it yet.”

“How long ago was lunch?”

“Okay, already! I’m making dinner.” No, wait! What just happened? Why is he telling me what to do? And why am I doing it?


He’s back. He’s heard the smoke detector and he wants to know if I’ve finished dinner yet and if not, then why not?

“Because it’s too hard?”

“Did you burn it?”

“No, I’m testing the alarms. Hey, is that a laundry basket I see? Whose clothes are those? Isn’t your dresser empty?”

I’m just half of a step ahead of this kid most of the time. I call it the Parent Polka. Two steps forward and one step back. Now if I could just get him to develop a talent for dancing the tango we might really make some progress.

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