Can I Go With You?

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Our Story Begins
Can I Go With You?

For years I’ve done what I assume most parents do . . . I hear the words “can I go with you dad?” and a small part of me cringes.

Why, you might ask?  The proper, idealized, Parenting obsessed talk shows think that every single point of contact with your children is like living in the lobby of Willy Wonka’s factory.  Fairy tales and wishes that come true.  They’re completely off the mark, of course, but that’s the message we get pummeled with constantly.
“I am my kids’ mom/dad.  I live for my kids.  The happiest point in my life is when my kids succeed.”
That is the message from talk radio, television, all that.  So when people ask why I write for Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother it’s because . . . sometimes, and with me it’s a lot of the time, good enough is just that.  You aren’t perfect and it’s a bad message to send to your kids telling them that you or they are perfect.  I prefer Rene’s message to the others.

So like many parents, today, when I had to head to the grocery store for the third time for the one item I forgot for the oatmeal cookies I’d already started to make, I heard “can I go with you Dad?”
I looked, sighed to myself, and said:
“sure Sam.  Come on.”

I thought the cringe-worthy moment in my head, I didn’t say it.  I don’t belittle my children.  Words like “idiot” and “stupid” aren’t allowed when describing each other in my house.

I cringed because, for so long . . . 7 of their 10 years, in fact . . . they fulfilled the prophecy in my head.  That event ringing over and over again where the child screams, cries, yells, and whines to try and get something.  At Target it’s a new toy train or a video game cartridge.  At the grocery store it’s candy or what have you.

But I don’t often refuse the trips with me in order to minimize the amount of babysitting one daughter has to do or just because it’s nice to have company to the store.

It’s today I realized, long after our trip to the store, that it’s not about the treats or wanting something.  In fact, for about three years now, it’s been the exact opposite.

I have a theory, you see, particularly with one of the twins.  He made such a fuss, got in so much trouble and whined and screamed (yes, literally, in the middle of the store, feet dragging, blood-curdling screaming) at his mother that he wanted new stuff that she would cave in.  I wouldn’t, but be it the pitch, the timbre, the volume, whatever, Andrea (my late wife) and her mother couldn’t handle the tantrums.

On a walk with my boys
On a walk with my boys

To the day, since Andrea died, we have not had a single tantrum.  Not one.  Nothing.  My theory, you see, is that it’s also part of the trauma of grief these kids face.  They feel like they treated their mother badly.  They feel bad for screaming and stressing her out.  You might think that’s too much thinking for a 7-year-old but you’d be wrong.  It’s the right amount.  Kids are bright and born smart.  We just think they’re not and if you treat them like they’re not that’s what you get – a kid who feels inadequate.  (You’ll note I said treat them as intelligent, not spoil them or cater to them)

So today at the store I went in with an open mind.  As grumpy as I was about the third grocery run, Sam walked along.  He skipped through the aisles.  He looked at sale items and pointed out cheaper prices.  Not once did he ask for anything.

You see, kids ask for stuff.  They ask over and over again, too.  Why?  That’s their job, so to speak.  They’re kids.  They have to ask.  You did it, too, so did I.  But in the end they aren’t there for the treat.  Sam just wanted to spend some time, whatever time, with his Dad.  If that’s walking through the store, which I tend to have happen a lot . . .then that’s where he’ll go.

So the next time I hear “can I go with you,” I’ll remind myself of that.  I’ll also remind myself . . . something as mundane as a trip to the store, if one or all of them is with me, just isn’t that mundane at all.

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