Any poker players in the crowd? No? Oh…my bad, that was a hobby we as parents may have had time for pre-kids. As a devoted father and connoisseur of whiskey, I’ve come to accept and understand that many of the enjoyable hobbies I once partook in on numerous occasions are now reserved for that scarce “night out”. This major life adjustment didn’t come easy and as most fathers eventually will do, I spent the summer of 2012 mourning the loss of my weekly golf outings. Going from a set of Taylor-Made irons to blue and red Fisher-Price clubs does not do much for the golf game. My wife and I had set intentions of bi-weekly date nights that we vowed we’d maintain following the birth of our first son; but we found ourselves settling for Thai take-out last night as we celebrated our smooth sailing right through the “seven-year slump”. All of the parents I know wouldn’t have it any other way; and Marti and I are definitely no exception and share the feeling. But I couldn’t help myself a couple of Saturdays ago as I felt this pang of longing for an early morning fishing trip with my brother-in-laws in place of chasing Madden through his 8:45 tumbling class for toddlers. From there I had to make sure he avoided a horseshoe to the head as I tried to get in a quick game with my dad. And within these stories is the truth of the matter…my sons are my ultimate hobby now; my good times are keeping them happy, healthy and safe. End of post…….well not exactly.
Since I’ve been spending nearly 24 hours a day with the most handsome little Tasmanian devil you can imagine; we did decide to ship the two-year old off to his grandmother’s the other night. The wife and I felt we could handle bringing Quinn to a family poker night. It was one of those magical rare events, where Quinn dozed contentedly at the appropriate times, and we adults played, and actually enjoyed the company of other living, breathing adults. We weren’t surrounded by Winnie the Pooh playmats or baskets of unfolded laundry. I recall one hand from late in the night where I made an exceptional bluff. I pushed all of my chips in with a severely weak hand and stared down a grown-man to feign strength. He had no choice but to believe I held the winner and he threw his cards into the muck. I “took down” a good pot of chips and it gave me a rush that I’d missed. I bring this entry back to the poker reference from the start and the idea of a “bluff” (an event where you are trying to intimidate with a false sense of confidence), because tonight I came to a horrifying, eye-opening realization. As well as I executed that hand the other night, I simply cannot bluff my two-year old.
Don’t try it…take my word for it. He/she will call it. And you need to be prepared that if you do try it, you will have to follow through with what you said. Because if you don’t….well that is just bad parenting. But as this became apparent to me tonight, a flood of several other failed bluffs that my son just put the brakes on filled my mind. When it happens it kind of makes you just sit there with a deer in the headlights look on your face.
“uhhhhhhhhhh, hmmmmmmm…” I may say in an attempt to recompose myself.
Tonight, my perfect little angel of a son, morphed into a lieutenant of Lucifer. He picked up a box of diaper wipes belonging to his cousin and right there in front of us all, hucked it from one end of the living room into the kitchen. As uncle “Zee-zee” and “aunto Mandi” tried to hold back the giggles, I had to put on my tough-guy daddy face and I pulled out what I felt was the ultimate no-nonsense threat.
“um, Madden, what was that? Go pick that up, give it back and say sorry, or you’ll have to go to bed right now and you won’t be able to stay up and visit”
“I want to go to bed right now!”, Madden fires back so rapidly that it is as though he had predicted that this exact threat was coming.
(uhhhhhhhhh, hmmmmmmmm…is running through my head at this moment)
And in this very moment, I realize I’ve been outplayed. He bolts around the ottoman with a huge $#*!-eating grin on his face. He glances in my direction in an almost mocking fashion to demonstrate that he is holding an ace high flush. He’s waiting to see if I’m going to re-raise his bet or meekly fold my hand and walk away with my tail between my legs. I quickly scoop him up, we hand back the wipes, and I prompt his goodnights to our visitors. But I had to ask myself at the time, was I following through on a consequence? or was I giving him his way? The little bastard struck doubt right into my very serious ultimatum. That is the nature of parenting, we often don’t have an “answer”, or know for sure if we are making the correct call. We can only go with our gut, and use what we see in our child to guide us through the hands we are dealt.