Before my son was born, I established parenting standards. I wouldn’t, for example, use food as a motivator or manipulator. I wouldn’t buy my kid a random toy when he already had so many. We would not become servants to his sleep schedule.
Then my son was born.
Now he says things like, “I want to go potty so I can get a treat.” He declares, “This makes my heart happy!” each time I add an impulse-bought toy to his fruit-fly-attention-span life. And, we now know that a nap deprived life is a life not worth living.
As my son is deep into toddlerhood, one of my most adamant standards is quickly slipping: Engage in quality conversation when he asks questions.
My wife and I are both teachers, so we know how important talk is for developing a child’s language skills. I’ve always thought, “If my son starts talking to me, I will engage deeply. I will try hard to explain answers to him.”
But here’s the downfall: patience has a shelf-life. If you want quick insight into how much will-power I have left, listen to my responses to my child.
In the morning, freshly caffeinated, it sounds like this:
“Daddy, what’s that?”
“It’s a school bus.”
“Where is it going?”
“It’s going to drop off kids at school so they can learn.”
“Well…because one of the most important things to do in life is to keep learning.”
“Because it can help a person gain skills and feel fulfilled in life.”
“Um…because people need skills so they can contribute to others and help them.”
Five minutes later, the “attack of they ‘whys’” is still going as I struggle to explain gainful employment and life satisfaction to a two-year old.
Compare that to end-of-the-day conversations, when I’m drained:
“Daddy, why do you have a beard?”
“Buddy, it’s time for bed, we can talk about this tomorrow.”
[Strategic, futile attempt at silence]
“Daddy…daddy…..hey daddy…..hey daddy listen…listen daddy…daddydaddydaddydaddydaddy”
“Why do you have a beard?”
“I don’t know buddy, because of testosterone.”
“Um…it’s science. The answer is science.”
“I DON’T KNOW!”
Later in life, my son will answer questions at school with “because science” – which although technically correct, it probably isn’t the depth of thought his teachers hope for.
Perhaps this is the reason why I find myself staring off in silent stupor when my wife – or anyone – is talking to me. If you see me looking like I’m buffering, I’m either savoring silence or I’m thinking about how I’ll explain wind and barometric pressure systems and air density to my son when he asks me why the curtain is blowing.
Is it bad parenting to tell him to ask Alexa?