“That.” My three year old son grunts, pointing without looking away from the TV. He’s slouched in his chair, one leg over the arm. He’s pointing at his drink which is inches out of his grasp. I assume he’s addressing me. I’m the only one here.
My wife and I used to have all sorts of high minded ideas about parenting. We would teach our children to be confident, emotionally secure, energetic, thoughtful, hard working, etc, etc. As time has gone on, and the magnitude of these tasks has become clearer, we’ve gradually lowered our sights. Now the only thing we’re fairly confident about achieving is making our kids polite. They are going to learn “please” and “thank you” if it kills us.
“That.” He repeats, this time jabbing his finger back and forth. He thinks the reason why I haven’t fulfilled his demand yet is lack of pointing. He points more.
“Excuse me?” I say, trying to pack as much parental disapproval into my voice as possible. He looks at me innocently, blinking.
So asking nicely for something wasn’t his first impulse. That’s not great, but now the TV trance is broken he’ll remember his training. And his training has been rigorous. For nearly his entire life we have been drilling “please” and “thank you” into him, and here’s where it pays off. Moments like this. Come on son, you can do it. Give me something to hold on to. Ask nicely.
He blinks again and raises his finger, (ok, not keen on the pointing either, but I’ll let that slide for now). He jabs his finger towards his drink even more violently and starts making a sort of chimp screeching sound. Not only has he not asked nicely, he can’t even be bothered to use actual human words.
“What?” He asks, genuinely surprised that I haven’t leapt up to get his drink for him.
I give him the glaring of his life. He’s not cowed, just slightly confused, then the realisation dawns on him and he grins. “Can-I-have-my-drink-please-dad-dy?” he chants like a sarcastic robot.
“No.” I say. “You can reach it yourself.”
He resumes finger jabbing and screeching like a chimp.
I’m definitely going to achieve something as a parent. I really am. I believe that. It’s just, at this point, I’m not entirely sure what.