TWO PEOPLE took pity on me at the Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting yesterday afternoon.
One was a teacher, the other a bookstore staffer. What earned me their benevolence was the completely useless discussion I was having with Q. over what I would buy her.
I was arguing for books that reflected her status as a kindergartener who’s reading at a second-grade level. She dug in her heels over a princess sticker book.
Each woman, the teacher and the bookseller, tried engaging Q. over what she likes to read and suggesting various kids’ series and chapter books. Each was met, as I had been, with folded arms, a dark scowl, and pouting lips.
You learn as a parent to pick your battles. You decide on the fly what’s worth fighting over and what needs to be let go, for if you try to impose your will each and every time, you become That Dad: the guy who’s too stubborn or too insecure to let his kids make some of their own decisions and make their own mistakes and develop in a healthy way.
I picked this battle because the insane amount of crap that litters every last corner of Q.’s room would have landfill owners lighting cigars with hundred-dollar bills. And because she’s really, really smart, and if I’m going to buy her books–which I will never refuse to do–I want them to challenge and enlighten her.
So our little tiff had a solid backstory to it. I fear, though, that the two women who gently offered their help saw only a clueless father completely befuddled over how to handle his daughter. I hate being seen as That Dad even more. Fathers have earned their reputation as emotionally clumsy and perpetually baffled parents. (See: any commercial on daytime television.) But I like to think that my generation of dads has started to break that mold.
In other words, I didn’t need their pity because I had no idea how to parent Q. I needed their pity because she’s at times impossible to negotiate with.
Our “compromise,” reached after several threats to leave without buying anything, was a Berenstain goddamned Bears book. (That series, by the way, has set back fatherhood at least half a century.)
Which Q. had finished by the time we reached home. | DL