Thinking fast on your feet is critical in the game of parenting.
This is something I continue to learn as my children grow older. And… every now and again a small window of opportunity opens and as parents — we grasp it.
One such moment came most recently by way of our son and his struggles with hand washing.
During a typical Saturday as our daughter napped, my husband and I busied ourselves with weekend chores and our son occupied us with stories of his plans for the future. As we put away our laundry our son excused himself to the restroom in the typical five-year-old fashion.
“I gotta go potty,” he exclaimed, as he dashed toward our master bathroom.
Quickly following his trip to the loo, he came around the corner proclaiming he had ‘washed his hands super fast.’
Making note that I had not heard the water turn on in the master bath, I took the moment and seized the opportunity.
This would be the moment where I would have to share with my son the magical and mystical powers of ‘mommy.’ The power of mommy who sees and knows everything. And in this moment, somehow she knew he had not washed his hands.
As I navigated my way through this lesson with my son, my husband/teammate supported my words, echoing the ‘amazing abilities’ of mommy. Quickly the look on my son’s face transformed from skeptic to fear, as I am sure much flooded his mind.
“You mean even when I’m at Memaw’s and you’re not there, you know?” he questioned of dismissive handwashing.
‘Yeah … I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that,” I replied.
As he returned to our bathroom to wash his hands, I knew the look on his face. The defeat he was feeling. After all, I was once five and my mother played this same cruel trick on me.
“Now, stop staring at your sad face, pull your lip back in and just wash your hands,” I said from the other side of the wall. His heavy sigh confirmed how well I knew my son.
As my son pulled himself together and returned to play in our living room, my husband flashed a smile my way.
Later, he would tell me just the day before he had shared with our son his gift of having eyes in the back of his head.
“I’m a school bus driver,” he told our son, “I have to be able to see everything.”
And so the tradition of deception from parent to child continues. The ‘game’ of seeing who can think faster on their feet at any given moment.
As I returned to work the following week, I could barely wait to share the story with my colleague, who is now a grandfather. Together we shared a chuckle over my latest deception.
“That should be good for a couple years of therapy,” my colleague chuckled.
“Yeah, good stuff, right?” I quickly proclaimed.
Generally speaking, I am not a mysterious person. Quite to the contrary, most who know me would say I am an open book. My opinions, not to mention stories, are always at the ready.
When it comes to children, however, there is something to be said for a bit of mystery. Practically speaking, a little uncertainty placed in a child’s mind is ultimately just a part of the game. And for now at least, I know my son will be dutifully cleaning his hands.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 847-3021.