Dinner is a negotiation that demands a clear winner at the end of it. It looks less like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting and more like a scene from "Wall Street."
The streets were clear and calm, except for a plastic shopping bag skipping down the road. On one end stood my wife and me; on the other, our daughter. This was was an old-fashioned standoff. And it was about to be settled.
"If you don't finish your dinner then you are going straight to bed," my wife said to my daughter.
My daughter, 3 at the time, scrunched her face.
"You better do what you're told," I added in my deepest and most commanding dad voice.
She looked down at her delicious, yet untouched, dinner and sighed deeply. "OK," she muttered as light as a breeze.
My wife and I returned to finishing our dinners. But our daughter didn't move.
"Why aren't you eating?" I asked.
"I said, OK," she responded. "I'll go to bed."
I've said it before, something every parent knows, dinner is not about getting wholesome sustenance to fuel your body. Dinner is a negotiation that demands a clear winner at the end of it. It looks less like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting and more like a scene from "Wall Street."
My wife and I looked at each other. Most of the time, the threat of an early bed time is enough. But not this day. This day, she wanted a shootout.
"Excuse me?" my wife said.
"I'll go to bed," my daughter replied with a shrug.
We looked at each other, finished up and put her to bed. She won that battle, I think we all realized that. Though, she will only ever confirm this truth if, years from now, she happens to read this column. A year later, I don't know if she would be so bold as to sacrifice valuable playing time just to not have to eat broccoli, which she likes. But the notion that she would pull that trigger still sticks with me. Part of me is proud of her, I'm mean, it is a pretty great move.
Of course, her little sister was watching that day. She watches everything her big sister does. She absorbs everything. So when we were having lunch the other day, and the promise of a treat was hanging out there for those who finished their radishes, I didn't expect much resistance.
My oldest ate them up. My youngest did not. "If you don't finish, you don't get a treat," I said.
She considered this for a moment, then returned a radish to her plate. You could tell she was conflicted. But then she nodded to herself that she had made the right decision.
"Are you going to eat all of your radishes?" I asked.
"No," she replied.
"You are as stubborn as your sister," I said.
Then her sister returned from the kitchen with a sucker. "Look what I got," she said.
Her little sister's eyes got really wide. "A sucker!" she exclaimed.
She looked at me, then the radishes. Then she shoved them all in her mouth.
Sometimes, it's OK to admit defeat.
David Manley is a husband and father of two. Read more of his weekly parenting column, "Editor Dad," at CantonRep.com. Share your stories with him at David.firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow him on Twitter: @DaveManley.