Younger Child is getting older. We marked her 9th birthday with a truly enjoyable trip to the American Girl Doll store in New York City, and took in another few attractions.
I didn’t expect a birthday to bring overnight changes in Younger Daughter, of course. The changes are there, but they are slow to evolve.
The problem is (and has been) is that as an Older Dad, many times I’m too easygoing and hesitant when a firm hand is required. I’m often guilty of coddling My Princess. This no doubt shall continue to be a vital element in our relationship, even when she’s No Longer Younger Child and I’m Even Older Old Man.
Don’t get me wrong. Í’ve stood firm a few times. Seriously, I am getting better.
I’m aware that one of the core principles of successful parenting is knowing when to say no, and not backing down when you do.
Something shifted today.
The Banana Incident. That’s what I’ve decided to call it.
Last night, the girls were upstairs reading Harry Potter when I got home from work. They snuggle in the bed for quality Mom-Daughter time.
I sat on the bed. There was a half-eaten — make that three-quarters eaten — banana, still in its peel. It was on my nightstand.
“Ïs that your banana?”
“Yes, Dad,” she answered impatiently.
“You’re not going to leave it there, are you?”
“No, Dad.” Increasing impatience, with a bit of annoyance.
“You’re going to throw it out, right?”
Fast forward: When I opened my eyes this morning, there it was. The Banana. On my bedside table.
Daughter and I meet in the hallway, and start downstairs. She’s already dressed for school.
“You forgot to take the Banana.”
“It’s a present for you,” she cheerily tossed back, over her shoulder.
“Ït’s a present I respectfully decline.”
She kept going downstairs and into the kitchen. “Ï need to fix my breakfast.”
“Get the Banana first.”
“No breakfast until you get the Banana.”
She makes a dash to catch her Mother at the front door, before she left for work. I knew she was making her appeal to The Boss. I also knew Mom was going to respectfully stay out of it.
Silence. The front door shuts.
Daughter remains in the family room, where I can’t see her from the kitchen.
She opens the front door and looks out, hoping there’ll be a last minute rescue. I peek as she watches Mother’s car pull away.
Two minutes, maybe three minutes. I don’t know how long it really was.
I hear her scurry up the steps, then down, and into the kitchen. I pretend I don’t see or hear her. The trash can lid shuts.
She cheerily began chattering. No mention of the Banana. No pouting, no repercussions.
We picked up where a normal morning left off.
The world didn’t end. I didn’t drive a wedge between us. Sure, I know this is what good parenting is about — standing firm and not backing down.
She was a little older. I was a little wiser — still an Older Dad, but a little less naïve.
It just took a Banana.