Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Daddy's social skills

The other day we were playing at the playground – meaning Madge was off playing on a makeshift stage with some little kids in our park and I was making sure Coco didn’t do too many crazy things – when Madge came to me and said, “Daddy, can you tell L-’s Dad and that lady not to boss me around so much?”
Oh boy.
Here’s the thing. I usually say that I want my kids to question authority, just not mine. Sounds fair, right? Well, now she’s questioning authority AND invoking mine at the same time.
As they say in Go Fish, “Got what I wanted!”
And, as they say in many a fairy tale, be careful what you wish for.
Before striding into action, I decided to get some more information. “How were they bossing you around?”
“They were telling me I have to put on some shoes.”
“Well,” I said, trying to sound calm and persuasive, “sometimes parents don’t like to see other kids barefoot because then their own kids will whine about wanting to be barefoot, too.”
Sometimes kids understand too well. Madge said she understood, but she still wanted me to tell them not to boss her around.
“You want me to go over there and tell them that it’s okay with me if you don’t wear any shoes?”
“Okay, yeah.” Not quite what she asked for, but L-‘s family lives in our building, and a straightforward, “Don’t boss my kid around!” might not be the most diplomatic approach. As much as the guy deserves it. He has the personality and the physique of a Winnebago. (I don’t want to be mean, so I’ll leave it at that.)
So I go over and tell them that my daughter would like me to let them know that it’s okay with me if she’s barefoot.
I figure that this phrasing might fly. It’s not too confrontational, yet I’m getting the point across.
But of course he says, “There’s splinters on this stage and she could get hurt.”
I froze. Again I was presented with my age-old problem of trying not to sound like a smart-ass while still communicating. So I said, “I appreciate your concern. But it’s still okay with me if she’s barefoot.”
See, on paper (virtually or otherwise), “I appreciate your concern” looks harmless. But I can’t deliver those lines in a convincing fashion. I just said my lines and left.
I have given up having conversations with him a while ago, anyway.

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