Sunday, July 12, 2009

Parenting pitfalls are rarely so black and white

My husband doesn’t like to be The Bad Guy, the one who always says ‘no.’

He feels he’s been pushed into wearing the black hat by Yours Truly, The Pushover.

He’s the one who tells Ittybit to eat three more bites before she can be excused, that she has to sleep in her own bed, and that we are dog people NOT cat people.

I am, by comparison, the scoundrel who replaces the fish the moment they die, lets her watch TV to her heart's content and allows her to have ice cream for breakfast.

I can feel his pain, sort of. I return home to the scampering of little feet and the excited cheer of “MOMMY’S HOME, MOMMY’S HOME, MOMMY’S HOME!” after I’ve walked out to the mailbox.

It’s a nice feeling.

But as the traveling member of our tribe — the one who goes away for nights at a time on business — he’d like to be welcomed back into the fold with at least a brief chorus of “DADDY’S HOME!” followed by big, wet sloppy kisses from the members of the family who are not completely covered in fur.

Instead he gets an “oh hi,” a wave and “does this mean I have to sleep in my own bed?” directed at me, the woman who, in his estimation and in his children’s eyes, is always wearing a white hat.

Even the dog yawns and goes back to sleep without bothering to get up. Traitor.

This is exactly the scenario my entirely fictional organization “People for Less Unrest in Marriage” was designed to counsel.

If I were not the leader, the folks at PLUM would completely take me to task for changing the rules; for not picking the battles I know he would have fought or, at the very least, for not scripting the return with a manufactured ticker-tape parade.

But as the creator of PLUM I’ve fired those who would defy me.

It’s not like THEY have to figure out how to get the kids breakfast, get them dressed, give the dog a pill, clean up whatever canine accident took place on the stairs (yuck), get a shower and get ready for work, pack lunches for daycare and get out of the house before we’re so late that the light from late is already blocking the sun, not to mention answering the age-old question: “Where are my keys?”

Now where was I? Oh, yes, disorganized.

Let’s backtrack shall we? A few paragraphs up I mentioned something about replacing fish? Let’s go back there. Yes?

So … Golfie died last weekend and, while my dear, black-hat-wearing husband was busy painting our soon-to-be new house I was practically promising little miss Ittybit a pony as a suitable replacement.

Before you cast that stone, let me just confess I just can’t flush one more fish down the commode. I just can’t handle the karmic responsibility. I’ve had better luck with mammals. That is why, as we stood – her eyes all teary – toilet side, I suggested a guinea pig to the girl as we watched dear old Golfie circle the bowl and descend.

But it might as well have been a stallion if you’d seen my husband’s eyes bulge when I told him.

I said we’d “TALK” about it, but we all know that means “DONE DEAL” to a preschooler.

I know Mr. Black Hat is only being the true voice of reason when he rightly points out that we are moving soon, after which we will be going on vacation. It doesn’t make sense to get a new pet right now.

He’s right. I know he’s right. Stop rubbing it in.

I break the news to her that we’ve talked and we agree that a new pet is not going to happen until after our lives have settled down again (in three to six weeks). Until then, we can go to the pet store to look at the little critter she’d like to harbor and buy a book telling us how to take care of her.

She does a happy dance, all is right with the universe, I’m still wearing the white hat and off we go to the pet store … where she decides on a hamster.

But now, after having read six chapters at bedtime on the nature and care of hamsters, her father and I are finally on the same page: We’d rather have a cat.

He’s going to break the news.

He gets to wear the white hat for a change.

Write to Siobhan Connally at or read more online at, click on “Blogs.”

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