A couple of times this week I found myself amidst parents who were lamenting the woes of having a child who likes to see exactly how far a parent can be pushed. Obviously that's a pretty frustrating situation, but I told this story both times as an example of how the opposite situation can be frustrating too.
Last year, Hank and I accompanied Daisy to her school's Open House night. The idea is that you hear the kid's teacher blab about their projects and you review the work that the kids have done during the year. I also took the opportunity to bring a computer to the school that I wanted to donate to the computer lab.
I needed some help lugging the equipment to the lab, mostly because I didn't know where it was. Daisy came along to show me the way. I lugged the computer, monitor, and keyboard myself, but I gave her a bag with the mouse and cables. By the time we got to the lab, my arms were weary, and I was cranky from following her non-as-the-crow-flies path.
"Daisy, I'm going to spend a minute here finding a good place for this stuff. Why don't you run back to your classroom so that you can keep showing mom your projects?" I suggested
Daisy started to head out of the room but came back after about 2 seconds.
"I just remembered. We're not supposed to be walking through the halls without a grownup." Daisy said.
"Yeah, but that's that's just a regular school day rule, right? This is Open House night. I'm sure that rule doesn't apply tonight. Go ahead." I explained.
"I don't think I'm supposed to," Daisy said, visibly concerned.
"Look, it'll be fine. Trust me. That rule doesn't make any sense on Open House night. It's OPEN House night. The school is OPEN. That's a school DAY rule. Just go ahead already. I'll be along in a minute." I repeated, somewhat exasperated.
"I'd rather wait," Daisy hemmed.
Now, I was pissed. I hate it when she doesn't listen to reason or doesn't trust me.
"Daisy! I COMMAND YOU!! GO BACK TO YOUR CLASSROOM!" I yelled, invoking my most imperious tone.
I had just played my best card. I had given a command to my daughter who always follows the rules. Now she had two competing rules in her 8 year-old brain: mine and her misinterpretation of her school's rule.
Daisy just stood there, woodenly. She wasn't budging.
Dammit! Dammit! Her rule-processing algorithm gave what she thought was her teacher's rule HIGHER priority than my command! Dammit!
I stared at her with my jaw clenched for several seconds and then hurriedly dumped my computer stuff in the nearest available spot. We marched back to her classroom in silence.
On one hand, I was pretty impressed that she had stood up to me, on the other hand it was disappointing that the reason was because of rote allegiance to school rules rather than some critical analysis of right and wrong. Somewhere in her head she had just categorized me as less rule-worthy than her principal.
During a subsequent totally unrelated discussion with a school official later that evening, I found out that the no-kids-without-a-grownup rule WAS indeed a special rule JUST FOR Open House night. What I had been telling Daisy about the rule not applying that night was the opposite of the truth.
And so, I found myself back at home, later in the evening, apologizing to Daisy for yelling and for trying to get her to break school rules. Seems like I apologize more often to that kid than anyone else I've ever known.