Niagara Gazette — The diminutive devil made me do it.
I wanted him to succeed. I gave him every chance to do so. Even after he’d wiped away what should have been his last opportunity, I gave him another one.
But, after the jar of Play-Doh bounced off his mother’s shoulder, I had to pull the trigger on Rigby.
I was trying to herd him and Penny out the door for a trip to the Buffalo Museum of Science. Rigby resisted my attempt at goodwill, though, earning timeouts by hitting, talking nastily and making mean faces.
I scolded him. I warned him. I wasn’t getting through to him.
Until I banished him.
“Rigby!” I shouted once I saw the Play-Doh leaving his arm. “You’re not going, and that’s the end of it.”
That got through. But it was too late. He immediately began crying and pleading his case.
“But Daddy,” he said. “I’ll be good. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!”
I wanted to accept that as good enough. I really did. But deep down, I knew it wasn’t. Not only did he have to receive a proper punishment for his repeated crimes, but I also had to make good on my word.
I know he’s only 4 and he’s going to test his limits. But disrespecting his mother — and the rest of us earlier that morning — just wasn’t going to cut it. As much as I wanted to make our outing a threesome — and you have no idea how much I wanted that — it was cut to a twosome.
Rigby once again assumed a position in the timeout chair while I got Penny ready to depart. I then went to talk to Rigby about why I was doing what I was doing. As one might guess, he was not completely receptive. He was crying as I went up to him.
“WHAT?” he replied in the sort of upset tone that makes a parent want to cuddle their baby right inside their chest for the next year or so.
“I love you no matter what. But you can’t act this way and expect to do things. When you misbehave and don’t listen, we have to punish you. So you have to stay here. But I always love you.”
“I WANT TO GO!”
Tears were flying furiously, and his face was crinkly and red. He didn’t appear at the point in life yet where the child recognizes it really is worse for the parent than it is for him.
“Sorry, buddy. Can’t do it this time. I love you.”
I kissed him on the forehead. He dove off the chair and clung to my leg. And, mind you, he’s quite large for his age, so it’s pretty much like having an anchor tied to your thigh when he does that. After four or so labored steps, I realized he wasn’t going to loosen his grip. So I had to loosen it for him.
As I felt his grip give way around my leg, I wanted desperately to keep hold of his hand, pick him up, dust him off and bring him along. I’m not much of a punisher. I don’t like doing things that hurt others. Just not in my nature.
But, when I made the decision all those years ago to have children, I knew that was part of the package. And I know there will be way more blowouts in the years to come. So, regardless of whether I have the heart to do it, I have to be the bad guy sometimes.
I had to walk out the door, defying my instincts to run back to my screaming baby boy and give him a piggyback ride to the car.
I had to look at him clawing at the window in a feeble attempt to accompany us, blow him a kiss and drive away.
I had to silently mope the entire drive there that my little bud wasn’t with us. Then mope at the museum. Then mope a little bit more on the drive home.
And what awaited me when I got home? “Daddy!” he screamed as he ran out the door to give me a hug and kiss.
Hmm. Not what I expected. Maybe the dark side of parenting has light at the end of it after all.
By George, I think he got it. I hope so, because I don’t know how many days like that I care to handle.
Contact Paul Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org.