I knew it was the wrong decision, but I did it anyway.
Ryan was angling to get his iPad back. The one he’d lost for cursing at his sister at bed time the night before in a very misguided attempt at humor. The consequence was to lose iPad privileges for the morning.
And yet, there I was, reversing myself — which will almost certainly come back to bite me in the rear at some point.
I couldn’t help myself. After a weekend filled with ugliness, with anger and fighting, with disappointment in my reactions, with the return of Ryan’s facial tic, with an overwhelming sense of “why does every little thing have to be so damn hard?” Ryan made me smile and charmed his iPad right out of my hands.
How did he do it?
By impressing me with his knowledge of civics.
I was brushing my teeth when Ryan brought the iPad to me and said, “Dad, if I curse again, and you ask me if I cursed, I’ll say ‘I plead the fifth.'”
Somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory, I was able to shove aside enough of the negativity to recall that the fifth amendment of the Bill of Rights was something we discussed sometime in the last few weeks. But I couldn’t recall the exact details of the conversation. It certainly wasn’t one I thought had made a lasting impression at the time. After all, social studies is not hockey and therefore is not something I thought interested him.
I decided to test his recall.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“The fifth amendment,” came the reply. I was going to have to pry this out of him one detail at a time.
“Of what?” I pressed.
“Of the Constitution,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“And what does the fifth amendment say?”
“Like if I curse and you ask me if I cursed I don’t have to tell you,” he answered. “I don’t have to tell on myself.”
He must have read my face. He could tell I was softening. He turned on the charm.
“Now can I please have my iPad back?”
I was done. After a really lousy weekend, with one of our ugliest blow-ups ever in the car on the way back from running errands, his smiling, pleading face was just what I needed to see.
“I’ll make you a deal,” I said. “We’re raising the stakes. I’m impressed by your knowledge of government, so I’m going to give you your iPad back. But if there are any more cursing incidents, you’re going to lose it for 24 hours.”
Satisfied that I hadn’t 100% destroyed any future discipline, I gave him back the device. I probably should not have caved so easily, but I just needed something to feel good about this morning. After so much crap between us the last several days, I grabbed on to the first opportunity like it was a life-preserver.
Will I do the same thing next time, even if I get burned on this one?
I plead the fifth.