Veronica and I had a wedding to attend a few hours away this weekend and my parents graciously agreed to take the kids. We opted to go down Friday night and save us an hour off our trip on Saturday.
Ryan very much wanted to go public skating, as is his custom on Friday nights, so we agreed to set out later than usual. The weather was awful and we drove the first part of the trip in a fierce rainstorm that forced me to keep my speed below 50 mph, even on the New Jersey Turnpike.
By the time we were approaching my parents, the weather had cleared, but I wasn’t in the best mood. And for whatever reason, Ryan was pushing all my buttons. He was watching Game 7 between the Ducks and Kings on my iPad, and declared he would be staying up to watch the entire game (which would keep him past midnight) once we arrived.
Knowing what that would do to his behavior the next day, we told him he had to go to bed after we got there. He continued to protest — defiantly. Every time he brought it up, I took the bait and engaged in a silly, pointless and endless argument. He was determined to get the last word in every exchange, and I was just as determined not to let him.
It made for an increasingly unpleasant drive. It will not go on my “all-time best parenting moments” highlight video.
Finally, I had enough. I reached back and snatched the iPad from his hands and told him he was done watching the game. Normally this would be like tossing a lit match on a pile of dry kindling.
But Ryan was bigger than me in this moment, and controlled his emotions. He did not boil over. He was mad. He protested. He complained. But he did not explode.
He questioned why I was so angry. I told him I was sick and tired of arguing the point. I told him that as his parents, we did have the right to tell him what to do. I told him that it was unfair to let him stay up late and leave my parents to deal with the consequences. I told him I was frustrated that we had a “20-minute” argument over something so basic.
And right there, I lost the argument.
“That was not 20 minutes.” he declared. “That was like, six minutes.”
He was right. I knew it. He knew it. Veronica and Riley knew it. I was asking him to see the world the way I do. I threw in an exaggeration, and he called me on it. How could I be mad over a “20-minute” argument that hadn’t actually lasted anywhere near 20 minutes? In his eyes, my hyperbole instantly invalidated my point of view, and he could not let that rest.
Veronica stepped in to settle things and pointed out my error. The rest of the trip proceeded without incident. We both calmed down. At some point, we both apologized. Ryan went to bed before the game ended, behaved fine on Saturday, and we had a great time at the wedding.
And a lesson was reinforced. If I want Ryan to understand my point of view, I have to use language that makes sense to his.