What’s the take home lesson, here?
I come home at nine thirty last night from a long day of work and school to find the house in an uproar. My wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law are locked in a pitched battle against my three year old nephew June-young. These days Junie has had the very good fortune to sleep over our house with his favorite aunt (my wife) quite a bit and he’s grown very accustomed to it. Now he doesn’t want to go home. His mother is trying to convince him.
‘June-young, it’s time to go home, it’s ten o’clock. Mommy’s tired.’ She is not lying. She is a nurse and works very long hours, and yet she still goes through this rigmarole with him every time.
‘No, I don’t want to go home. I hate you Mommy. Aunt Miyoung, I don’t want to go!’ My wife says something sweetly about having to go, and how his mom is so tired and his dad wants to see him. He begins crying.
This back-and-forth went on in front of me for about forty minutes, the whole while June-young becoming increasingly agitated, finally crying to the point of gagging. I pointed out that when I was a kid and this situation arose, the adults around me basically ignored my desire to stay out forever. ‘You’ll see them again next time,’ they’d say as I was hustled to the car. I would sit down in the car and within five minutes of leaving I’d be fine, my mind occupied with something else.
To me this false presentation of choice seemed cruel. When you bring a child to a doctor for a shot and she’s crying, you don’t try to wear her down with reason. You give her a quick shot and a lollipop to calm her down. All these fake attempts at reasoning with June-young was giving him was a headache and a sore throat from screaming.
Then this morning I realized that if you had to take a simple, ignorant guess which culture each of those parenting methods arose in, you’d probably guess wrong. Confucian Korea would be more likely to sweep the child along without regard for their desires, while reason-loving America would tend to try to gain assent for every action from its kids, right? What about in your own childhood or family? What’s the best way of dealing with this all-too-common occurrence?