I think of myself as a reasonably assertive guy. But fatherhood has taught me who really wields the power in our family and it ain’t me. When any decision regarding my two sons has to be made my status is only a tick higher than theirs–we all take it to the Ultimate Authority: Mom.
I’ve heard that good movie directors know that they must always give definitive answers, even when they don’t really have one: “The red chair or the blue chair?” Just give an answer and make it seem like it’s the only one possible: “Definitely the blue chair. Burn the red one.” Everybody wants to think that their director knows that he or she is in total control. So I don’t know if my wife is just being a good director or if everything truly is that apparent to her. I’m just part of the crew. Q. How long should I practice piano each day? A. Five minutes. Q. Can I play on the DS? A. “Technology Time” is from 5-6. Q. How much more of my dinner to I have to each to get dessert? A. Four more bites.
Sometimes, if Mom isn’t around, they’ll come to me, but I can tell they’re inwardly rolling their eyes: “Oh, this should be good.” I’ll try to give them an answer, but it’s not the boys who are afraid of a “wrong” answer, it’s me. You know you’re not setting the right sort of red chair/blue chair tone when your final judgment sounds like a question. “Dad, can we play with the Super Soakers?” “Yes?” Now they’ve got cover, but do I?
My wife’s parenting is a lot like a Mac computer–it’s so good that you take it as it is. I don’t tinker with it, both because I’m not smart enough to know what to change, and because for the most part I’m a satisfied customer. She’s bewilderingly competent and I wonder why. We became parents at exactly the same time, but she’s lapped me about fifty times. At this point it’d be like jumping into the third season of “Lost” if I tried to get up to speed. I’m just hoping that my boys don’t remember things as they actually were: Mom made all the decisions and Dad was just along for the ride to add things like “You heard your mom, now get going!” or “You can open one gift on Christmas Eve, right hon?”
Anyway, my boys love me, and I love them, and it’s nice to think that when they wind up in prison or on the streets I’ll be able to turn to my wife and say: “You should’ve picked the red chair.”
Roy Jenkins is one of the funnier gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure to know and learn from. He can currently be seen every Wednesday night as a member of The Crazy Uncle Joe Show at the famous Groundlings Theater.