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The Therapy Sessions
Friday, September 23, 2005

My stubborn son

Last night at the playground, Sean got a little too excited and I suggested we go home.

It - after all - was almost time for bed.

Sean knew this, and he let me know it. I didn't like the tone he was using, so I told him he would going to bed without his story.

"Why?" He protested.

"Because you are talking back to me like a little brat."

When I was tucking him in and it was clear that I wouldn't relent - even after a tooth brushing session where he was extremely nice (and expectant) while helping his little brother - he threw another temper tantrum.

"I don't want a story! I don't want a story tomorrow either!" He pouted.

"OK, no story tomorrow either. What about Saturday night?"

He was quiet and began to cry. Gone are the days when he could blow a whole week's worth of something he loves just out of sheer stubborness.

This time he was silent, except for the sobbing.

The daddy in me sobbed with him. I love reading Sean his stories. He's almost five, so his stories have become interesting. Unlike his Timmy's stories - which are still about little white ducks and happy trains - Sean's stories are morality tales populated by witches and goblins.

Fun stuff.

But the father in me saw this as a learning opportunity.

Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled to have a child who can dig his heels. Being stubborn is a wonderful virtue.

Sean's mom is a very stubborn person, and this is great because she is almost always right. (I know that is what husbands are supposed to say, but it helps when you really believe it.)

But stubborness can have a dark side: you have to know how to choose your battles.

A person who is stubborn about petty things is rarely a hero.

Most often, he is an asshole.

Sean is not that way. He is generally an obedient and helpful kid.

But it is the role of father to be diligent and watchful for first signs of brattiness. And though the daddy would love to relent and show mercy, the father in me realizes that every word to my child must be seen as a promise.

Whether the promise is good or bad, I must keep it.

Even when it hurts.

When I tucked Timmy in after his story, Sean was still awake. He had stopped crying, and his voice was now calm and expectant again.

"Am I still not getting a story tomorrow night," he asked.

I shook my head no.

"That's a promise?" Sean asked.

"Yes it is, but I wish it wasn't."

He didn't cry. He knew that was what I was going to say. He was just testing. So much of childhood is just testing the limits.

He might actually turn out to be a good kid.

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