Parenting sometimes seems like an intensely fun frustration. If it doesn't kill you or beat you down, it seems to turn you into a very good humorist.
"I'm attending my daughter's concert tonight," he said, "her class is putting on a play, and I need to be there."
It made sense. Parents generally should be supportive of their kids in things like this. After all, how many sentimental movies have we watched about the trauma of not seeing one's parent at a big event?
"See, I need to videotape it," he explained.
Again, a kind, loving father wanting to capture a precious moment forever (or until the mag tape degrades). Do all these videocameras increase the stress of kids' performances? Has the very nature of live performance changed? I wonder if anyone's done a sociological study on the impact of the camcorder on family life. I decided to poke fun at him and pulled a stereotype out of my bag.
"So, that way you have something to embarrass her with when she's older?"
I was somewhat surprised by his answer,
"Absolutely!" He explained, "It's payback, you see."
"Yeah. Last night, she refused to eat her green beans."
Woah. I might live in a bubble, but this kind of reasoning was new to me. He explained.
Some evenings, his children are allowed to pick what foods they eat for dinner. Each meal, they much choose a green vegetable. This made sense. A good father wanting his children to eat healthily. So far, so good.
She chose green beans and chicken. My friend cooked the food and set it out.
His daughter freaked. "I wanted broccoli, not green beans! I don't like green beans!"
"But you asked for green beans."
"I changed my mind."
"You didn't tell me."
"You know I don't like green beans!"
"Then why did you ask for them?"
"I still won't eat them." She sulked in front of the plate.
Mom stepped in. "Well, if you don't want to eat them, that's fine. Don't eat them. But your father worked hard to cook these green beans. So, if you don't eat the green beans, you won't be able to go to your friend's house tomorrow. But that's fine. You don't have to eat the beans."
Kids never give up. She stomped into the kitchen and grabbed the phone book. "I'll just call my friend and tell her I'm not coming."
She opened the phonebook like the pages were made of taffy. Slowly, laboriously, she located the number and slouched to the phone. "I'm calling my friend now," she said hopefully.
It didn't work. She set the phone back down, put away the phone book and sat down at the table.
The green beans were still there.
When she finally ate them, he tried not to gloat.
"Payback," he said. "That's why we parents own videocameras. When she's twenty, her boyfriend is sooo going to see this."