apologizing or bribery?

Photograph from Google Images

On the last afternoon of my son’s spring vacation, right when his annoyance with me had reached its apex and his blood sugar had bottomed out, I suggested that it might be a good time for him to get a jump-start on his next book report. The one that isn’t due until mid-May.

“Only 18 days to work on it!” I joked.

Except I wasn’t really joking.

Monkey agreed, if reluctantly, to work on his first paragraph. He disappeared for twenty minutes and then returned. I asked him if he would read his paper. He groaned, but he obliged. I suggested that his thesis could use a little tweaking and asked him to go and work on the paragraph a little bit more. He declined. Adamantly. I persevered. We locked horns.

I should have predicted what was going to happen next, but I didn’t.

He shouted.

I shouted louder.

Eventually, he screamed, got a little teary-eyed, and stomped off to his bedroom – ostensibly to revise.

After fifteen minutes, when he did not materialize, I decided I would check on his progress. That’s when I found Monkey. Under his bed. He had gone there to hide.

From the world.

From the work.

But, mostly, from me.

The next thing I knew, I was lying on my son’s rug. My cheek brushing against the carpet, I remembered how – as a child – I tried to cajole an escaped gerbil into coming out from its hiding place.

At first he wouldn’t even talk to me. After a while, though, he let me have it.

“I just don’t understand why it had to be perfect!” Monkey sniffed. “It’s just a friggin’ first draft! I have over two weeks to work on it.”

It was my “Oh shit!” moment.

And he was 100% right.

Which meant I had to apologize.

And so I apologized to Monkey for getting all up in his grill about his school work. Truth is, he is about the most organized person I know when it comes to time management. And I told him so. I also told him that sometimes it’s hard for me – especially when it comes to writing – to just let things be. I told him how “imperfect” is hard for me when it comes to English.

“Also,” I confessed, “I didn’t know that you actually revise.”

“Of course I do,” he said. “Geez! Give me some credit!”

I felt I had to offer Monkey something more than an apology. (More than the snack that he, also, clearly needed.) After all, I felt I had really underestimated him.

And then I got an idea.

“I would like to extend an offer to you,” I said. “Are you interested?”

“Maybe,” said Monkey, still facing the wall.

“The next time I say, ‘You just lost your iPod Touch,’ you have a free ‘Gimmee-Back-My-Touch’ card,” I said. “You know like those ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards in Monopoly? Like that.”

Monkey rolled over to face me. The slats of his bed hovered a half an inch above his ear.

“Make me a card!” he demanded. “And decorate it insanely with icons from all the apps I like. And add lots of stickers and stuff. And put it in a cool font.”

Suddenly, I felt that I’d been duped. Somehow I went from apologizing to my son to negotiating with a terrorist.

“And no expiration date!” he said smugly. “That’s your homework,” said Monkey, smiling, letting me know everything was okay with us.

He grunted as he slithered out from under his bed.

He isn’t going to be able to fit under there much longer.

“Also, there’s a friggin’ huge, hairy-dust ball under there,” said Monkey, trying to see if I’d let him get away with his second friggin’ of the day.

I did.

“Yeah,” I said. “I kind of noticed it rolling around while I was talking to the back of your head.”

We both burst out laughing.

Thank goodness for hairy-dust balls.

“May I please go and ride my bike before vacation ends?” Monkey asked.

“Dismissed,” I said.

“Thanks,” yelled Monkey and, as he ran out the door he added, “I’ll expect your homework by dinner!”

Anybody have any good stories about apologizing to your kids? 

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