When Mom died, Dad was left alone with three boys aged 14, 11 and 8. We were a real-life “My Three Sons.”
He coped the best he could.
“Dad, can we go to Shaky’s for pizza tomorrow?”
“Can we set up the tent this weekend?”
“Can we buy a color TV?”
As a kid, you quickly learned “we’ll see” was a strategic Dad-move to delay answering. This dodged a direct “no,” which avoided the torture of three kids begging, cajoling and whining.
Besides, Dad had wants and desires too. Mainly, the need to chill-out after five 12-hour work days.
Weeknights were off-limits. We’d learned to leave Dad alone after supper. Once he climbed into that recliner with the newspaper and Wild Turkey, his day was over.
Kevin Arnold perfectly described our father on “The Wonder Years.” “He fed us, he housed us, he paid our bills. He certainly couldn’t be expected to talk to us too.”
Dad knew kids never forget a promise. So if he agreed to anything in the future, he was just eating into his upcoming chill-time and limited money.
So it was never a straight answer. It was always “we’ll see.”
So we stopped fighting fair. We’d wait until the weekend then gang-up with a single request. And repeat it until he noticed our commitment and solidarity. Now it was three against one.
But this natural selection process actually worked in Dad’s favor.
Now we were the ones who had to suffer the begging, cajoling and whining among ourselves to agree on the one request. Once unified, the dirty work was done.
If our request was simple and inexpensive, we’d teed it up for Dad to be an easy hero by just saying “yes.”
After slaving 60 hours at the plant to keep us all alive, one simple “yes” let Dad enjoy that warm glow of successful parenting.
For that one, sweet, tender moment, all was well.
Until we asked for the next thing.
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