“As Long As He’s Conservative, Catholic, and a Steelers Fan…”

Limiting choices for our children seems to always produce favorable results.

For instance, when we say “Hey…what do y’all want for dinner?”, you would think we just asked Congress to pass a bill. Every culinary memory pours out of their heads and the impromptu subcommittee devolves into a Quiet Man donnybrook.

However, when we offer, “What y’all want for dinner? Hamburgers or spaghetti?”, we usually get a three to one ratio answer. Three will all say either “…hamburgers” and then the last child to answer will want to stand out from rest in the nest, “..is it Mimi’s spaghetti? I’ll have that.”

Whether or not we actually have Mimi’s (my mother-in-law’s awesome spaghetti sauce) or not is the contrarian’s last concern. He or she simply wants to show his or her siblings that he or she is not going to be one of THEM that night. (Oh and by the way, Mimi is awesome in her own right)

This little play acts out so often that it is not a real drama, it’s just how four kids subconsciously behave. One is always going to be want to be a little different.

Fine with us. As long as they don’t fight with each other, they eat, and we all enjoy meal time.

Peace and quiet and full bellies. We all sleep better – which is the parent’s subconscious goal – unconsciousness.

With me so far? A or B. C does not exist. Now choose. Easy.

When they are adults, living on their own, paying their own freight and health care…well…as Our Granny has said and taught, “that’s between you and the Lord and you gotta work it out.”

So, when it came to drop Mary Kathryn off for her freshman year at, not in, college, I made sure she knew of my preferences (choices) of a future son-in-law. Mind you, she didn’t ask but if there was every a good time to make sure that she knew what was on my shopping list, that day was it.

Here’s how the very brief conversation went.

“Now, you can marry anyone you want as long as he’s Conservative, Catholic, and a Steelers fan.”

She replied with a muffled giggle, “Okay, DAAAD.”

“Shnoots..I’m serious.”

“I know Dad.”

Several weeks later, I swung by her campus during a business trip to see how my baby girl was doing and she introduced me to not just ONE, but TWO, Conservative, Catholic Steeler fans!

A year later she brought home a Redskins fan.

I mean…he’s nice enough. But I was CLEAR.

Thankfully, he’s quiet.

In this house, it’s for the best.

Still, the payoff from the limiting the choices for kids is that they receive two essential messages of love – we care about the choices they make and we will love them no matter the choice.

It would be inappropriate to negotiate out the cost of the wedding commensurate with her accuracy in marrying a Conservative, Catholic Steelers fan.

But a Cowboys fan will get her, and her sister and brothers for that matter, the best daggum noon buffet at Casa De Mexico she can imagine! I’ll even throw in a keg or two, couple of sleeves of Red Solo Cups, and the song list from my iPod.

Crazy?

Think about it…

If I let the oldest one get away with that, the other three will create utter chaos. First it’s a Cowboys fan, then we’ll get a Dolphins fan, and the next thing you know one of them can actually name more than one Major League Soccer player. Then it’s off to the grandkids’ lute lessons or rhythmic gymnastics camps, or shopping at Tofu-N-Toddlers.

No sir. Limit the choices and then love the choices.

Peace. Quiet. Full Belly. Sleep.

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Chris Saxman

About Chris Saxman

Father of four, small business leader, retired politician, and Executive Committee member and former Chairman of an international trade association, Chris Saxman delivers strategy and insight as a political coach and keynote speaker. Contact Chris.

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