What is the hardest part of parenting? For many, the answer is smack-down clear: discipline.
Why? In part because we live in a stew of philosophies ranging from attachment to free-range parenting, all of which merely season the stock of how we were disciplined (or not disciplined) by our own parents.
As the father of two daughters, I have wrestled with discipline issues —especially sibling rivalry — for many years. My struggle peaked a few years ago when I caught myself in a parental fantasy at an unlikely place: a World Wresting Entertainment show. (Some call it “fake wrestling,” but John Stossel once got slapped using that term, so let’s just call it “wrestling.”)
How did I end up at a WWE event? Every December, my brother and I try to travel back to our hometown to take our nephew to a professional hockey game. But that particular year there was no game available. I suggested we shoot some pool; my brother said let’s check out WWE. I groaned but agreed.
I was unprepared for the passion of the fans — or should I say, fanatics! The crowd knew everything about each hero or villain wrestler who emerged from the tunnel on the way into the ring. In fact, each featured wrestler had his or her own theme music, and the moment the first note sounded, the fans leapt to their feet either in cheers or jeers. My nephew was so infuriated by one villain that he lost his composure and yelled: “He thinks he’s the shit, but he’s not!” (My father instinct disapproved of the language, but my uncle instinct just laughed.)
Another fascinating part of the experience was the fans’ frantic desire to see the “finishing move” of each wrestler. If you’ve never seen a WWE match, the featured wrestler usually wins via his trademark finishing move, which is actually included in the printed program. If the wrestler’s finishing move is the “atomic elbow,” fans start chanting “give him the atomic elbow!” The wrestler eventually obliges, throws the elbow and wins the match, much to the fans’ delight.
Enter my fantasy. What if each parent had his or her own finishing move that could solve any disciplinary situation, especially sibling squabbles? You know, a method that is actually effective and “finishes” the situation, as opposed to the methods we use now, which often entail a messy aftermath of resentment, remorse, and in worst cases years of therapy.
Parent-as-heroic-wrestler to the rescue
Imagine the scene: two siblings are fighting (again), and as if from an arena’s tunnel a parent emerges. Theme music begins; adoring fans roar; the parent enters the room. Each sibling knows the parent’s trademark finishing move, so they chant for it to be applied to their rival, who they know to be wrong. “Give her the timeout” they yell, or “the grounding.” The parent obliges, achieves discipline and restores peace and justice, much to the children’s satisfaction.
After reading the list of finishing moves in the WWE program, I suspected that some of these wrestlers are parents. My favorites were “Attitude Adjustment,” “Last Ride,” “Clothesline from Hell,” and “GTS (Go to Sleep).” In my case, the finishing move has often been “The Loud Voice.” But I’m not proud when I use it, and I usually ask for forgiveness after the fact. While the discipline situation may be finished by The Loud Voice, it is rarely resolved. Perhaps I should rename my move the “Last Resort Before Dad Needs a Timeout,” but that might be even less effective.
Finally, no fantasy is complete without a name change: “Dad” and “Mom” just won’t do. Wrestlers are famous for their outrageous titles, as the program showed. Fathers might emulate “The Extreme Educator.” Mothers might get inspired by “The Glamazon” (or maybe not). As for my fantasy name, “Iron Dad” comes to mind, complete with Black Sabbath “I … am … Iron … Dad” theme music. But Ozzy Osbourne’s reality TV stint took the edge off that song for me.
Plus, I’m a veteran stay-at-home dad. So maybe I’ll tweak it to “Ironing Dad.”