There can be few things more difficult to accept than being outwitted by your children. It’s not just their incessant questions, which are capable of exposing the depth of my ignorance, but it’s also finding myself running out of logical explanations for my behavior.
In my exhaustion or frustration, I often flippantly make rules or broad proclamations. I imagine all parents are guilty of this. The reason why we can’t play endless imaginary games is often unsatisfactory to our kids, and we are forced to give SOME reason. If that reason doesn’t measure up, we’re going to hear about it.
Yeah, I know I should be proud of the sharp minds banging around my kids’ thick skulls, and I am. But do they have to be THIS sharp so soon? I’m in my 40s. My cognitive decline is a genetic certainty. As my eyesight fails me, my hair gets thinner, and my memory fades faster than my faith in humanity, my children’s powers grow stronger. I’m Odin. I’ve dropped a hammer, and I can’t pick it up. But my 5-year-old son can, and he’s coming out swinging.
I’m learning a lot from these cerebral interactions with my children, ages 3, 5 and 7. I’m definitely learning about kids and how quickly their minds are gaining mutant superpowers, but more importantly, I’m learning a lot about myself, and more broadly, about humanity.
The most illuminating lesson: humans suck at changing their minds.
Never surrender and never truly win
Sometimes, I just don’t want to do something, and sometimes I just don’t want my kids to do something else. I don’t always have a good reason, and my kids, like TV lawyer Saul Goodman, cross-examine me with a rigor I’m incapable of matching. Usually, they are right to question my motives. Sometimes I’m just being lazy. Maybe I’m being stubborn and refusing to change a rule that doesn’t make sense. I’m also guilty of barking out orders just because I’m too tired to do anything else. While there are excusable moments of parental imperative, for the most part, I should just relent and do the unthinkable — change my mind.
We see this in endless debates on social media. People will make ignorant statements of nonsense, and when confronted with irrefutable proof they are wrong, they dig their heels in deep and keep on spewing nonsense. I’m not talking about ideological debates here. Don’t go political on me. I mean something simple like getting a random, easily Googleable sports fact wrong. The proof of their ignorance can be right there in front of them, and they won’t simply say, “Oopsie. I didn’t know that.” No. They fight. They argue. They make excuses, and you know what? I do the same damn thing when my kids have me dead to rights.
I’m such a hypocrite. I’ll keep arguing back. I’ll keep pushing against their logical and youthful wisdom. No part of me wants to admit they are right, that my rule was unfair or silly, and that I should apologize and make it right. Nope. Never. I’ll die on this hill right here: BECAUSE I SAID SO!
To change one’s mind is a gift for all
What am I teaching them at this moment? What sort of human am I raising? I’m modeling the behavior we now see played out all over the news. Politicians with no new ideas, no leadership abilities, just an unshakable resolve to plow ahead. We see this in CEOs with stupid proclamations not rooted in reality. We see this with religious zealots unwilling to accept any other way of life than the one foretold in their chosen sacred book. This spirit of never changing our minds permeates all of humanity. It feels inescapable. This stubborn mind virus is the real pandemic, and I have the cure.
When your kids are right, change your mind! When your kids have outwitted you, or exposed your hypocrisy, admit you’re wrong. Apologize. Change your mind.
Listen, you can come up with a dozen scenarios when you shouldn’t do this. And, of course, there are times when a little razzle-dazzle with the truth is necessary, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean when they have you, when they really have shown you that you’re wrong, don’t let pride hold you back. Don’t just forge ahead as if your logic is unassailable and your authority absolute. Show them grace and love, and show them how to be reasonable human beings. Teach them compromise isn’t a failure.
And if I haven’t convinced you how important this is, do it anyway. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO!