This morning, I tried to drop-off my son with his grandpa. Grandpa is a learned man who was once an elementary school teacher. He’s obtained a Ph.D. and is knowledgeable about child psychology. But this morning, he was about as helpful with my son as a match is to a gas leak.
The plan was that my son was supposed to go to the State Fair with Grandma and Grandpa. But this morning, my son started panicking after hearing the radio talk about last year’s first day attendance numbers. First, he said he didn’t want to go because of Grandpa making him do math work yesterday. Then, he said he didn’t want to go because the State Fair was boring. (I think so too, but he seemed to enjoy it last year.) So, I pulled my son aside and asked him to be really honest about what he was feeling and why. After a short pause, he asked “what if I get lost?” and “what I get upset and start crying? I’ll be embarrassed and Grandpa will be mean!” I tried to comfort him but then, once I realized it was a lost cause at that point, I turned him over to his grandparents so he could apologize and tell them he’s not going. Meanwhile, I had to call my employer to let them know I’d be late for work. His Grandpa walked him to the car and said, “well, I can’t believe you’re missing out on a fun day all because you’d rather pout about math!” My son turned around and snapped “it’s not the math! I just don’t want to go!”
First of all, what idiot tries to make a kid who hates school do schoolwork in the summer? I was a school-loving nerd but even *I* didn’t want to think about school between June and September! And secondly, given that my son had been crying just seconds before, I think it was pretty obvious that he was upset and it was serious. What archaic child psychology course advises that the best way to diffuse this situation is to trivialize feelings and cajole someone into compliance?
I calmly (in spite of my growing anger) informed Grandpa that his grandson was just scared/nervous about going to the fair and that it was okay with us (Dad and me) if he didn’t want to go. He’s 9 after all. He’s been to the State Fair before. If he wasn’t in the mood to go, why force it? If he really wanted to spend time with his grandson, then adjust the plans. Take your wife shopping at the State Fair another day (which is really why they were going).
I am STILL peeved at my father-in-law, though. How dare he make it sound like my son’s anxiety was some kind of emotional blackmail or cry for attention!! WTF?!? I’m glad my son snapped at him. He can get away with it – I can’t!