undeaddad

explorations of mindful fatherhood


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99%

As effective in an argument as Ron Wesley with a broken wand.

As effective in an argument as Ron Wesley with a broken wand.

It all boils down to this: Ron Weasley did NOT enter the Forbidden Forest in the first Harry Potter book when Harry and Hermione served detention with Hagrid.

Let me explain.

My wife and I have an ongoing joke that when there’s a factual dispute in the house, and our recollections on a topic differ, she’s correct 99% of the time.  Whether it has to do with directions, someone’s name, or a piece of movie trivia, she tends to be correct…always.  At least that’s what she says.  If I had to admit it, I’d say she’s right.  In my family, if there’s a factual dispute and it turns out one person is correct, the winner points at him or herself with their thumbs and intones, “ding!” as though we’re on some perpetual game show.  Let’s just say that I get to “ding” very infrequently.

I bring this up because my son has jumped on this train wholeheartedly. With most things, he tends to side with his mother.  Usually it’s around things such as tastes or preferences.  Dad likes goat cheese, mom hates it. Ergo, my son hates it.  Mom loves vanilla ice cream, dad thinks it’s boring. What’s our son’s favorite ice cream?  Vanilla.  It’s gone so far that when a new type of food is introduced, I’ll ask my wife to withhold her assessment, and get my son to weigh in.  He might say that yes, he likes Twizzlers.  Then I’ll agree that Twizzlers are great, but my wife will say she hates them.  My son will pause and then say, “On second thought…”

Now that he’s watching more movies and TVshows with us, my son’s begun chiming in more on media-related disputes.  It’s not surprising that he jumps into my wife’s camp at nearly every turn.  It makes sense. He likes liking what my wife does, so why not agree with her on other things too.  I think he’s also playing the odds.  How could you blame him?  I mean, he’s been around enough to see who gets the most “dings”, so why not play for that team?

So we’ve been plowing through the Harry Potter books.  We tried when my son was about 4, but at the time, his limited attention span for reading long books got in the way.  We held off on any of the movies, wanting him to be able to read/listen to the books first.  About 4 months ago we started reading the books, and following up with a movie any time we complete a book.

At one point we were reading the Chamber of Secrets and got to the part in which Ron mentions that he’s never been in the Forbidden Forest.  My son sits up and asserts that Ron had been in the forest in the first book.  My wife agreed.  They insisted that Ron went in with Hagrid and Fang for detention.  I said that was just the movie, and that Ron was injured with something in the infirmary.  I was hazy on the details, so couldn’t assert a good story.  They balked.  There goes dad again, all turned around.  The synergy of their mutual agreement magnified their assertion.  “No, he TOTALLY went into the forest.  JK messed up on this one.”

I kept reading aloud and ignored them.  Even when I think I’m right about things, there’s always this voice inside that says, “…but probably not.  You know your record.”  I forgot about it.  A few days later my son was watching the Sorcerer’s Stone again, and there’s Ron in the forest.  “See Dad, see!” my son called. “Yep,” my wife agreed.  I fetched the book and found it.  Ron had been bitten by Norbert and was in the infirmary when Hermione, Harry, Malfoy, and Neville were caught and sent to detention.  The movie changed the scene. Ha ha! “Ding!”

Here’s the funny thing about this little family narrative about dad being wrong 99% of the time: I don’t mind it.  I grew up as the oldest child of four, and with that came the bravado and smugness of being the eldest.  I was always older, taller, smarter…and always right.  It’s not a good situation for practicing humility.  So, for much of my life, I think I’ve walked around thinking that I’m right about most things.  (Having two narcissistic parents only inflated those feelings.)

But I’ve found that one of marriage’s major lessons is humility.  That you’re not always right, and better yet, you shouldn’t always be right.  It’s taught me to slow my roll when I think I’m beyond reproach.  Even though I like to ham it up and give my wife a hard time when I think I’m right, I know that I’m just playing a game.  I know that I’m not always right, and it helps me to hear the other person’s argument a bit clearer.  Now my son gets to see me being wrong, and that’s okay.  I want him to see that I can be wrong and bow out gracefully.  I think it’s an important practice in humility and admitting that we can’t always be right.

And yet, in those 1% of times when when I am right, I can bask in the glory of it and “ding” with flourish.