I like strong-willed children. I believe they will go far if they’re not hanged. It’s my bias, of course. I was known to be a kid who followed the rules, but in fact I was a kid who broke the rules whenever they aggravated me. I just didn’t get caught very often.
It’s easy for me to say I like strong-willed children because my wife and I chose not to have children. I don’t have to do battle with an unruly kid every day until he goes to college or goes to jail. I’m being kind of presumptuous, really. But when I see a little kid who knows what he wants and creates hell on Earth to get it, I don’t think to myself, “There’s a bad kid.” I think, “There’s a parent who’s slacking off but is still a better parent than I would be.”
Some of our friends tell my wife and me that we should be parents. I love these friends the way I love people who believe in world peace and unicorns. I would probably produce clever little thugs with a dubious neurological heritage, and after the first time our toddler snottily defied my wife I’d be driving to prison for conjugal visits. I’m pretty sure that’s an exaggeration, but I wouldn’t bet my soul on it.
Yesterday we visited with friends who have two little boys, about elementary school age. This is the age when most boys should be thrown into an iron box and fed through a slot. They were among the most well-behaved children I have ever met. Their parents released them unsupervised into the wilderness of a toy store while we chatted, with only the words, “You may each get one thing.” Then they ignored their boys, except occasionally when one returned for guidance on something he was considering.
Half an hour later each child had chosen one toy and presented it with boyish, wiggly excitement. As the clerks checked us out they kept talking about how nice and polite the boys were, as astounded as if they’d just seen vermin build a suspension bridge. At lunch the kids ordered with articulate, polite efficiency. Later we walked around the mall full of insanely enticing childhood attractions like free cookie samples and toy cars roaming the floor. The boys bounced around and pointed, but they never caused any problems.
I was pretty dang impressed.
So where does this strong-willed-children comment come in? As I talked to the older boy, I realized that his civilized behavior had not been easily won. His parents confirmed that it was a fight with him sometimes. The kid reminded me of one of those circus elephants that’s been taught to play nice, but that knows deep down it can’t be denied if it goes after something.
As we walked the mall I began thinking it might have been nice to have kids. The parents and I talked about nothing much, and then they mentioned that they’d like to figure out a way to let their kids play against other kids in games on the X-Box, but they wanted to do it in a way that won’t rot their sons’ brains.
“You could let them play, but only if they can figure out how to cheat,” I said. “It’s like an intellectual exercise.”
The subsequent silence indicated that was not a good answer. So maybe it’s better after all that we haven’t reproduced. No kids, then.
But to continue a theme, I also like difficult women. That’s a different story with a lot fewer references to being well-behaved.
Photo by Cojharries
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