Watching the news this morning about the various fights taking place in Washington, and having to deal with a head-strong eight year old daughter at the same time, I suddenly saw an alarming analogy between the two.
We are trying to get our daughter to bed earlier - simply put, she needs more sleep. We have to get the time the TV goes off and the time the lights go out, brought forward. She is waking up grumpy in the mornings and sometimes its a struggle to get her to school on time.
This morning on the way to school I tried a new approach. I calmly put to her that she has to bring forward the time the TV goes off. I set it up so that there was a little wiggle room for her to negotiate and feel good about the deal. I had time x in mind, but it soon became apparent that she wasn't going to budge from time z. I even suggested that time y would be a good compromise; it was set up so she could take credit for it being her idea. But no, she wasn't going to budge.
The air of polite negotiation evaporated from the confines of the minivan. I could see that she wasn't going to move; the look in her eye and the protruding bottom lip said it all. If I give away thirty minutes of TV time here, what next? Soon they'll be telling me that there is no TV after dinner time, where will it all end?
My well intentioned attempt at negotiating with a belligerent eight year old was starting to back fire. I now resorted to the well used parental axiom, "because I said so", often trotted out when out-manoeuvred by a child.
My daughter knows that I am quite capable of using the nuclear option - the removal of her TV has taken place before. But she found ways of getting round it, sneaking into our room to watch it with that 'butter does't melt in my mouth' look, helped her make it through a week of TV banishment.
So as she stomped off to school, I could almost hear what she was thinking.
Dig your heels in, no compromise. Losing the TV isn't so bad. After a week of watching it in another room, I'll get it back and nothing will have changed?
Driving home, I felt defeated. All attempts of getting a negotiated deal had seriously backfired. I couldn't come home and remove the TV from her room alone - this tactic had already failed. I couldn't remove the TV from our room as well because I wouldn't be around to deal with the total shut-down of all daughter-parent relations tonight - it would be unfair on my wife to have to deal with this alone. Besides she'd just sneak down stairs to the family room. The option of no TV in the house would leave me with no allies at all - life without Gray's Anatomy is not an option for some!
I had gone to the negotiating table unprepared, not realizing that I was dealing with an expert. I had put an offer out there believing that my daughter was reasonable and open to compromise, but in reality I was dealing with someone ready for an all-out fight.
Chastened and battle hardened, plan B is now taking shape - surely I cannot be so naive a second time round?
Tonight, after my meeting, I will come home and smile. We'll see if there has been a self-regulated move to time y. If the status quo is still in place, then tomorrow morning the same compromise will be offered on the way to school. When it is rejected out of hand, I will again smile and return home. Then while she is at school basking in the glory of her victory with her friends, both TV's will be removed and placed in the attic and parental controls will be set on the family TV.
When my daughter returns home and realizes that her TV viewing days have ended for the immediate future and civil disorder breaks out, I will be prepared with riot police and have a plan in place to deal with the ensuing end of the world type chaos!
The similarity between a parent-child spat and the fight going on in Washington is tongue-in-cheek of course, but still plain to see. But what isn't always so obvious, is the distinction between who is the parent and who is the child?