"You can't make me", the four words most likely to drive a parent to drink. Some children seem to come out of the womb with these words forming in their mouths, just waiting for the muscle control to make it intelligible. My son is just such a child. By the age of two we had to try all sorts of tricks to get him in the tub, putting pajamas on required stickers, and getting him to eat anything but peanut butter resorted to out right falsehoods. (I once told him the fish sticks were french fries--it worked for the first four bites. I considered it a success.)
Now that my children are older (and taller than me), the dreaded phrase has taken on new meaning. They are right--I can't really make them do anything; not physically anyway. So I have had to resort to more devious tactics, akin to psychological warfare.
My son, now a sophomore in high school, has played soccer for years and years, and seemed to really enjoy playing on the school team last year. Now, one week before the beginning of the season, he's announced he no longer wants to play. Had he been busy with challenging classes and other sports up until now, I could understand, but he's been sitting on the couch playing Xbox and pulling C's in two classes. I am not feeling very understanding.
It could be that he's decided he really no longer has a passion for the game and wants to spend his energy elsewhere (I just hope it's not getting the high score on Xbox "Modern Warfare"). He says he'd like to go out for track, instead. But I suspect a large part of this is his "you can't make me" personality. He likes to say things that he knows will push his parents right over the edge and then turn around and act like it never happened.
Which ever it may be, I have given him an ultimatum: pick a sport, get a part-time job, or work like h*ll and get straight A's. His father and I are pretty sure it won't be the last option.
My soon-to-be teenage daughter is proving to be much more pliable. After a tough couple months with a hard-to-please, quick-to-yell band teacher, she had told us she wasn't going to do band in 8th grade. The tension in class just wasn't worth it, so she and her best friend had decided to pick a different elective next year. Again, it's hard to watch them just drop something they're good at and, up until now, have enjoyed. So I broke out my rah-rah, when-the-going-gets-tough speech and laid it on thick to her and her friend. I explained that if they wanted to be in band in high school (the high school music teacher is wonderful and the band goes to Disneyland), it wasn't a good idea to take a year off. I told my daughter if she really, really hated, I'd let her quit, but asked her to think long and hard about it first.
Oh, I am good.
A few days ago I asked her what she'd decided. She said she and her friend agreed to stick it out another year with the difficult teacher so they'd be ready for high school. "Oh," I said, "I changed your mind!" No, it turns out her friend talked her into it. Well, at least I'm very persuasive to other people's children.
A week will tell what my son has decided is or isn't his new passion. Honestly, I really don't care. As long as it's not Xbox.