Quitting For The Win


Terrain is important.

You don’t plant your bougainvilleas on the North side of the house, you don’t dig a basement in Hawaii, and you don’t attack Obi Wan if he’s got the higher ground.

A fella could get his arms chopped off is he’s not paying attention to terrain.

Sun Tzu devotes an entire chapter to terrain in The Art of War. There’s some terrain you should attack from, some terrain you should defend from, some terrain you should always try to control and some terrain you should always surrender.

This is important: sometimes, you have to surrender to win.

I’m not saying this because we caved to a tantrum. No. Not at all.

But we did totally cave to a tantrum. Totally.

You may have heard, the upper Midwest has been frozen banana cold just recently. Canada’s weather sewage, the polar vortex, came down I-35 and trapped the baby mama, the little man, and your humble, ruggedly handsome, narrator in the apartment for 2 days straight. It ended up being about as good as it could have been. But on the morning of the third day we were all pretty much done with each other.

It all went down, as these things so often do, over that home-wrecker, that domestic incendiary, the anti-discipline known as the Play Doh Fun Factory. A toy Little Man had  wanted since he knew how to want anything that wasn’t food. The subject of several hundred hours of “unboxing video” stared fixedly at over the last two years.

Do you guys know about this? “Unboxing Videos?” That this is a thing? They just take crap out of its packaging, maybe fiddle with it. It’s not a review, it’s not really a how-to demo, it’s not even some weird fetish. Really. I don’t understand humans.

But so, the Fun Factory. We’d had it for months but saved it for one of those days, say, when you couldn’t leave the house or you’d literally freeze to death in 30 minutes or less. He loved it. He adored it. He brought it to bed with him. He would reenact our giving it to him. He’d open the box, take it all out, put it all back and give running commentary the entire time.

But on that fateful morning, with temps rising to mere single digits below zero, when we had an outing with a schedule on the books. He decided he wouldn’t put it away. “Mama could do that.”

A line was drawn in the sand.

We offered to help him do it. We offered to help him more. We tried asking him why. We threatened to take it away for the rest of the day.

We were shushed. We were told to go away.

I want to stress how many freakin bones were thrown here. We were compromising like a toddler trying to stay at the zoo. And it’s not like it was gonna be summer the next day. We still had about 36 hours before wind chill was non-lethal, and preschool/grandparent schedules could be resumed. And he loved the thing. So much.

But putting things away, especially play doh in a moisture-sucking cold snap, is a foundation of our family routine.

But we had to be somewhere in 15 minutes.

And in the end, Mama did put the f***ing thing away. He held the cupboard door, though, so some compromise was reached, sorta.

It may appear that we lost this fight. We did. But all we lost was ground that was useless to us. A victory there would have cost us the only time away from the house over 74 hours, it would have removed one of the most efficient time-consumers from our “making it to bedtime” toolbox, and would have soured the little dude’s hard-earned pleasant disposition for the remainder of our weather-mandated staycation.

By giving this up, we left the house, got refreshed by new air, new people, did some running around, and made it back to a normal routine with smiles on our faces and play doh under our nails.

And, if it ever comes up again, we can fight the battle when its in the mid to high 20’s.

Sometimes, you must surrender to win.

Is it May yet?


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