Lost in Suburbia®
I was waiting on line at Dunkin’ Donuts one day when I noticed a little girl at the counter drop her bagel on the floor. Her dad was busy juggling two younger siblings and a dozen donuts and didn’t notice the errant bagel until the little girl let out a wail.
“IIIIIIIIIIIWAAAANNNNNNTTTTTTMMMMMYYYYYBBBBBBAAAAAGGGEEELLLLLLLLLLLLL,” she howled. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Mount Vesuvious was about to blow.
Without missing a beat, the dad bent over, picked up the bagel, blew the dirt off it, and handed it back to his daughter.
“Five second rule,” he announced with a nervous smile to the moms on line.
And there, I thought, is the central difference between men and women.
No, it’s not x chromosomes versus y, or estrogen versus testosterone, or who is more likely to ask for driving directions when lost.
The thing that that separates the moms from the dads is basically, THE FEAR OF THE FIT.
In a similar situation I would have promptly picked up the bagel and tossed it forthwith into the trash. My feeling is, what goes on the floor stays on the floor until it gets thrown away or the dog eats it; whichever happens first.
Of course this means that the owner of the food is quite likely to throw a large scale fit, on the floor, for approximately ten minutes, in a public place. The first time this happens, as a mother and a member of the human race, you are understandably horrified. By the billionth time, it’s just another fit on an otherwise lovely day. You’re the mom. She’s the kid. It’s just a bagel. She’ll get over it.
But for some reason, that same situation can turn some he-man CEO’s and titans of business into veritable paternal mush.
I’ve seen some dads hang tough. “No, you can’t have the bagel, it fell on the floor,” a dad will say firmly. But once the fit really starts to gain momentum, panic sets in and ultimately, desperate negotiations ensue.
“Come on sweetie. Get off the floor. Daddy will get you another bagel. What? You don’t want a bagel? OK, how about a piece of candy. No? OK, two pieces candy. Please get off the floor. Three pieces of candy. OK, I’LL BUY YOU THE WHOLE CANDY STORE!!!”
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Dad O: Child 1.
Clearly not all dads respond this way. Many will quit at three pieces of candy. And to be honest, there are plenty of women who also live in fear of the fit. But in general, due more to lack of experience than lack of a spine, it’s the dads who cave first.
This is not news to the kids. They know this about the dads. And if they don’t know firsthand, they know innately. They sense it. They can smell the fear. So, they’ll test the waters, maybe starting with a mini fit. They’ll let some tears well up and start to whine. Then they look at the dad. If they see the slightest waver in his eyes, they pounce: Full Fledged Fit.
Honestly, I feel bad for these dads. I really do. They are totally out of their league. These fits are beyond anything they have to deal with in business or anywhere else in the real world unless they happen to work in the entertainment industry.
Meanwhile, back at Dunkin’ Donuts, bagel girl decided she didn’t want the dirty bread either and, no surprise here, flung herself onto the floor (which apparently wasn’t good enough for the bagel but was fine for a full body roll) and treated us all to a really good fit.
And then the Dad broke the cardinal rule of parenting.
A quiet took hold of the room as the little girl stared at her dad in disbelief. The moms on line unconsciously backed against the wall in preparation for the tsunami-sized fit we knew would inevitably follow. It seemed as though all of the air was being sucked out of the room as the little girl drew a deep breath, and then, she,
Her dad scooped the giggling child off the floor, and with the other two in tow, left the building.
Score: Dad 1: Moms 0.
©2007, Beckerman. All Rights Reserved. For more Lost in Suburbia, visit Tracy Beckerman at http://www.lostinsuburbia.net.