Two of our grandchildren spent the night at our house last night. At some point in the evening, I suddenly realized that an alien had taken over my brain. Either that, or I'd developed late-onset multiple personality disorder.
On one occasion, we were watching the movie the kids had requested, but instead of sitting quietly and watching, they were both bouncing around, playing with Mazie, our toy Schnauzer, and engaging in general shenanigans. If they'd been my kids, I'd have simply shut off the television and made it perfectly clear that it was not coming back on, ever maybe. Instead, I did nothing. Eventually, they calmed down. See? It's no big deal.
On another occasion, my 5-year-old grandson refused to drink the orange juice he had requested as his breakfast drink. (I should also disclose that I fixed the kids pancakes with butter, maple syrup, whipped cream, and chocolate syrup -- a decadent and less-than-wholesome concoction I'd have never let my own kids talk me into.) I just looked at him and said something completely ineffectual, like, "Oh, that's not nice." My wife, on the other hand, sat him down with his juice and told him he couldn't get up until he had finished it. Three minutes later, he was handing me an empty glass. No question about it, she did the right thing.
And not only did I ignore their misbehavior (they're actually very well-behaved, but they are kids), I became a complete pushover. When our grandson asked for chocolate syrup on his pancakes, my wife said, "No, you have enough stuff on your pancakes" at the same time I said, "OK, I'll get it." And I did. (Willie didn't really mind.) When Willie announced that she'd bought chocolate ice cream for dessert, our 9-year-old granddaughter very politely said she preferred cookies 'n' cream ice cream. Less than two minutes later, I was in the car, headed for the grocery store, grandson in tow. When we got there, he began telling me he would like whipped cream on his ice cream, and chocolate sauce, and wanted to wash it all down with chocolate milk. I did buy the organic chocolate milk. Does that redeem me?
At some point in the evening, I asked myself, "Am I the same John Rosemond, draconian parenting expert, who is relied upon by thousands of parents seeking to raise children who have accepted that the world is not a bowl of cherries by the time they go to kindergarten?" The "Say Nine No's for Every Yes" guy? What's happening to me?
And then, the epiphany: I suddenly understood, completely, why divorced fathers turn into "Disneyland Dads" on the relatively infrequent occasions they get to be with their kids. Why their kids come back to their mothers with armloads of stuff the moms disapprove of and needing full blood replacement because all they've eaten for three days is high-carb junk food. Why these custodial moms complain, rightly, that their exes don't support their rules.
It's quite simple: When one is only able to spend one-on-one time with his or her children or grandchildren but every so often, one wants to create nothing but positive memories.
I'm already thinking of how I can create even better memories the next time they spend the night. Hot fudge sundaes for breakfast anyone?
Family psychologist John Rosemond's Web site is www.rosemond.com.