What Happens When Threatening to 'Abandon' Your Kid No Longer Works?

Like any two-year-old, Skylar is often not thrilled with my decisions. But when they involve a location she would rather be, I have a toddler-proof weapon at my disposal. I remind her of what is always a worse option: abandonment. I can’t fathom the desire to be around me for any length of time, much less always. But if my daughter wants to spend a second hour trying on Doc McStuffins accessories in the Disney Store, I just bluff about being off to the food court. This instantly transforms her from a pretend doctor to a real-life mental patient. (Incidentally, have you taken a careful gander at Doc McStuffins' face? Is it just me or is it more than a little possible that she became a doctor because she has fetal alcohol syndrome?)

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I knew this game of abandonment chicken was too powerful a weapon, too perfect, to be mine forever. But I counted on it lasting longer than two days ago. That's when Skylar called my driving bluff for the first time. Usually, when a kid-desirable location comes into her window frame, I tell her I'll drop her off and see her later, then wait for Janet Leigh's shower screams from Psycho. I don't know what it was about this particular playground -- perhaps the baby swings appeared extra swingy -- but no resistance resulted.

I stopped the car, as usual, and was suddenly in a movie I'd never seen. Skylar and I locked eyes and it was on; no retreat for either of us. I slowly unbuckled her Graco. Then, like Cold War nuclear proliferation, it graduated to the regrettable next level. She exited the carseat. Without breaking her stare, she walked over to the passenger-side back door handle and tugged. She no longer needed a father. "Sunrise, Sunset" began playing in my head.

As in every game of chicken I played on my childhood street, I blinked. (I had to back then, or else Mark "The Lunatic" Atlas would have careened into me on his Apollo 3-speed.)

After Skylar's tantrum subsided, we slipped back to our old routine. But something feels different about it. She now has a weapon at her disposal.

Are you skilled in the game of abandonment chicken? How long has it worked for you?

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