Bryce is different with his mother. He responds slower to her than he does to me. He waits more time before he acts. He considers longer. His record of defiance increases with his mom. And it worries me.
It worries me that I have to come behind Dawn and repeat something she says. It worries me that he eventually obeys if I don’t step in, even if it’s a week later. It bothers me that in his mind, he’s differentiating between us this way. He’s saying to himself, in other words, “I have latitude with mama. I can wait. I’ve got time. I can even disobey.” He looks at me, the stare in my eyes clear and bold. Where Dawn’s tone is higher in pitch, mine is low and terrible. I try to quiet myself, darken myself. And he thinks things through. “Maybe I don’t have the same time with that one. He’s mean. He’s going to get me.”
He’s done this before. We saw this time and time before.
When he would greet us differently, we saw it. When he would “straighten up” in a room after spotting me walk in, we judged it. His behavior changed in less time for me than for my wife. I saw it one day in children’s ministry when I rolled in and he sucked in his sniffles and found sense again. I saw it when Dawn was trying to get him to brush his teeth at day’s end. He was fighting. So, I stepped in. Evenings can be problematic for this kid, so stepping in was helpful. When I said, “We’ll brush together,” which we do every morning, I saw it as a routine that he could come back to. Dawn saw it as the boy answering me and not her.
Don’t get me wrong, his record of obeying me isn’t perfect. I’ve said before that there’s a fair amount of repeating that goes on between this little kid and me. I don’t negotiate—and I’m holding out against that completely—but both me and the wife have experienced his troublesome, terrible twos phase which people lied about because it started at 14 months. Terrible fourteen months has no ring to it. True usually doesn’t.
Whatever is happening in his head, it’s troubling. I feel like, on one hand, I can support my wife. I can ask her how she’d like me to handle him when he acts that way. I can follow through with her desires. I can set our expectations based upon what she says. On the other hand, I feel like shaping this boy for obedience to his parents is important. Even more important to me, though, is our son responding to our words. I’ve told Dawn that he needs to move when we call. He needs to follow through. If he doesn’t now, will he if we call out to him, in the same tone or in a similar way when danger’s close? Will he stop when we say it, if we’re on the street, if he keeps going when we’re at home? Will he freeze or pause if Dawn says so when we’re around people—people who are judging whether we know what we’re doing, right—or will he make us look like the true amateurs we are?
I care less and less for what people like about how we do this. And I never cared much to begin with. But I do care a lot about him hearing his mom’s voice and thinking that it’s the voice of God. He already knows that my voice, well, may not be the voice of God, but that I’m one of the strong angels.