My eldest son, Isaac, is going through a pretty evil phase, where he constantly seems to be misbehaving and answering back. Sometimes when I tell him off he gives me the most evil look, like more evil than Hitler. And he holds the stare, which means I have to hold the stare back, and there we are in the middle of the park, standing about ten metres apart, just glaring at each other whilst everyone else tries to carry on with their lives and ignore the father and son who are engaged in a death stare on either side of the swings.
You see, parents and children both crave this thing called The Power. If you imagine it, it looks like a big blue glowing orb of electricity, and whoever has it has the upper hand. Your little cherub will constantly try to steal this blue glowing orb of electricity by whatever means possible. But it is important – nay, essential – to ensure that, as the parent, you always have The Power in your possession.
Allow me to illustrate. Earlier today Isaac threw a strop for some reason and told me he was going to walk home, despite the fact that it was raining and we were about 40 miles away from our house. And so he strode off, arms rigid, still somehow managing to maintain the glare over his shoulder as he marched through puddles and grass.
Of course I let him go, because I had The Power, and knew that I could safely call his bluff; and so I stare back, raising my eyebrows and waving slowly. You can see the ‘dammit’ look materialise on his face as he realises that he doesn’t know where he is going, and that I wasn’t running after him, clawing at his ankles and begging him to come back.
And so, despite me pointing to the horizon and mouthing ‘home’s that way’, he swivels on his heel and marches towards me, picking up a branch along the way which he obviously intends to lance me with in his anger. As a parent, it’s important to maintain possession of The Power even when you think you might actually be in mortal danger, and so as he’s approaching me with his weapon lifted above his head I maintain eye contact and resist flinching even though every voice in my head is screaming RUN FOR THE HILLS or PLAY DEAD LIKE YOU DO WITH BEARS.
Instead, I use Firm Voice. “Think very carefully before you do anything,” I say, hoping my voice isn’t quivering too much. He hesitates, and puts the branch down, dropping it into the mud. The Power is mine, and I am victorious. That’s my big blue ball of electricity, child, and you can’t have it.