There’s nothing more pitiful than two parents trying to convince a kid to do something he doesn’t want to do. At some point, kids don’t want to know how fun it will be and how glad they’ll be that they did it. And, no matter how bizarrely contorted an expression of ultra-joy a parent’s face becomes, if the kid doesn’t want to eat the spinach, join the team, get on the skates, ride the coaster, jump off the diving board, read a classic, swim in the ocean, shoot a lay-up, wear a hat, or comb the hair away from his eyes, he’s just not going to do it.
On the flip side of “just say yes” parenting is the “try it, you’ll like it” philosophy. “Just say yes” puts aside parents’ fear of danger, disorder, and destruction in favor of freedom, frivolity, and, ultimately, frankness and friendship. “Try it, you’ll like it” puts aside kids’ inaccurate perception or unexpected fear of the same in favor of education, enrichment, and ego-building achievement.
Our family had a “try it, you’ll like it” moment last night, when Craig and I tried to encourage/convince Jake that week-long Boy Scout summer sleep-away camp was a good idea. The hesitancy in Jake’s voice was telling. The look on Jake’s face said it all. He didn’t seem to care how many friends he would make, things he would learn, or opportunities he would have—summer is his time to do what he wants and he’s just really not interested in giving that up.
It’s hard in these situations to know the right amount of pressure to apply. “I don’t care—you’re going!” doesn’t seem to strike the right note. Neither does, “OK, if Mommy’s poopsie wants to stay home, then that’s what we’ll do.” And there’s also some trouble with throwing out the “If you’re not enjoying yourself we’ll come and get you” safety net, because you know that at Scout camp, those scout leaders aren’t going to indulge any of those boys to pick up and leave, short of a paralysis-causing mishap.
Still, for as many stories as any of us may have of things we’ve done and wish we hadn’t, many of us have stories of things we backed out of and wish we’d actually done. I don’t know if Jake will ultimately go to Boy Scout camp, but I guess the important thing to remember is that the trauma of going may be equal at some point to the regret of not going. Essentially, then, there’s nothing to lose.