“Tis the season to debate

Categorized as 10/06/08 Goshen News column

Which is exactly where I’m writing from today. You see, when you sign up for the parenting gig, what you’re actually agreeing to is a 20-year debate extravaganza. Per kid.

I hear your dismay. I missed that in the fine print, too. Sure as shootin’, the docs don’t highlight that part of the contract that they make you sign before you take the little baloney loaf home. In fact, we realize now that the doctor who was in attendance at our second son’s birth was deliberately covering that part up with his thumb. We should’ve known we had a live one when he argued with the physician for a good 30 minutes about whether or not it was his day to show up.

If you’re not a skilled debater before you have kids, you will be by the time they get done with you. At least, you’d better be or they’ll eat your lunch. Now, there is certainly a difference in children. A few of them seem to lark through life, following the rules and spreading sunshine wherever they go. Others, however…

Clearly, son number two is one of the “others.” While his oldest brother was a “sunshine child,” greeting the morn with a smile and beaming at little old ladies at the supermarket, little Schrock Two had no such compunctions. He felt absolutely no need to charm the masses.

To say he is strong willed would be a laughable understatement. I remember telling his father very often, “He’s going to be a mover and a shaker. What will move and shake, I don’t know, but something’s gonna give.” It was always at this point that we would drop to our knees and cry out in earnest supplication for divine intervention.

He hasn’t met a rule yet that he couldn’t challenge. “Because I said so” has never really worked for him. He wants to know why and why not and how come. He’s quite bamboozled when his own personal amendments to the existing laws get vetoed. After all, it always makes perfect sense to him.

So persistent is he in setting forth his arguments and sticking with his talking points that I’ve often thought that the justice system holds the perfect occupation for him. Combine a highly developed sense of fairness with the tenacity of a bulldog and he would be an unstoppable attorney. The most hardened criminal would surely knuckle under, blubbering like a sissy and begging to confess just to get this pit bull in a pinstriped suit off his back. Harvard Law School should be throwing money at us by the fistful to recruit this kid.

In preparation for what could certainly be a brilliant career, he has lobbied diligently for many things in his short 15 years. There was the dog crusade. There was the trampoline drive. He also conducted forceful and unrelenting campaigns for a swinging bridge in the back yard, a zip line whereby to waylay unsuspecting nocturnal landscape artists (i.e., T.P.’ers), and a plethora of large inflatables to set up in the back forty. Of course, he would need a go-cart to navigate around his personal theme park. Just in case I was asleep at the switch, he also threw in what he felt was a perfectly reasonable request for a second-story, in-house slide a la Wooten, a favorite Adventures in Odyssey character.

Here’s how it shook out. The dog and the trampoline both broke his way. The votes on the rope bridge, the zip line, and the inflatables came in as no, no, and no with the second-story slide also going down in flames. The go-cart verdict is still pending.

All of this takes an incredible amount of energy. As the parent of a skilled debater, I must be ready at a moment’s notice. Forget weeks of advance preparations with a multitude of handlers. These matches can flare up at the drop of a hat. And lovely stages on college campuses with a rapt audience sitting spellbound? Ha! It’s more like the kitchen or the van with the audience milling around and heckling the moderator.

In his defense, I must say that the very thing that drives his mother to distraction is also one of his strongest character qualities. Stubbornness when sanctified can be an admirable thing. With it, he’s far less susceptible to peer pressure, and he can handle the meanest of bullies, earning their respect and, quite often, their friendship. He testifies fearlessly of his faith to others. Knowing this keeps his mother from putting the stamp on her resignation letter.

It does not, however, keep his mother from anxiously awaiting a ringside seat when he’s on stage with his own small, persistent debater. She’s got every intention of making faces and heckling the moderator.

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