Damara Hutchins

The dysfunction of disagreeing

It’s summertime, which means school is over and the potential for excess time spent in the car with both children has been increased exponentially. This is sometimes a good thing because we can tell stories or bond over music, like the other day when Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was blasting through the speakers.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my son knows the words and was more than willing to act out the opera parts with me. It was a special moment, though the quality of our voices left something to be desired.

When we aren’t bonding, we’re all arguing. I know I’m usually right, but for some reason, my children think they are always right, too. I didn’t realize this was a genetic trait that could be passed through my DNA, but apparently the characteristic runs strong in these two.

My son tends to get emotional about his side of the argument while I play the sarcastic overlord. Let’s face it, my choice is ultimately going to prevail in the end. The real nuts and bolts of just about every conflict is the girl. She is only 8, but has perfected the art of being the manipulating antagonist. She really knows how to get under just about anyone’s skin, but especially her brother’s.

Her first blow in every altercation is to say something you feel you must respond to, a.k.a. the bait. The logical part of your brain will tell you to ignore it and you may even try, but she utilizes a two-pronged strategy in her attack with part two: persistence. She never gives up. Ever. Her goal is a response; any response. She will take you on a mental journey to places you will loathe yourself for going.

The boy had stayed the night with a friend, his best buddy. Who knows if he took a bath the previous 24 hours or not? When those boys get together, they can’t be burdened with menial tasks like bathing.

He got in the car and approximately 10 seconds passed when she cast the bait: “Your armpits stink!”

He tried to let it go. He wasn’t in the mood to argue after staying up too late. He said wearily, “Leave me alone.”

She wasn’t going to let it go that easy. “Well, they do! The car smelled like nothing before you got in and now it stinks like your armpits.”

I tried to intervene. “Listen, no one wants this right now.”

He was already mad; too late to turn back. “I put on my freaking deodorant!”

This was just what she wanted. “Ooooo, you said the ‘F’ word! You’re going to Hell.” She does this too. If you say anything on her “Bad Word List” then she will call you out. Shut up, crap, and stupid are also on this list.

He was angrily amused at her admonishment. “Oh, I’m going to Hell? You never want to get up for church on Sunday! You’re always crying that you don’t want to go. Who’s going to Hell now?”

“No one is going to Hell today! What is wrong with you two? We’re talking about stinky armpits.” I wasn’t sure how we got on the path to Hades.

She was undeterred. “Well, no one is perfect, but I’m not going to Hell because I don’t say bad words.” She always falls back on the “We’re all sinners” logic if you call her on something she does.

This is only the beginning of summer. At this rate, we’ll be in Purgatory by July.