FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Walden Pond

Written By: Scot Butwell - Aug• 16•12

lightningD has taken up residence inside an eight by ten foot room, mostly dark, no lights, black walls, octagon shaped, felt curtain entrance, with flashes of lightning and crackling thunder.

Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond to immerse himself in nature, reflect on society’s ills, and seek a simpler lifestyle. Well, D has chosen his sanctuary to be in the eye of a simulated storm at the La Habra children’s museum.

I doubt his fascination is an effort to commune with nature. With every flash of lightning and crackling thunder, he runs around the room screaming as if struck by lightning, joining two boys in this boyish fun.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but reflect on how he’s mastered the philosophy of Thoreau: “Simplify! Simplify! Simplify! Let your affairs be two or three, not a hundred or a thousand.”

la habra

He’s found the one thing that makes him happy–his Walden Pond–and I see no problem letting him stay in the Lightning Room as long as he likes. He’s happy here, I think to myself. Why should I make him leave?

The Wife thinks differently. “Tell him it’s time to see the rest of the museum,” she tells me. “He’s been in here long enough.” She doesn’t adhere to Thoreau’s view, and I feel torn to the core of my being by her request.

I want to act as I typically do with D, following my free-range parenting style, and yet I know, the Wife wants me to give D rules and structure, and if I do what will please her, this would represent a major change in my parenting philosophy.

For D and me.

So the wife and I coax D out of his beloved Lightning Room, and he makes it no more than twenty feet, before he turns and races back, dodging at the last possible second a few toddlers to avoid a collision.

My intuition tells me the Wife’s and my contrasting parenting styles are converging for a head-on collision, and I start breathing faster, my thinking becoming erratic and panicky.

But the Wife is calm. She is usually anxious 24/7, and I’m the calm one; however, today it’s reversed: I am anxious and she is calm. (Note to self: ask the Wife later why she was so calm).

The Wife’s habit is to tell D what to do, and in her new zen-like mental state, she has chosen to let me be in charge of D, having assumed a monk-like silence that I know won’t last long.

Since the Wife is calm, my inner struggle isn’t influenced by her, unless previous conversations count, and after D makes four or five trips back to the Lightning Room, she tells me: “We need a behavior plan. Do you know what a behavior plan is?”


“What is it?”

“It’s a plan for behavior.”

“That’s what we need. A behavior plan for D. That we discuss with him before we go somewhere. We’re the reason he’s running around the museum. We’re the reason he’s out of control.”

Her words had started out in a reasonable tone, but by the end of her thought, they had become negative and left a sour imprint in my spirit.

So I found it hard to embrace the notion of a Behavioral Plan, even though it sounded good on paper, and I know it would please the Wife, because it felt like putting a straight-jacket on D.

Dr. J, a psychologist the wife and I meet with as part of D’s ABA program, has identified our problem in two sessions. I am the Fun Dad who needs to step up my parenting D and the Wife is the Commander-in-Chief who needs to connect more with D.

So easy to assess. So hard to change.

And changing my views on parenting –though I can see stepping up my parenting would be helpful–feels like a betrayal to my beliefs–even if it only means small changes like being the one to tell D it’s bedtime.

I don’t know if I’m ready to give up being the less of the Fun Dad, and after D made one last dash to the Lightning Room (he didn’t find the rest of the museum too exciting), I figured it could wait at least one more day, so D could enjoy being in the Lightning Room.


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