What Looney Tunes Can Teach Us About Parenting
I am ashamed to admit that my technology Achilles’ heel has become the television remote control. I’d rather rent a DVD and play it on a portable than try to figure out how to navigate around the TiVo and cable settings. There are usually three remotes jockeying for position on my sofa. At last count there were eleven in the fake wooden book on my coffee table where I hide batteries and other small objects that I’m too lazy to put away, like candy wrappers.
Despite the challenge, every once in a while, in between work and housework, I like to plunk down on the sofa and channel surf. Just in case there’s some breaking news about, say, a giant python snake found in a residential toilet in Broward County. I grab the only remote I know how to use. I punch the ON button. Four underscore marks appear on the screen.
Beneath the underscore marks it reads, “Enter Password.”
“What the heck?” I say aloud.
My dog Slugger’s ears jump to attention as if I’ve shouted the word ‘cat.’ I think: Wishful doggie thinking. I can relate. I’d like a little excitement in my life, too. I take a chance and punch in four digits. It’s the same code my husband uses for all the passwords in the house and bank accounts.
Asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk.
Hmmm. No dice. I try again. And again.
Something about this activity seems familiar. I shout, “Jason!”
My son Jason is to the Koenig family as Newman was to Jerry Seinfeld. He is the Road Runner to my Coyote. When something wily is afoot, Jason is usually the person behind it.
We’ve had a bad summer. Both teenage boys refused to participate in organized activities. The punishments for not contributing to household chores have been doled out like free giveaways at a basketball game. So far this summer Jason has lost his computer, his Xbox, and the sheets on his bed. I checked with a professional to ask how far we could go before the Department of Health and Human Services could get involved.
Jason swaggers into the room. “Can I help you with something?” The ends of his lips turn up like a Cheshire cat.
Suddenly, the dimples in this cheeks don’t look so cute anymore.
I thrust the remote toward him. “Unlock the remote. Do it now.”
He raises a brow. “And what do I get in return?”
I am tempted to say, “You get to live.”
Instead, I firmly recite the policy that’s served me and thousands of other parents so well over the years. “I don’t negotiate with teenagers. However, if you input the password, I will be happy to arrange a mutually beneficial date and time when we can have a dialog that might help us reach a common consensus about how long you can live in my house.”
His shoulders relax a bit. His head cocks to one side. I figure he’s trying to parse all the language.
“And by the way, I have the keys to your car.”
This he understands. The bluff works, and we’re back to my regularly scheduled program.
Parenting tools should include a set of scales. On the one hand, you’ve got to give props to the clever child for being resourceful. On the other hand, you wonder if they’re going to grow up to be an executive who embezzles money from pension funds.
But no matter how much you want to watch Desperate Housewives on Sunday night, no matter how desperate a housewife you’ve become, you can’t cave to their demands.
If all else fails, take a lesson from Looney Tunes. Did Wile E. Coyote stop trying to catch the Road Runner? No. Did the Road Runner succeed in outsmarting him at every turn? Sure. But the Coyote never used that as a reason to give up. And neither should we.
Tina Koenig’s short story “Teens Take Flight” was included in The Ultimate Mom (HCI Books, 2009). She’s covered the book beat for Miami Art Zine, writing reviews and features. Her essays and short stories have appeared in Literary Mama as well as other journals and publications. She is the author of the Middle Grade mystery, “A Case of Considerable Consequence,” published this year.