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Parenting chess

“But mo-oooooo-mmmmm,” (Reed’s exasperation results in superfluous syllables), “Weeding will take forEVER!”

“It’ll take only 20 minutes.”

“Twenty minutes?? That’s forEVER!” whines my son.

“Really? Twenty minutes is a long time?” I query.

“Ye-eeee-sss!” (three syllables), “It’s waaay too long!”

“Twenty minutes is a really really long time?” I press.

“Ye-eeee-ssss! It’s a freaking long time!! “(I’ve pushed him to the limit and he’s used the dreaded but occasionally tolerated small-f-word.)


“Soooooo…I’m gonna be really generous with you, then. As a reward for weeding for 20 looooooong minutes,  tonight you’re also gonna get 20 minutes on the Wii — an eternity!”

“Mo-ooo-mmmmmm…that’s not fair!!”


“Tessa, those shorts are too short.”

“They’re not, mom.”

“They don’t meet the school’s test. Even though it’s summer and you’re not in school, the shorts still need to fall lower than your fingertips.”

“See?” She tugs on the shorts, dragging the crotch way down as she hikes her shoulders up to her ears. Her fingertips are now 6 inches above the bottom of her shorts. “They’re longer than my fingers.”

“That’s cheating.”

“Mo-oooooo-mmmmm!” my daughter, too, is a syllable multiplier. “All the other girls wear shorts like this!”

“All the other girls don’t have me as a mom.”

“I’m wearing them and you can’t stop me.” Her lower jaw juts.

Gambit: “You’re right. I will not tackle you and take off those shorts today.”

She pauses to think, her jaw retracting.

“Is this where you tell me I can win the battle but I’ll lose the war?”



“And I’ll never see the shorts again if I wear them today?”


“You’re mean!”


Don’t mess with the Queen.

Image: Salvatore Vuono at

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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23 Responses

  1. Heh. You should tell your son I spent an HOUR AND A HALF weeding our garden yesterday. He got off easy. 😉

    I hope you’re keeping long-term score?

  2. Nice moves, Queen! I especially like the relativity of time…

    My 15 year old niece is wearing those 1″ inseam shorts. It’s fine – she’s got the body type that they suit…but I distinctly remember her mother being scandalized when I was wearing shorts of that length when I was her age. So I laugh and laugh at how things change. So far, my girl seems to prefer to wear modest clothing. I’m going to hope that keeps up.

  3. I guess I should start taking tips already…

    BTW, 20 minutes is such a relative time. Doing something unpleasant makes 20 minutes so long, and watching a show on TV makes 20 minutes so short…

  4. Awesome! Yet another reason I love that your children are a bit older than mine… I get to read posts like this and learn from your wisdom and experience. I will surely be using the 20 mins. trade-off soon and will keep the clothing example in mind for the future. I already do it with reading vs. electronics, but look forward to trying it with other things, such as chores. 🙂

  5. And then they get a little bit older, and sometimes the tables turn… Like the time The Girl said to me, “Mom, if you want me to, I can come with you the next time you buy new glasses.” Ouch – be gentle with me!

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