There are certain moments in life that, while they’re happening, you just know will be moments you’ll remember forever. There are the obvious ones – saying I do, holding your child for the first time, finding out that someone close to you has passed away. But there are also moments that are less dramatic, less once-in-a-lifetime, and yet, somehow, you still know that they’re going to be seared into your memory for the rest of your life. Like, say, the first time your daughter tells you that she hates you, for example. But let me rewind, because it’s a better story if I tell it from the beginning.
My kids had been fighting since day one of winter break, and like the lame-ass parent I am but pretend not to be, I’d been threatening Extremely. Major. Consequences. I told them if they fought again I would leave them home and go on our vacation to Utah without them. I told them if they fought again I would take away tv for a week. I told them if they fought again I would banish video games from our household. I think they actually might have believed the Utah one, but needless to say, they were on the plane.
The fighting continued in Park City. This one was mean, that one ate my popcorn, he yelled at me, she won’t let me watch the show I want, and on and on and frigging on. The only time they didn’t fight was when they were ignoring each other because they were playing on their Nintendos. So, being the genius I am, I threatened that the next person who did something wrong would lose their electronics. And, I might add, that threat occurred the night before we were leaving. Of course, not ten minutes after I said it, my son did something that antagonized my daughter, and she kicked him in the butt. Right in front of me, in the elevator, on our way to a bowling alley. So I did it. I told her the iPad was gone, for twenty-four hours.
I don’t know what the unit of time shorter than a nanosecond is called, but it took her about that long to figure out that our flight the next day was in less than twenty-four hours, and that she would, therefore, be electronic-less on the plane. At which point she turned into a highly skilled negotiator, on par with Manhattan divorce attorneys and the guys who sell fake handbags on the beach in Mexico. But I stayed strong. I didn’t succumb to her suggestions of taking it away the day after tomorrow, or taking away TV instead, or that punishments are unenforceable once you’re in federal airspace. She said it wasn’t fair, she said I was mean, she pouted at me. I felt bad, but I held my ground. I told her that next time, maybe she’d think twice before kicking her brother, no matter how light of a kick it might have been. My friend, who we were with, patted me on the shoulder. It’s hard to be a good parent, she said.
At the bowling alley – where she was still pouting and giving me dirty looks – I took her aside and told her that she could be punished and ruin her last night of vacation by being angry, or she could just accept the punishment and try to have fun. And that’s when it happened. My very first “I hate you” of parenthood.
Of course, I know she doesn’t hate me. I could see by the look on her face that she was shocked the words had even come out of her mouth, and she apologized immediately amid remorseful sobs. But still, it felt like a million bees had gotten inside me and were stinging my bones. And before I could think of anything else, I thought, I will never, ever, forget this. This will be with me until the day that I die. And then, as we hugged and made up, I suddenly felt relieved. I always knew that moment would come, and I was glad to have it over with. The next fifty or one hundred times it happens, I thought, I probably won’t remember at all.