The TV is on, and the boy is sitting in an easy chair. His father is rocking in his favorite rocking chair. Ruthanne races down the hall from the kitchen.
“Hey! You were supposed to be in the bath!”
She ignores their father and keeps running.
“Get back here now!”
She comes back into the room, face flushed.
“Can you just go get in the bath, please?”
She shakes her head. “I’m playing. I don’t wanna get ready for bed.”
“I know, but it’s time to wind down.”
She stamps her feet, turns to head off, then whirls back and audibly grinds her teeth at their dad.
Dad has been smiling, but now his face changes.
“Come here right now.”
She comes over, and the boy squirms. His dad is the mild parent, the one you ask when you really want something, the one who reads you Tom Sawyer when you are scared at night.
“Don’t you act like that with me.”
He “slaps” her on the left cheek. It’s really more of a pat—no way it could have hurt.Ruthanne bursts into tears and storms off. The boy stares at the TV, wiggling uncomfortably until he realizes that his father looking at him, smiling.
“What’s the matter, Son?”
He shrugs. His father smiles broadly and winks.
“Don’t you know that one of the greatest joys in life is having your children tell you how much they hate you?”