Thursday, June 30, 2016

Car Wars Episode II

A little bit of background.

For a couple of years The Boy has had a strange fascination with TV snow.

TV Snow. AKA Must-see TV.
It's not that he enjoys it, in fact he says it scares him. But, this doesn't dissuade him from regularly asking for our television to be tuned to it, or just doing it himself when he gets his little paws on the remote.

His infatuation was at its peak about a year ago and while it's abated significantly, it's now migrated to radio.

You see, The Boy now loves, loves, loves, to tune the radio to stations that don't exist and listen in. And, while the TV snow used to be met with a shred of fear from the boy, radio static in all it's awful noisiness, is not.

He enjoys the sound, pure and simple. And what is that sound?

Awful, awful static. There are occasional crackles and the odd song intrudes but, it's "KKSSSSHHHHHHH!!!" 99 percent of the time.

Now, I think we can all agree that TV snow and radio static are among the worst noises ever devised by man. One imagines that somewhere in Guantanamo Bay these sounds are playing endlessly until someone gets the information they're after.

Its supreme awfulness is self evident and playing it while driving in a car might just be the chief ingredient in a recipe for road rage.

His view from the back seat. Preset Nine is unfortunately
very clearly marked. 

Anyways, at some point The Boy observed that Preset 9 in my car was set to 107.1 which, in Madison, Wisconsin, is not a station. It's just that crackling, awful white noise. But, no matter to him, he gets in the car and asks for "Preset Nine!" Over and over and over again. 

If I've got music from a CD, my iPhone or the radio on, it doesn't matter.  

"Can you hit Preset Nine?"

I'll first respond by politely declining the boy's request but am met with a steady stream of the same question asked slightly differently. 

"Ummm, can we try Preset Nine?"
"Would you like to try Preset Nine?"

"Can you press Preset Nine, please."

These requests don't stop until I've hit the button, which means I can't really hear the radio.

I've attempted to reason with The Boy.

The Boy in the fore in red. Thankfully he still prefers live
music above all other sounds. 

I've asked him to pick other stations or songs and that we can listen to anything he wants to except "radio snow" as we call it.

I've told him that the radio snow is bad for him. I've told him that it will poison his ears. I've contemplated more fear mongering but I don't want to give him nightmares that will wake him (and me) in the middle of the night.

All of this is to say that each of my attempts at conciliation are met with a variation of the same response: "Preset Nine, please."

This leaves me with a few options:

Turn up the volume to an obnoxious level to drown out his incessant requests.

This one is a bit heavy handed and ultimately makes life miserable for both of us.

Tell the boy to stop asking, to be quiet and to be happy that I'm not forcing him to walk barefoot to day care.

This and any other attempts at reason don't work. Period. Now, if we sprinkle in some bribery, donuts and the like, we get results.

Appeasement and total capitulation to his wishes. 
Like the bribery mentioned above, this one has the same results: the boy preening from his perch in the back seat, wearing an ear-to-ear grin, and me frowning and feeling like Neville Chamberlain.

Truthfully, I've tried each of these approaches, or combinations thereof at one time or another. Judge me if you must, but one's parenting options are severely limited when they've got to keep two eyes and their attention on the road before them.

Now, if you're a smart guy or gal you might have considered another option not mentioned yet.

When not behind the wheel of the car, one's parenting
options are limited only by 
"Why not just set Preset Nine to something else, an enjoyable radio station perhaps?" you knowingly — and maybe smugly — ask yourself.

This course first occurred to me early on but I initially dismissed it because for some unbelievably weird,reason, I felt guilty doing it.

And isn't that parenting in a bit of a contorted nutshell?

You want to give your kid everything, even things that annoy the ever-living hell out of you.

Oddly, changing the preset feels like cheating too. Like somehow, some way, I should (for lack of a better word) win by virtue of clear-communication, which would result in The Boy seeing things my way.

You know, good old-fashioned parenting.

Yeah, well, that's all out the window. The guilt. The good, old-fashioned parenting. The promises of donuts. All of it.

Because, as I'm ever-so-slowly learning, sometimes you can overthink things. Sometimes, you just go for the easy, assertive decision and let the chips fall where they may.

In other words, sometimes Preset Nine becomes NPR.

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