The other day, I was talking to another parent at Climbing Class about Max's eating habits. (Max is two months younger than her son, but considerably taller and larger, so she asked what we were feeding him.) I told her that his favorite thing to consume was chocolate milk. She asked if he ever drank regular milk, and I revealed one of my secrets to a harmonious life with a two year old: Max always wants chocolate in his milk, but he doesn't actually take note of how much chocolate goes in the milk. So I pour his milk, shake in a single crumb of ovaltine, and everyone wins. The other parent made a somewhat disapproving face and said, "Don't you think, though, that he needs to get used to not getting his way?"
Obviously, yes, Max needs to know that he will not always get his way. The fact is, though, that there are thousands of times a day when Max does not get his way. He has to get his diaper changed when he would rather go through life filthy and proud. He has to share with Maggie when he would rather ignore her existence entirely. He has to take naps when he would prefer to play himself into frazzled exhaustion. On those occasions when I can allow Max to feel like he is in control, especially if I can do so without harming or inconveniencing either one of us, I tend to accommodate him. When I said this to the other parent, she said, "I guess that makes sense. I just think that a lot of kids today are coddled too much. I mean, you've gotta face the fact that life is hard at some point, right?"
Other ways in which I have failed to make my son face reality in all its infinite darkness:
* I have never told him that in real life, Nemo's dad would be much more likely to eat him than to travel across the ocean to save him.
* I have not told Max that his foam letter soup is not, in truth, particularly delicious.
* I have never talked to Max about how much his college education is likely to cost.
* I have not told him that Superman is not real, or that he would be considered a big weirdo in a unitard if he were.
* I have never told him that someday we will all die.