Selling Your Soul for Chicken Fries

Brandon loves Burger King’s chicken fries (fry-shaped chicken, breaded and, well, fried). Today he begged me to stop by Burger King and pick up some chicken fries for dinner. “Well, you can’t have enough trans-fat in your diet,” I thought and gladly drove to Burger King to procure said chicken fries.

Not really. What really happened was that I saw I had a bargaining chip, or bargaining fry, so to speak and struck a deal with the children: “If I stop and get chicken fries, you guys go to bed at 8:30, no whining, no stalling, no complaining. Deal?”

“Deal!” They yelled in unison. Love and joy reverberated through the car and with much rejoicing, chicken fries were purchased and brought home. Every last chicken fry was devoured and there was no complaining about the state of dinner. The house was peaceful.

However, I tried to be a little ahead of the game, because I know that chicken fries seemingly erase memory function and there was bound to be some whining, complaining and/or stalling at some point in the evening. To circumvent this, I started putting Matthew to bed about 7 pm. Yes, an hour and a half jump start, but it was well worth it, because at 8:30, he finally gave up and fell asleep. (And ‘started putting him to bed’ is the correct phrase, because it seems to be an ongoing process.)

Brandon, being older and more sophisticated, is more devious. His stalling techniques are well developed and should be studied by other aspiring stallers. Tonight, it was: What is the meaning of life? Why do bad things happen to me and I try to be so good? Why does God let bad things happen? I just want to do fun things, why do I have to work so hard?

When faced with this inquiry, I typically proceed very cautiously and try to answer his questions lovingly and to the best of my ability. Explaining the meaning of life to a 10-year-old is a ridiculously difficult thing, especially when you don’t even grasp the full meaning of life yourself. I spent a good 45 minutes talking with him about this, but eventually, the conversation comes around to this sage advice: bad things happen because they just do, and life isn’t fair, so get used to it and go do your homework. This is an extremely inadequate response, but the kid just gets deeper and deeper into philosophical questions.

I tried to explain good/evil, a concept I’ve struggled with since studying law and working in the district attorney’s office. I don’t think I did a very good job explaining it to him, but then again, I have a difficult time with it myself. And I told him that we won’t have answers for everything, which didn’t placate him at all. I told him I understood his frustration, but I don’t have all the answers; there are some things we just won’t understand.

Then he gave himself away by asking a question about video games in heaven, and I knew that he was in full-blown stalling mode. I wrapped up the conversation quickly and redirected him to his homework about the New England colonies. At that point, he had effectively stalled long enough to push his bedtime about 15 minutes past 8:30.

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