29 March 2009

Gauging Winners and Losers in the Ultimate Power Struggle

When we returned home after our first ever family-out-of-the-country vacation in January, the whole family was out of sorts. Easing back into the daily routine was challenging for all, especially given the changing nature of each day being exacerbated by snow storms and the transit strike.

On a particularly horrific morning, Bubaloo and I butted heads. He wasn’t listening, wasn’t getting ready and was going to miss his school bus. The very bus that had been giving me a daily headache due erratic pick up times which often made me very late to work.

It was the last request that led to this disaster. I asked him to do something simple like brush his teeth. I asked him again. Then I asked him again. And again. And again.

He was in a state by the time he got to the bathroom. When I came up the stairs behind him, only moments later, he had LOCKED himself in there. Normally I would have gone straight to lock picking, but that very child on the other side of the door had broken the lock by jamming it with a piece of plastic a month earlier, and we hadn’t got around to fixing it yet. The only option left in my arsenal of parenting skills was reasoning.

Things were already heated. My patience had already evaporated under the exercise of my temper. This was the power struggle of all power struggles – I wasn’t going to lose. The kid was about to miss his bus, which would result in me having to drive him to school, which would add an hour on to my commute making me even later than I was going to be initially.

I knocked on the door and asked him to open it. Silence. I asked again. Silence. I then pounded on the door and threatened him. Silence. I then pounded on the door and pleaded with him. Silence.

Quickly my mood went from pissed off to terrified. The child who had locked himself in the bathroom was the same child who had lit a toilet paper on fire in the bathroom a few months earlier. He was angry and frustrated and silent. Possibly up to no good. All I could visualize was the possibility of my burning house.

I panicked and issued an ultimatum. I told him if he wasn’t out of the bathroom by the time I counted to 5, I was coming in there. I told him I was going to kick down the door.

Slowly I began to count. 1. Silence. 2. Silence. 3. Silence. 4. Silence. 4 ½. Silence. 4 ¾. Silence. 5. The door was still closed. So I “Chuck Norris-ed” it.

With one deft, cleanly placed, martial arts inspired kick that door was open and the kid flew off the toilet and out of the bathroom. I banished the child to his room.

I was so angry by this time. Simmering. But I was also triumphant because I did not lose that power struggle. I was also pretty amazed that I kicked that door open so easily. I was slightly impressed and in awe of this untapped skills. Then, I looked at the door and felt a twinge of regret. Wifey was going to be pissed.

I called her to fill her in on the situation and she came home immediately. School and work were out of the question for both Bubaloo and myself. We needed to resolve this conflict.

Wifey came home and was angry. She was mad about the door. Mad about being called home from work. Mad about Bubaloo’s poor choices. Mine too, apparently. She admonished us both.

She called a family meeting and wasted no time in mediating a resolution to this issue. The door would need to be replaced, and Bubaloo and I would be responsible for that. We’d have to go to Home Depot to get another one and we’d have to split the cost 50/50. With a job that pays slightly more than $5 allowance per week, I got the better end of the deal, or at least I thought so until I got entangled in sorting out the ensuing complications.

It took three trips to order the door.

On the first trip we discovered that we’d need to order a custom door as our 76 inch frame was much shorter than the standard 80 inches. We went back a week later with the measurements, only to be told by a different salesperson that a custom door requires more measurement than the length and the height of the door. He sent us home with a worksheet. On the third time we went back, we finally had the information we needed to place the order, and after 45 minutes of dealing with a very nice but not so computer savvy gentleman, we had finally placed our order.

The new door arrived last weekend and today I set aside some to work with Bubaloo to install and paint it.

We went to put the hinges on the new door and they had milled it incorrectly. We grabbed a chisel from the garage and quickly chipped away at it to make it work.

When we hung the door, we noticed another issue. While we knew the frame wasn’t square, it became evident how unsquare the frame was. While the door is 5mm from the frame by the hinges, on the handle side, it’s much sorter. A ½ inch much more noticeably shorter.

Then, because the door is no longer square, it wouldn’t actually close with the handle into the lock hole. We had to chisel a new one of those, too.

Four hours later plus another five where I decided to repaint all the trim upstairs because the can of paint was already open, the door is painted and the hardware installed. It sort of closes. It just needs a little extra firm push.

When I reflect back upon this, the 3 month process to get and install the door, plus the back and forth to Home Depot, I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons.

  1. I will replace doorknobs with broken locks as soon as they break. It’s worth the $25 cost and 30 minutes of my time (plus another 10 minutes to find the screwdriver that no one claims to have taken from the toolbox).
  2. Always know whether or not you have custom doors before you decide to let your alter martial arts personality loose.
  3. Call Home Depot and let them know about the crappy mill work and numerous trips just to order the stupid door and they’ll cover the cost of the door for you.
  4. Think about it, if only for 5 more seconds, before you ever utter the words “I’ll kick down that door if you don’t...”
  5. When you’re in the midst of door replacement suckage, and you’re about to lose your cool in frustration, just abide by the mantra “It was so worth it to win that power struggle, because if I hadn’t I’m sure I’d have to be fixing other little disasters because my kid wouldn’t have counted on me to follow through.”
  6. Always, always, always win a power struggle. No matter the cost. As the grown up, however, you should probably be a little bit smarter (i.e., quickly mentally evaluation the financial, time, spousal and pain-in-my-ass cost) about which situations you make into power struggles.


Ottawa Gardener said...

Ah a parenting first I have not had yet: kicking in the door. I have however had to decide whether I am a parent who does the 'goofy-ass' thing I said I was going to do or the parent who figures a way out of said 'goofy-ass' threat. I'd say I'm 70/30 for kicking-down-door-I-won parenting strategy.


Anonymous said...

Oh great! Now you tell me all of this, now that I am pregnant! LOL

Ah, the things I have to look forward to. Funny how kids raise you as you raise them isn't it?

I do have to say I am impressed with your skills and steel you know whats. ;)