Why do I even try to do nice things for them?
The thought crossed my mind Friday night. My wife took our 5-year-old out to shop for summer clothes. No one else had anything scheduled, and I thought it might be fun for the three older girls to join me for dinner and a movie.
They all liked the idea when I presented it. The devil’s in the details, though. The one caveat was the three girls — ages 17, 11 and 10 — had to agree on a movie.
In hindsight, I might as well have asked Iran, Russia and the United States to agree on nuclear deproliferation.
The phone calls and text messages started buzzing at me as soon as they got home from school. They couldn’t agree on which movie to see, and it was getting heated. Two of out of three girls called me, crying about how the discussion devolved when one sister kept vetoing each idea.
One didn’t want to see the newest Avengers movie until she’d caught up on the previous movies. Another didn’t want to see the movie about the dog’s soul finding a girl over and over because it might make her cry. Through it all, the third sister was Switzerland, agreeing to whatever, so long as we got to go to a movie. There was almost an agreement about an animated movie about ugly dolls before we realized it wasn’t playing nearby.
At one point, I ended the talks altogether. I pulled the plug on dinner and a movie, saying we’d just hang out at home instead.
It wasn’t intended as a negotiating tactic, but it sure worked like one. Suddenly the holdout daughter decided she’d go along with the new conventional wisdom, watching “Breakthrough,” a film loaded with faith issues after a middle schooler falls through the ice and nearly dies.
As a concession, we allowed her to choose the restaurant, which in her case guarantees we’re going to a Mexican restaurant.
The whole trip there, I wondered why I even tried to do something nice like this for them. They’d been so rude to each other and to me in the negotiations process. It exhausted me to think we’d likely have some other disagreement burst out over the next several hours.
As the movie hit an emotional scene, where the boy falls through the ice, I saw my oldest daughter put her arm around her middle sister, while our youngest clutched me. I saw how much it comforted my middle daughter, having her older sister looking out for her.
That’s why I try to do nice things for them.