Moving with my family was one of the most horrifyingly traumatic events in our lives. My wife and I were busy in our search for a home in the city’s downtown core, while my kids were opposed to leaving their lives in suburbia.
We searched and searched for the ideal home, but everything we saw raised at least one significant issue with my wife. It was too far from a school, or not near enough to a subway station. There were homes that were too close to the main street, or too far from a grocery store. And the search seemed to continue for what seemed like an eternity. After intensive investigating, and viewing, we finally found something she could live with. It was just blocks away from a high school, right next door to a grocery store, a few blocks from a subway station, and about a 1/2 hour walk to a hospital. “Well.”, she said, “I suppose its as close to perfect as we’re going to get.”
“What do we tell the kids?”, I asked.
“Leave that with me.”, she said. “It will be a piece of cake.” Now, I don’t eat cake. I never did. I just don’t like it, but I was almost certain this would not be a piece of cake.
We sat down with the 4 remaining kids still living at home, and my wife broke the news. “We’ve found a place. We’re going to be moving downtown. You guys will love it.”
“What the hell?”, one of my daughters shouted.
“I’m not going.”, my son said. “I hate it downtown.”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”, another daughter chimed in. “I love it here. I’m not going.”, and she burst into tears. They all got up and left the room.
“Well, that went over well.”, I said to my wife. “Perhaps they don’t like cake either.” And, as I have so regularly been subjected to over the years, my wife gave me the Moroccan death glare, the one that implies “I could kill you with just a blink of an eye.”
“You could have helped out a little.”, she said.
“You said to leave it with you.”, I replied. “Remember? It was going to be a piece of cake.”
“What do we do?”, she asked, “Do we stay here?”
“I think we just leave it alone.”, I told her. “They’ll get used to the idea. It’s not like they have a choice.”
Well, things went from bad to worse, and of course, I bore the brunt of the blame. My son had decided that he was moving out. He had a friend who was looking to share an apartment, and my son was moving in with him. One of my daughters was okay with the move, as long as she had her own bedroom, and we took the dogs with. The 2 other girls were emotionally wrought, filled with anxiety, fear, and hatred. They said that they would not move. They informed me that I could not make them move. They threatened to contact Children’s Aid, and have themselves placed in foster care in order to stay in outer suburbia.
“Its all fixed.”, I told my wife. “We lucked out. One is moving in with a friend, and two are going into the care of Children’s Aid. So we have 4 out of 5 kids no longer living with us. And, just to let you know, there was no cake involved. I substituted pie.”
“Nobody is going into Foster Care.”, she bellowed. “They’re coming with us. It doesn’t matter what they say. We are the parents. We decide what’s best for this family.” She often said we, but in reality, she meant that she decided what was best for this family.
The kids continued to be adamant about not moving, singing rousing versions of ‘We Shall Overcome’, and ‘I Shall Be Released’, that came out as “I hate you”, and “I wish I was never born”. Over the following days, and weeks, they began a campaign to try to force us to change our minds. They employed subversive tactics such as ignoring us when we called them, refusing to do their chores, and refusing to clean up after themselves. They kept their lights and televisions on, and stayed up late in the early morning hours, on their computers. They posted on social media just how unfair and cruel their parents were. They left us notes stating that they would run away, and we would never see them again. I bought them suitcases on wheels, like a good and thoughtful father, so their departures would be easier.
As the moving date neared, their defiance heightened. They flat out refused to pack up their things. They would hold sit ins in their rooms so my wife and I could not pack for them. “It’s really a simple choice.”, I told one of my daughters. “You can leave with your stuff, or without it, but you will be leaving.”
“You can’t make me move.”, she replied.
“That’s true.”, I told her. “I just hope the family moving in doesn’t mind having you here.”
By moving day, my daughters had, I thought, surrendered, given that they had packed what they wanted to take with. Once we arrived at our new home, they amped up their disapproval of downtown living by refusing to eat, staying in their rooms, and giving us the silent treatment. My youngest daughter gave up the battle soon after we moved in.
The older of the 2 dug her heels in, with letters expressing her absolute and total disapproval of our parenting style and decision making process. Apparently, she believed that she had rights, which my wife and I had violated. I reminded my daughter that, since she was over 16 years old, I no longer had to allow her to live with me. I could, if I so desired, toss her sorry ass out on the street. She reminded me that she had rights. “Not in my dictatorship.”, I advised her. “You’re not obligated to stay here. You can pack up, and leave. Sail away to undiscovered lands, and start a new life. But if you choose to stay here, remember, this is not a democracy. I am not taking votes.”
“I want to talk to mommy.”, she said.
“That’s up to her.”, I said. “But I will ask.” I spoke with my wife about my daughter’s requrest.
“What am I supposed to say to her?”, my wife asked.
“I guess you don’t want to try that cake thing again.”, I remarked, as her Moroccan eyes darted back and forth searching for her prey. “Just tell her the truth. She will come around.”
“And what if she doesn’t?”, my wife inquired.
“Well”, I responded, “she really has no choice. Where is she going to go?”
The negotiations were long and arduous. Hour after hour, day after day of back and forth bargaining had the parties at a standstill. “Why don’t you say anything?”, my wife asked me one night.
“I am using my silence to confuse and befuddle her.”, I said. “I will talk when it is time to deliver the one crushing blow that will bring this to an end once and for all.”
“This isn’t a game.”, she said.
“Ah, my dear wife,”, I advised her, “but it is.”
About 1 week later, my daughter made a fatal mistake, and I could see the end in sight. She had made plans to spend the weekend with a friend in suburbia. She approached my wife and I, asking for money to finance her trip. I took money out of my pocket and placed it on the table in front of her. “How much do you need?”, I asked.
“$20.”, she said.
“Okay.”, I said and I picked up a $20 bill, and held it in my hand. “Let me explain how this is going to work. As long as you need to come to me and ask for money, there are rules that must be followed. I will always provide for my family. It doesn’t require you to like me, I really don’t care if you do or not. It does however require you to respect me and your mother. Nothing is free. This money is not just money, it is time taken from my life that I can never get back. It is mine. I have the option of sharing it with you, or not. I am under no obligation to provide with anything other than food, shelter and clothing. I don’t even have to pay for your cell phone. In fact, if this continues, I will cancel it. Do you understand?”
“Yes.”, she said.
“So”, I asked, “What do you want to do, because today we are resolving this. The revolution is over, and we now need to negotiate peace”
“Can I use the money you were going to give me to go to see my friends to paint my room instead?”, she asked.
“When do you want to paint it?”, I responded.
“This weekend.”, she told me. “I don’t think I want to see Elana right now, anyway.”
“Go and get dressed, and we’ll go get paint and the brushes.”, I said.
“I’m sorry.”, she said as she walked to her room to change.
“Me too.”, I told her.
“Well”, my wife said, “that turned out okay.”
“Okay?”, I questioned. “That was a superbly executed act of patience, power and control. I told you not to worry.”
“I am impressed.”, she added.
“Thank you.”, I replied. “And notice that there was no need for any cake.”
My daughter remained with us for another 5 years, before moving in with her boyfriend, who resides in an outer suburban community. She calls her mother everyday, and comes by and visits at least once a month, whether we want her to or not. She learnt her lesson, and I was proud as hell of her for at least attempting to overthrow the powers that be. None of it really matters to me anymore though, as her boyfriend, who we care for very much, has inherited the little guerrilla inside of her, laying dormant, but waiting for the opportunity to jump out and usurp power and control before he even notices that it is gone.