This morning as we dressed for church Zion took a stand and refused to wear a shirt. Not just refused until he sensed we were really serious about leaving and then acquiesced. Flat out refused. "I bring it with me," he said. As if wearing a shirt to church is totally optional. As if wearing a shirt on a chilly morning in October is totally optional.
He put on his shoes and his winter hat. But the shirt? I had to but touch him with it to see him scream and flail.
Well, why should he just accept my silly rules, anyway? I reasoned. I'll let his own experience of the temperature be his guide. After all, it's an important life skill, dressing yourself to keep warm. Many women I know still refuse the obligation. So I thought to myself (oh so smugly, I might add) I'll just let him walk outside and he'll quickly say he's cold. The shirt will be the natural solution. End of fighting.
He went through the door and down the front steps. He crossed his arms in front of his chest. I asked if he wanted a shirt now.
"I bring it with me," he said, and climbed into the car.
The cold seatbelt bothered him, but when I offered up the shirt again he reposted with my own common platitude: "I warm up when we get moving." We drove to church without a mention of the temperature. At church the walk from the car to the door was even longer than that at our house. Still, he refused the shirt I held in my hand. He proudly strode up the steps to church in his sneakers, his jeans, his bare chest and his winter woolen hat. Several people passed by and said "That's a look."
"In the battle of wills," I replied, "I seemed to have misjudged my opponent."
Inside the church I realized I had lost all my bargaining power. Zion has no social shame about attending a religious service half naked, but I have plenty of it. Seeing that I'd been beat, I offered him a choice between his two back-up t-shirts. He readily chose the green short-sleeve version and happily offered his arms through the holes. Perhaps, in the end, this was really a fight over collar and buttons.
I have often heard people use the word "terrorist" to describe a two-year-old, and I have to admit there is some fairness in that comparison. They do a poor job of articulating what they want. They will blow up a situation they like just to show you how MAD they are about something else. They don't respond to reason or logic, so forget your fair arguments or accurate descriptions of reality. These well measured words land about as poorly as a naked sauna joke in a room full of evangelical Christians.
Sigh. Still and all, I have to respect his fighting spirit. At HONK today (the activist marching band festival) there were plenty of scantily clad anarchists raging against the machine. When I put it in this context, his rebellion seems so much cuter. Maybe next week, instead of demanding a collared shirt, I'll offer him a tiny denim vest decorated with sharpie and a tiny home-made button that says "Free Tibet."