Ritter (verb, intransitive)

Today was a battle of wills. My younger son did not want to do something, and his mother and I did. We've been hemming and hawing over what to do about this for a while now. "He's holding on to his independence," she said, "in the only way he knows how." "He's being bloody-minded," I said, "and he needs to learn that we're serious." After a lot of argument, we agreed to try things my way.

So we spent the day, she and I and he, inside, butting heads, in as kind a way as we could manage. Our older son would wander through the room occasionally, curious about what we were doing but bored, bored out of his skull. We were all inside on a beautiful day, inside at two when we're usually out and about by nine.

We made it, but it was not victory; far from it. Our son was stubborn and tearful, just as Clara had predicted. I had an uneasy, growing sense that I'd been overconfident, but didn't know how to say so. So I declared victory early to save face, to keep the progress we'd made, and my wife did her best to explain it to our son: that we wanted him to improve; that we'd made a mistake, and would not do it this way again; that we did not know what we were doing, and that all we had on our side was good intentions.

We went out for ice cream, a reward for staying home all day. The kids loved it, and I think the adults enjoyed it as well. We went to a park and wondered at how they could run around enjoying it so much after being bored or dunned all day. We came home, had supper, watched TV. I took my older son to karate class; he went in barefoot but walking there and back he wore flip-flops. He doesn't often wear them, and he was constantly stumbling and then recovering with a shocking grace, like John Ritter being caught by paramedics. We put them to bed then sat on the patio, drinking a beer, shaking our heads at our luck: our children's patience and forbearing, and our privilege to screw up and still make out.