With the holidays over, my family is returning to its normal routines — the adults with relief, the children more peevishly. Overwhelmed by the onslaught of seasonal specialness, my kids have gotten a little too used to treats, indulgences, and suspended responsibilities. At times like this they’re more likely to question why anything beyond the bare minimum of assigned homework is necessary at all. Why do we insist, for instance, that they practice an instrument and take lessons and play in recitals, when they could be putting that time to better use sulking and hanging out with other oppressed preteens?
The short answer is “Because I said so,” but they’re getting old enough to absorb the longer, better answer.