We have this constant struggle, R and I. Who is really in charge?
Of course, she doesn’t intellectually acknowledge this struggle. In fact, if you ask her, she will tell you – Mommy is the Boss. While that is nice (and ego-boosting) to hear, it is not, in fact, the God’s-honest truth. Sometimes, frankly, R is the Boss.
There are days when I am Not. In. The. Mood. There are days when I don’t want everything to be a fight: the getting dressed, the eating breakfast, the getting out the door, the watch-television dilemma, the snack after school, the eating of vegetables, bath time, bed time, number of stories, number of minutes spent watching her lie there with her eyes open refusing to sleep, drinks of water, light level, OMG START AGAIN TOMORROW.
These are the days that I will bend, compromise a little. The days she eats macaroni and cheese for breakfast or gets two cookies right before dinner or skips her bath or stays up 20 more minutes to watch the end of “Jungle Book.” For the thirteen millionth time.
I try not to feel bad about these little lapses in principle, the gentle ebbing away from my greater goals as a parent. Everybody deserves a break once in awhile, I think. But are these breaks getting too frequent? Am I raising a child who does not know limits and will constantly expect her every whim to be fulfilled?
When I have thoughts like these, I frequently sway the opposite direction – toward a rigid standard of parenting. When we were on the cruise, we were eating dinner with the whole family – all 14 of us – when R started acting a little squirrelly. The joviality of the evening, and the fact that she and her 8-month-old cousin were the centers of attention, went straight to her head. She threw a fork. I immediately grabbed her and carried her out of the restaurant into the hall, sitting her on the steps in timeout. Oh the wails. The tears. The self-pity.
Dave thought I over-reacted a little bit. And perhaps I did. But I don’t want her to ever think that throwing things was acceptable behavior. And we were already so flexible we were going to fall over with the next whiff of a Caribbean breeze – the child didn’t use the toilet for six.straight.days, for goodness sake. I wanted to show her firmness and boundaries and consequences.
But the problem comes the next time she throws a fork, and the reaction isn’t as sudden, swift and serious. It’s so difficult to be consistent when the same behavior could occur immediately after I spent 20 minutes cleaning up poop or immediately after a spontaneous hug and kiss.
But I guess this wasn’t meant to be easy.