Fresh off our vacation in Tulsa, Geralyn swept up the kids and took them out to The Farm for a girls only getaway. I stayed home by myself to play lots of video games so I didn’t get to see any of the antics at the farm, but Geralyn did tell me about one in particular. One night Sam slept over in the other cabin with her cousin Molly and her mother Nancy. In the middle of the night Nancy woke up to find Sam standing next to her bed, staring at her silently and intensely.
“Oh, sweetie,” Nancy said, “What’s wrong? Do you miss your mom?”
“Are you cold?”
“Do you need to use the bathroom?”
“Then what’s the matter? Why can’t you sleep?”
“Because you’re SNORING.”
Poor Nancy, an accomplished mother herself, went to go sleep on the couch.
Mandy is having a better week in terms of the whole clingy thing. She’ll still throw a screaming fit occasionally, but now she’ll at least let me pick her up when she does. It’s funny to see what mannerisms and figures of speech she’s borrowing from Sam and the rest of us, as her speech is really coming along. It cracks me up every time she says, off-handedly, “Thanks, Dad.” whenever I do something for her. That and “You can eat that.” seem to be her favorite sayings lately. As was with Sam at that age, I’m occasionally baffled at hearing such human sounding utterances coming from someone who has not spoken much for the majority of the time that I’ve known her. It is odd.
Speaking of eating and screaming, we had an EPIC battle of wills the other night with Sam over green beans, complete with half an hour of shrieking and banging on the table –90% of which was done by Sam. We’re not normally the “clear your plate” kind of parents, mostly because we want our kids to learn how to regulate their own food intake and stop eating when full. But sometimes it’s not about food. It’s about asserting that I am the parent and YOU are the child, I SWEAR TO GOD SAMANTHA.
Sam is a strong-willed person, and sometimes we let her run with that because it’s who she is. But sometimes she decides to lock horns in a battle of wills just for the sake of defying us and I get it into my head that I’d better not back down. This is really one of the things about parenthood where I had to change my thinking from my pre-parenting days. As egalitarian as you may be in other matters, there’s no getting around the fact that the parent-child relationship is an lopsided one. What’s more it NEEDS to be. “Because I’m your father” is totally a valid reason for a command sometimes, because if they defy you here pretty soon they’re going to be selling cigarettes to kittens and punching old men in the park. I’VE SEEN IT HAPPEN. Eventually there will be a time for them to break free (c.f., teenagers), but age 5 is not it.
So with that attitude in mind both Geralyn and I settled in to win the fight over the green beans if it meant holding her there until bedtime. Sam screamed, was sent to her room, came back, screamed some more, cried, was sent to her room, came back, and beat on the table with her fists. The thing that eventually broke Sam was when her friends from next door showed up in the back yard and Mandy (who had eaten her dinner) announced that she was going out to play with them. This turned Sam’s freakout meter up to 11 and snapped the knob right off, but she shoveled green beans in her face between shrieks of protest just so that her sister couldn’t partake of some activity without her being there to oversee it.
Not to get all Sun Tzu on y’all, but sometimes you gotta turn their strengths against them to win.