Pushover, Part 2

We’ve talked about this before over here.

And while we’ve made some progress in the fight for equality for all (it’s like our very own civil rights movement), occasionally the favorites monster comes out.

For instance, the other night, I was trying to finish up dinner?  Setting the table?  Something involving my imperative confinement to the kitchen/dining area.  RR had finished up watching her after-school program, and wanted to read a book WITH ME AND ONLY ME before dinner.  She grabbed the book, skirted by my wife and said, “No, I want MAMA to READ it to me.”   Such an attractive trait.

I kneeled down to her as she came into the kitchen, and explained, as best as I could, that I was busy in the kitchen.  I was making dinner.  That could Mama read it to her?  Please?  Enter tantrum.  I soothed, attempting to hold her hand and walk her to the living room where my wife was, but she let go of my hand and flailed in the hallway, sobbing.

Now I know in my HEAD that she needs to understand that I can’t always drop everything I’m doing to read a book to her.  That doing that sets a terrible precedence for when she’s 16 and wants the car keys (as my wife would say).  That she needs to learn patience, understanding, and a heavy dose of stop-playing-favorites and the-dinners-not-gonna-make-itself.  But I can’t shake that that I am a total fucking pushover.  Telling her that I can’t read a book to her, even dosed with alternatives (We can read it later!  Read it with Mama!), is against my gut reaction.

My HEART sees my kid wanting me to read her a book.  When she’s 16, I’ll be lucky if she wants to be even near me.

The solution was no better than the tantrum.  I’d like to admit that we had some kind of breakthrough happy ending, but in reality, I left whatever I was doing and took her limp-from-tantruming self to the recliner and read to her, quickly and curtly, the one about Elmo and his first babysitter.  I had not only failed in trying to be the better person and lesson-teacher, but I had also failed because now I’m sitting there grouchily and reluctantly reading my daughter a book.  WORST MAMA EVER.

In hindsight, maybe I could have removed the book from the situation.  Asked for her help to set the table.  Something productive, tangible, and involved with what I was doing.  OK kid, you wanna hang with me?  Here – put these forks out.  20/20, you know.  Parenting is like a choose your own adventure book, and sometimes you die in the end.

These days it’s less, “Oh my God you’re sad!  What can I do for you!?” as it was back in August.  Now, there are just blatant requests that have to be denied.  My therapist would make some correlation between parenting and my job.  In my job, I tell people “No” dozens of times a day.  For 40 hours a week, it’s my WHOLE JOB to keep people in a box of rules and parameters of when and how and where.  And boy do I get pissy when they bust out.  And they are always trying to bust out.  I think I just get home and want to say “Yes!  Sure!  Absolutely!”  to someone, anyone.  But I think that and parenting a toddler don’t mix as well in practice as they might in my brain.

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Posted on February 1, 2013, in everyday. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Love the “die in the end part”! I said the other day it has to be easier to negotiate with terrorists than toddlers! I’ve got no real words of wisdom just noddin my head along.

  2. Oh, this stuff is hardhardhard. Our little guy is such a skilled negotiator that I think it’s likely he’ll be a lawyer when he grows up. I love the chose-your-own-adventure analogy–it’s hard to know when to give in and when to hold your ground. I wonder if, in this kind of situation, you could say something like “I need to make dinner now. So you have 2 choices: you can set the table with me or you can have your book read by Mama.” Of course, if RR like our guy was, she’ll end up picking choice #3 which is lie on the ground and have a fit instead, but that’s survivable too (if unpleasant for everyone involved). Hang in there!

  3. This is all so.freaking.hard. And I don’t even have to say no all day at work.

    If one of us can’t, we just straight up say, “sorry, that’s not an option. you can do [x] or [y].”

    (i.e. you can have mama read to you, or you can choose something else to play with.)

    Still tantrums, but less stressful for us.

  4. You really will learn to say no when it counts with RR. Really. Whomever said that above about that terrorists have got to be easier than toddlers to negotiate with hit the nail on the head. They love to push those boundaries and are constantly shifting how they go about it – that never changes. Good luck.

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