Before I became a parent, I remember seeing kids misbehaving and thinking, “Oh I don’t think so. Not my child.” It’s almost as if I imagined these tiny little creatures being little soldiers or clay that I could mold into perfection. There was no way I would ever let my kid talk back to me. They’d have a clean room. They’d eat what they were given. And they would not throw a fit in a store. I was NOT going to have that.
And then I fell into parenthood headfirst. I married my husband and became a step-mother to a five year old who changed my entire thought process on discipline. I learned that I could either make everything a battle, or I could choose my battles.
And I’m pretty sure, everything I said, above, she’s turned around on me and broken a million times over. I remember being 8 months pregnant and walking through Hannaford, with a howling five year old attached to my calf because I told her she couldn’t have cookies before dinner. Oh boy. Here, I was with my kid losing her mind over a cookie (Btw, those cookies? They can either be a god send or make my shopping experience hell – it all depends on those cookies…). She was throwing this enormous fit, asking for the most ridiculous things. “Can I have a cupcake then?” Why would you think you could have a cupcake if I won’t let you have a cookie?! (And don’t get me wrong, I’m not THAT evil of a step-mom, I told her she could get a cookie, she just had to wait till after dinner to eat it.) And did I give into her? No. I ignored her, dragging her across the floor as I continued my shopping. But still, here I was, with a child that was throwing a fit, something I swore would never happen. Not my child.
And that’s when I realized that these little people, much like us as adults, don’t like control. And maybe that seems like something obvious, but here I was, thinking that I was going to be able to control my children.
And that’s something I’ve realized I can’t always do.
So now I learn to pick my battles. No, you still can’t have a cookie before dinner, but I’m not going to leave the store, because I have stuff to do. So no matter how embarrassing or how much it might ruin your grocery shopping experience, this is what I have to do. And I do put my foot down when she talks back, but she still talks back on occasion and I have accepted that this is going to happen. I am not here to mold her, but to be a role model for her, to guide her, and to, most importantly, teach her. But as much as she might seem to be a reflection of me or her parents, she is her own person, and she will fight, hard, against control. She has learned that if she throws a fit about something, she will not get it, and that’s not how we get things.
So sometimes she has a messy room, but she has to live in that mess and if she wants to have someone come over, then she has to clean it. And sometimes she talks back, and she gets reprimanded. Sometimes she throws a fit in a store, and I continue my shopping and let her just have it out. And sometimes I have to negotiate with dinner and snacks. I save my energy for the big battles, the one where I can’t give in.
And so last night, when she decided to take it upon herself to put her 18 month old brother to bed, it wasn’t a battle I felt was worth fighting. If she wanted to put him to bed and sleep in his crib with her, fine. I gave her five minutes (a time limit my husband felt was quite generous) before she’d be yelling for us to come rescue her from the hair pulling and climbing antics of her brother.
5 minutes went by….
10 minutes went by….
I started to get a little nervous….
And then I found this.
Some battles aren’t worth fighting. Our children have their own little spark and by allowing them to explore it, we get to see them grow. And I love this about being a mother.