I practice patience a lot because it’s not my nature. Patience is a daily exercise for me anyway, but my five and a half year-old has unwittingly challenged me to a Battle of Wills. This is Day 2 of the most recent challenge. When I begin to lose my patience (a clear goal of the enemy), I have to leave the room to find it. This is me. Leaving the room.
She’s brilliant, that one. My daughter sees the line and marches wide-eyed RIGHT up to it, then turns to check that I’m watching so she can inch her toe across. I think she likes the challenge. But I won’t be outsmarted or outlasted. Parenting is an endurance race, and some legs are more arduous than others. I’m not giving up. I won’t blink first. No, ma’am. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
When cooler heads prevail, I will know that good parenting theories mention nothing about positioning yourself toe to toe with your child. When cooler heads prevail, this post won’t be nearly as relatable. If I’d been given a chance to really calm down, I’d strip the raw frustration in favor of “Here’s How I Solved THAT Problem.” But right now? I just want to tear phone books in half. We don’t even HAVE a phone book in the house anymore. THANKS Internet.
Right now, I don’t want to read about how to parent a strong-willed child. I don’t want anyone to tell me about a method that worked for them.
Right now, I don’t want a solution. I want to ooze mad and fuel the fire. I want to read a string of Facebook rants from parents I know listing the horrible/brilliant ways their children have foiled them. I want to see how much worse they have it. I am miserable and I want company.
When I see her staunch determination to defy, I want to threaten her with my size and my voice and my vocabulary. I want to take away every toy she owns. I don’t just want to take it away, I want to play with it in front of her, laughing maniacally while I sing, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” over and over again. I want to mirror the faces she makes to me until she relents.
Now, maybe you’re just a better grown-up than me. Perhaps you have a black hole of patience that can swallow a mean look, a defiant act and a five year-old’s version of carefully constructed plausible deniability for any objectionable outcome. Or maybe your child just can’t speak yet. Lucky you.
In the heat of the moment when the mad fire is burning, I want to feel this anger drip from me like sweat. Ironically, it’ll eventually cool me off.
I know I’m lucky, too. I have a daughter that is strong (like her mother). She won’t be stepped over or ignored. She’s excited by a challenge and can seek it out. When cooler heads prevail, I will know that her strength is a gift and that it is my job to help her channel this to be used for good instead of evil. She will be a formidable woman one day. But right now? I’m off to find a phone book…