Thunderdome

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So here’s the deal.

My girl talks a lot. She smiles at strangers. She’s sensitive and cries easily. She really cares if the people around her are happy or laughing and goes out of her way to make that happen. A lot. But the thing is, it’s easy to take all that smiling and laughing and good nature and assume there’s no hard-nosed-Rock-of-Gibraltar level determination underneath. And I’ll be the first one to tell you, the Janester has a lot of grit for a four year old.

People make that mistake with me. Sometimes, although not often anymore, they think I’m easily-run-over-able. They think, “Oh, Liz won’t care.” And usually, I don’t. Usually, I’m okay with what other people need and want. But every now and then, a switch flips. Every now and then I go to the mattresses. Sometimes it’s over something really important. Other times it’s something small and inconsequential, but usually because I’ve been pushed too far on too many things and suddenly something tiny like going to Wendy’s over Taco Bell becomes a hill I’m willing to die on.

All that to say, when Jane’s switch flips, it wears me out. But, I understand it. And, truthfully, I’m glad for it. I’m glad that underneath all her sweetness she has the ability to stand up on her hind legs and say, “Nope. Too far.” I just wish she didn’t do it with me. I know, I know. I’ve got one hand to wish in and the other hand to…

 

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The other afternoon I told her to clean her room. She ignored me. I told her again. She ignored me some more. After a while I noticed a strange level of silence coming from her room.

Me: Jane, are you cleaning your room?

Her: I don’t know.

Me: Are you putting toys on the shelf?

Her: Mmmm, probably not.

Me: Now! Clean now!

Her: *big sigh, hand to the forehead in smelling salts mode* I can’t believe this.

Me: That makes two of us.

The battle line was drawn, and Jane decided deep down into the depths of her soul she was not, under any circumstances, going to clean her room.

Three hours later, after many many tears, after a kicking fit against her bedroom door, after I huddled in the corner and rocked back and forth while eating Milano cookies and singing Wild Heart softly to myself, things once again fell silent.

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I found her like this, completely exhausted and worn out. Alas, the room was still dirty. Neither one of us won that round. It was most decidedly a draw.

After experiencing an afternoon like this with my daughter, and writing about it, I feel like I should be able to offer some sort of summation for it, some kind of tidy “and I learned this” lesson. But I think the only major thing I learned that afternoon was raspberry-chocolate cookies are a gateway to momentary sanity and coping skills.

Mostly I’m learning slowly that you do the best you can as a mom. Especially when you’re by yourself. Especially when things reach Thunderdome proportions. If it takes bribing your kid with a dozen jelly beans to get them into the car on time for school, do it. If promising to let your daughter wear pink lipstick will convince her to clean her room, do it.

The magic of adult cosmetics gets her every time.

In a perfect world she would do what I said when I said it because I said it. And some days she does. But some days she does not. And those are the Thunderdome days. Those are the days you stop trying to be mother-of-the-year and just survive by any means possible.

Truthfully, when she sets her teeth and decides to fight me to the death over eating broccoli or staying in bed at night, I can’t help but grin. Granted, sometimes I grin while I’m crying with frustration, but I understand it. I get the “I usually play well with others but right now at this moment I would rather die than do what you’re telling me to do” moments. I’ve had them. I still have them.

I’m glad she’s got grit and determination. It will serve her well in life.

I’m also really glad to be armed with jelly beans and pink lipstick.

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10 Comments

  1. kirstenalana says:

    I was raised by a man who didn’t like that I had a mind of my own, even at the very youngest blushes of independence. A man who beat submission into me, literally. I had a mother who went along with that and didn’t encourage me to have my own mind. So I became the yes girl, the one who was always happy in public and never spoke up when she wasn’t happy. Until one day, I did. And suddenly, “But she was always so easy and obedient,” they said, shocked.

    Whether Jane’s ability to push back and speak her mind one day leads her to be a CEO or whether it just leads her to be able to say no when a man wants to abuse her and push her down, she’ll be grateful she had a mom who supported her independence. And you will smile with the knowledge that you did the right thing when it really mattered. You’re a good mom, Liz.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Diane says:

    I am with Jeanetteadarley. I’ve seen some nonsense written by some bloggers that don’t think girls should be bossy, but in my world ‘bossy’ is a good way for girls to be. Standing her ground when it’s a matter that is important to Jane is a great trait…. and perhaps a clean room is simply not of importance to her. We don’t all grow up to be good housekeepers. LOL

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  3. Barbie B says:

    Good for you to figure out when Jane is 4 rather than 14, or later, that we’re doing the best we can as a mom. Changing boundaries in some areas is so much better than breaking a spirit.
    Blessings

    Like

  4. goosefairy says:

    When my daughter was still a toddler we had a “go to the mat” moment as well. I wanted her to wear some particular thing (I no longer remember what) and she, most emphatically, did not want to. We had a battle royale in which I was trying my level best to get her into the outfit and she did her level best to stay out of it. At the end we were both collapsed on her bed and I realized, then and there, I was going to have to pick my battles with my girl and, quite frankly, clothing was not going to be it. As a mother you are right to want a strong-willed girl. But, oh, I do understand wanting her to be a little less strong-willed with you, as the parent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I decided I’d rather have her willing to stand up for what she truly wanted than to cave to me. Good luck. It sounds like Jane is going to be able to stand on her own two feet. You’re smart to foster it in her.

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  5. Courtney says:

    When people make comments that my 2 girls are bossy. I say, “No, they aren’t. They have leadership skills.” My youngest (3.5 yrs) is especially headstrong. I pick my battles, which can be exhausting at times. But truthfully, I secretly enjoy it as I hope it’s a sign she won’t let anyone walk all over her when she gets older.

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  6. Sharon says:

    One of my four sons was very similar when it was time to clean his room. The other boys would get their rooms done in an hour or less and he drug it out all day long. He finally would get it done, but later I would find it all shoved under the bed. sigh. I thought I wouldn’t survive. It’s hard when a line is drawn in the sand. I eventually compromised and helped him get it done. He is now 28 and married and keeps a very tidy house and yard.

    Like

  7. Jenn says:

    Moms do the best we can. Tru Dat. Tonight I didn’t do the laundry, and I served them leftovers, and I didn’t go outside to blow bubbles or shoot waterguns because my body feels like shit. But I loved them and read to them and did the best I could with all I had. You rock as a mom. I am certain that Jane, even in her most defiant state, would totally agree. (o:

    Like

  8. casacaudill says:

    This reminds me of a visit we had to my sister’s house when my niece was in her early fours. Nora is so not interested in cleaning up after herself in any way, shape, or form. (To give you an idea how bad it is, she was recently told that she could have a sleepover if she cleaned the house and she opted to forego the slumber party in favor of not cleaning.) Her room was a disaster and she had been told to clean it like five or six times. My sister’s not the best disciplinarian so I decided to enforce the “please clean your room” request. What ensued was two hours of screaming, crying, and throwing stuff against the walls while she was locked in her room. When she finally quieted down I went in and it was even worse than it was when we had asked her to clean it. I said to her, very matter-of-factly, “You know Nora, you could have been done by now and off to the park and back home again in the time it’s taken you to not clean your room.” She just looked at me, totally world weary, and said, “I know.” She knew it, but she STILL refused to clean that room.

    Like

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