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…
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.
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.