Parenting is a competitive sport: you have to play to win and you’re exhausted at the end of the day. The trouble is, there is no training regimen before you get thrown in to the game and no trophy when you win because the game never ends.
Let me be clear, I am not talking about competing with other parents for the title of Best Parent. I am playing against my kids and I am determined to win. Does that sound harsh or mean? Let me give you an example from recent weeks to demonstrate how I play aggressive defense and sneaky offense against each of my children.
Bridget had a rough day yesterday; she didn’t feel good and missed nap time on Saturday during our soccer-palooza so was understandably grumpy. While I understand the crankiness, I still can’t handle the whining and feel that she is old enough to get herself under control. After church, she had a major meltdown because I refused to open her water bottle until she asked without whining or crying. She just followed me around the house whining while I repeatedly told her that I couldn’t understand her whining voice and gave her the sentence she needed to get what she wanted. That was my defensive strategy: I taught her a lesson that she won’t get what she wants through whining and crying (unless she is asking almost anyone other than her mom). The sneaky offense was trying to implant the correct way to ask for something in her brain through repetition. An additional benefit was that I needed to keep busy while avoiding her so I got a lot of clutter put away throughout the house!
Later that day, on our way to yet another soccer game, she was very angry that I had packed her lunch in a plain plastic container and not in her lunch box. She proceeded to let me know how angry she was by crying the entire 20 minute drive to the game. About 5 minutes from our destination, I told her that she had 3 choices: I could leave her on the side of the road and pick her up when the game was over, she could continue to cry and whine and I would throw away her loveies when we got home, or she could pull herself together and we could have fun. Through her sobs, she told me that she just couldn’t get herself together but would try. Within a minute, she was done crying, eating her lunch out of the boring container, and ready to snuggle at the game. Do I think the lesson from earlier in the day helped me win the battle? Not really, but I’m hopeful!
Drew is having some trouble finding age appropriate books that he is interested in reading. He is still sounding out some words so he stops to figure it out then loses the thread of the story, gets frustrated, and tells me how much he misses Grandpa. I have tried a number of well-drawn out offensive maneuvers to find him a book that challenges him but that is still engaging enough that he will stick with the storyline. We went to the public library with no time limit and chose 7 books, I asked the school librarian to help him choose some books, and I help him read, then re-read paragraphs, and ask him questions about what he just read. He’s getting better but I still haven’t found the perfect book. Grrr…
Then the silly PTO ladies let me work at the school book fair…alone…for an hour…in a room full of books. It was the best morning ever. I had Drew’s “wish list” with me and took a look at the books in the nook…sorry, at the books on his list. They were all Star Wars books and were either for very early readers with 3-4 words per page or books intended for middle school kids. I did not purchase those books because I play better defense than that. I did, however, find a book that mixes cartoons with a funny story that I really think he will like; that’s how you execute a solid parenting offense.
Sam has started pulling a little bit of an attitude. He has discovered sarcasm and believes that there is never a bad time to use it. I’m trying to rein in my own sarcastic attitude and teach him about appropriate and polite manners, especially around adults. I am failing miserably but I am not giving up. The only game plan I can come up with is to consistently remind him when he is being rude, to the point that I gave up a snuggle because he kept purposefully farting on me. And let me tell you, I had to play aggressive man defense to keep him off my lap because he is a wily and strong little dude.
Parenting is a competitive sport and it is my job to win every day. I have to be the voice of reason, the calm one, the winner of every battle of wills. I have never, nor will I ever, lose a battle over appropriate clothing choices, healthy snack options, or eating vegetables at dinner. Don’t get me wrong, there are days in which I choose my battles concerning sweatshirts rather than jackets and we very often do the “pants over shorts” thing. There are days I decide that one cartoon isn’t really that awful after a long day at school but they have learned not to even ask to play Wii on a school day. But when it comes down to the important things, or what I deem important in my kid-induced delusional state, I will not waver and I will not lose.