Sorry, Mommy.

There was this snack.

If you get in the car, i said, to go pick up Sam and Lily (and then drive Lily half an hour to her dance class and then come fifteen minutes back to pick up the cookies for Sam’s Japan benefit tomorrow and then go back to pick up Lily and then drive half an hour home … sigh …) then you can have a snack.

But what is it? Rory demanded.
I’m not telling you.
Tell me!
Nope. Go get in the car.

On the way to the car they pass the snack, as I know they will. Pringles! Little containers (the lunch ones) of Pringles!

This is very exciting and they run for the car. Me, I fill some water bottles, toss the Pringles in my bag and follow.

I get in the car bearing the water bottles. And Rory howls. I DON’T WANT WATER! she shrieks with all the vigor of a child being raised in a very dramatic family. It is as if I have offered her strychnine.

I am not in a particularly patient place and I snap out my response. Fine. You’re not getting water, then, I say, and I hand out … the Pringles. The salty, salty Pringles.

Oh dear. Rory knows what will happen when she eats the Pringles. But give me water! she yells, in the dulcet tones of Cleopatra directing a nubian slave.

Oh, no. You were very clear. You don’t want water. And now you don’t get water. And I hand Wyatt his water.

Well, now the wailing begins in earnest. But she wants it! she wants water! she gon’ be thirsty!

I want water I want water I want water water water want water! Delivered at full volume through gasping sobs.

Wyatt sighs a world-weary sigh. She just wants water, he says.

I’m stifling my temper. I don’t like the way she talked to me. I don’t like the rude rejection of my remembering the water initially. I don’t like her tone or her attitude, and I don’t want her to do that—to jump to the most negative conclusion (she’d clearly thought the water was instead of the Pringles) and start beating people up about it. But, yanno, softer. Less yelling by me. More acceptance of what she’s thinking and needing.

I hear you, I say. I know you want water. But you were very mean about the water, and I am not going to give it to you no matter how hard you scream. (ok, first I said some sarcastic stuff about her not wanting the water. And this I had to say several different times in different ways.

After about the third “I hear you” which I think included an “I know you’re angry,” she … stopped crying. And gulped. And said, pretty nicely, please can you give me water?

I thought about it—but no. I don’t know if I was right or wrong, but I didn’t really want the lesson to be, be rude, then scream for ten minutes, then ask nicely and get what you want. It felt wrong. It felt like she was jumping through the usual hoops that work and not thinking about it all.

No, I said, you were very rude, and I’m not going to give it to you.

And she sat. And she thought. And then she said “Sorry, Mommy.”

Sorry is big. Sorry isn’t even something we’re working on. Sorry isn’t something we’ve ever, ever managed without prodding and direction (say sorry to Wyatt! Sorry. and vice versa). Sorry required that she understand why I wasn’t giving her the water, and think about, not how to get the water, but what to say to me.

Or at least I hope it did. Because I accepted her apology, and when we got to school, i gave her the water.

5 Responses to “Sorry, Mommy.”

  1. Sarah Kate says:

    That’s massive. Seriously. That’s ACE! xxxxxx

  2. yancy says:

    This made me sad to read. Why does it need to be a battle or a question of someone’s winning and someone’s losing? The way I read it, you don’t want to give in to her because you feel that you’re being manipulated. Why not just say, “Water is the only option. You don’t have to drink it, but you won’t have anything else available to drink.” Why make it into a power struggle? If you don’t buy into the manipulation or drama then you control the situation. A great book on this is Parenting with Love and Logic.

  3. KJ (aka Lola Granola) says:

    Really, it was that bad? The thing is, water ISN’T the only option. I mean, there is milk. We are at a friend’s, and we are leaving, and it would be inconvenient, but there IS milk. You’re right–I don’t like to give in to her. But the thing is, I don’t think I should, or that she wants me to. I think she’s just checking. Are you still in charge? How about now? How about now? Because if you’re not, I can take back over… ok, how about now? I think she needs me to hold firm. Was it the way I put it? I guess I think there’s something in calling her on it, too. Because if I’d offered milk, she would ask for water. She wants to stand next to me and tell me where–exactly where–to cut the apple. And I think it’s exhausting for her, and that when she can let go she’s happier. In other words, I think I have to–gently–win most power struggles for her sake as well as mine. But you know, I’m still having a power struggle with a five-year-old, so maybe I’m crazy. Gonna put this in a post and feel it out.

  4. KJ (aka Lola Granola) says:

    OOPS! I was thinking of a different water incident. But still, worth re-thinking. Maybe I was too harsh. I’m re-visiting tonight.