A couple of days ago I posted about refusing to give a screaming, rude and miserable Rory the sippy cup of water I’d brought for her to drink in the car, because when he first saw it she said (screamed) she didn’t want it.
And yancy commented:
This made me sad to read. Why does it need to be a battle or a question of someoneâ€™s winning and someoneâ€™s losing? The way I read it, you donâ€™t want to give in to her because you feel that youâ€™re being manipulated. Why not just say, â€œWater is the only option. You donâ€™t have to drink it, but you wonâ€™t have anything else available to drink.â€ Why make it into a power struggle? If you donâ€™t buy into the manipulation or drama then you control the situation. A great book on this is Parenting with Love and Logic.
The first thing I have to say is pretty funny–when I replied, I thought she was referring to a DIFFERENT water-control incident, a more recent one, which I actually didn’t blog ( I could only see the comment at the time I was replying, not the blog post). So, ok, we still have MASSIVE control issues around here.
So, was I too harsh, the day of the water and the salty, salty Pringles?
I was angry. Usually, I’m able to just react without it getting all personal and mutual struggle-y anymore. But here I was, I’d given them the snack to get them peacefully into the car, and I had some resentment about that (that’d be after a solid hour of vacuuming said car the week before) but hey, I’m the one who has to bribe them to get them to ride down to Sam and Lily’s school and back, so my bad, right? I was probably running late. (I try, but…) And I was pretty darn pleased with myself for thinking of the water. I knew they’d be thirsty! I was a good mom, bringing the water!
And then Rory has to go and be all nasty about it. It wasn’t that she wanted something other than waterâ€”in the car, there IS nothing but waterâ€”it was that she saw the water and immediately assumed she wasn’t getting Pringles. It was dumb. Maybe it was nothing. But it was a big, nasty unpleasant nothing, something akin to throwing the first of two presents back in someone’s face and shouting I didn’t want a bike helmet, I wanted a bike, and then opening the other present and finding a bike.
But yeah, I probably could have just let it go, and I didn’t. I’m not sure it was the right thing. I’m not even sure it was really a power struggle, except of course that everything is. I guess she wanted to make me give her the water. But you know, I think she did feel bad about the way she reacted–first, because it cost her the water, and then because I told her it made me feel bad. I still think that’s a good thing. Mostly.
Now, let me tell you the other story. Leaving a friend’s house, Rory says “but I’m thirsty!” Which really means, “but I’m not ready!” But fine, “thirsty,” here’s some water, let’s go.
Rory: “But I want milk!”
The friend says, sotto voice, she can have milk if you want. I say no, thanks, give Rory the water, which she drinks and asks for more. Pretty standard, really, nobody wants to do milk right as they’re walking out the door. But with us there’s a little more to it, I think.
We can agree that Rory (who showed me tonight EXACTLY WHERE she wanted me to slice her apple) has some control issues, right?
And they still pop up, pretty constantly. Not like that, like that. Not that Oreo, that one. Not that shirt, that one. And some of it I do let go. But I’m not sure how often to winâ€”and she does let me win, usually mellowly. Sometimes, if it’s really silly, she even laughs.
Because I think sheâ€™s just checking. Are you still in charge? How about now? How about now? Because if youâ€™re not, I can take back overâ€¦ ok, how about now? I think she needs me to hold firm, at least a good chunk of the time. Because it’s not about the water, or the milk, or the Oreo. If Iâ€™d offered milk, she would ask for water. I think it must be exhausting for her, this micro-managing. Or maybe it’s soothing, to know I take her feelings into account. I really don’t know, and I’d like to. I’m over most of this. I sometimes get frustrated, but rarely angry–so I don’t see myself as “power struggling” most of the time any more. I just want make her feel secure. But I don’t always know how.