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A Battle of Wills

I always imagined that I’d be the cool but firm parent when I had kids. Until this weekend I was the cool grandmother (aka GrandMo or Mo Mo). I was the one who ran and played with dolls, swung on swings and climbed the jungle gym and hung off the monkey bars (no, sadly, this is NOT my sex life, but thanks for asking). I didn’t have to be the disciplinarian.

But then I encountered that weird creature called The 5-Year-Old.

I hadn’t seen my granddaughter since the beginning of January—when she was only 4. At the end of that month she turned 5. But she might as well be 25 for all the attitude this little girl suddenly possesses.

I used to laugh to myself when she and her father would go head-to-head over something that seemed so minor. Then I experienced it myself for the first time this weekend. And it’s not so funny after all.

My granddaughter and her mom spent a few days with us. Since her mom is about 6 weeks away from having another baby, we took Little Miss Thang (LMT) out as much as possible so Mommy could relax. LMT was pretty good most of the time, but when she decided she wanted something or wanted something her way, stand by. Her negotiation skills would make a union leader crumble like a stale cookie.

When we were driving home from Knott’s Berry Farm we put her Holly Hobby DVD in for her to watch and told her to use the headphones. She was having none of that. She didn’t LIKE the headphones and therefore wasn’t going to USE the headphones. Since I had control over the whole setup, I turned the headphones on and told her she had to use them if she wanted to hear the DVD.

A few minutes later, she said that the headphones weren’t working. Well, I could hear them perfectly fine from the front seat.

Me: They sound like they’re working.

LMT: Nope. Can’t hear a thing.

Me: Maybe if you put them on your head, they’d work.

LMT: Nope. They’re broken.

Me: Really? I hear them fine. I think they’re okay. Just put them on.

A few minutes later…

LMT: I wish these headphones worked the way WE want them to work.

Me: They DO work the way WE want them to work. They don’t work the way YOU want them to work.

LMT: Noooooo. They don’t work the way WE want them to.

We ignored her for a few minutes and then heard this:

LMT: [SIGH] I still don’t think these are working the way WE want them to. I think you should turn them off.

Me: No, I think they’re fine. Just put them on your head.

LMT: I don’t want to waste the battery. You should turn them off so we can all hear. Then you can save the battery.

Me: Don’t worry about the battery. I’ll replace it if I have to.

She kept it up for 50 miles. I’ll give her credit. She found every angle she could think of and tried to work it to her advantage. Personally, I didn’t really care if I heard the DVD or not, but at some point it became the principle of the thing.

Later in the weekend, we went out for sushi. We ordered a chicken terriyaki bento box for her and it came with chicken, rice, salad, fruit, french fries, mini corn dogs and a couple of Tootsie Rolls and lollipops.

She was totally not into the salad so I told her she didn’t have to eat it, but she did have to eat all of her chicken and some of the rice. But she was all about the Tootsie Rolls. So the battle began.

Me: You need to eat your chicken before you can have the candy.

LMT: I’ll eat the chicken AFTER I have the candy.

Me: No, I don’t think so. You can’t have desert first. You have to eat your dinner before you can have candy.

LMT: But I WILL eat my dinner. AFTER I have the Tootsie Roll. [insert pouty face here]

Me: Nope. Doesn’t work that way. Eat your chicken.

At this point, she started to play with her food, and kept flashing me the pouty face so it was perfectly clear to me just how much her life sucked right at that moment. All because of me.

I ignored it and told her to stop playing with her food, that the faster she ate her chicken the faster she could have her Tootsie Roll.

I guess that logic doesn’t work with a 5-year-old because that pretty much sent her over the edge. She got off her chair stood next to her mom, scrunched up her face, balled her little fists and jumped up and down.

LMT: I WANT MY TOOTSIE ROLL AND SHE [un-balling fist long enough to point accusingly] WON’T LET ME HAVE IT. IT’S MINE.

Me: Did YOU pay for it?

LMT: NO! But it’s mine.

Me: Nope. It’s not yours until you eat all of your chicken.

Meanwhile, Mommy is ignoring her and telling her it’s between her and Mo Mo. Grandpa is enjoying his sashimi immensely–mostly because watching me battle a child is the great entertainment for him. He’s also laughing at me the way I laughed at LMT’s daddy.

LMT bounced around, and pouted and fake cried and pitched a fit until I had enough. I broke out my stern voice, told her to sit in her chair and eat her dinner. I grabbed the Tootsie Rolls and moved them away from her. She could still see them, but they weren’t in front of her face, tempting her little hands to snatch them off the table. This pretty much sent her into a massive fit. I had pretty much had it at this point. She didn’t want to sit so I agreed to let her stand if she ate all of her chicken and had a little bit of rice. At this point there were like 3 pieces of chicken left. So for both of us, it was a battle of wills.

She picked up her fork, stabbed her chicken with murderous venom and shoved it in her mouth. And then she stuck her hand out for the Tootsie Roll.

Me: Nope. Two more pieces. And a little rice.

She got through those and then stuck her hand in her rice bowl, grabbed ONE kernel of rice and proclaimed herself done with dinner.

I gave her The Look. She’s familiar with that apparently because she grabbed a handful of rice and shoved it in her face. I was still watching her so she grabbed another fistful and shoved that in too.

When she swallowed I slid the Tootsie Rolls over in front of her and she grabbed them before I could change my mind and take them away.

And then she didn’t talk to me for an hour.

I know I’ve written on The Daily Snark about wanting kids. And it’s not that I don’t anymore, but I honestly don’t know how parents do it day in and day out. After three days I was totally exhausted. I was worn out from silly stand-offs, I was tired after the running, the playing and the approximately 72,582 “Why” questions. I work 60-80 hours a week and I can hold my own in the office and with clients, but dealing with a 5-year-old? I think I’m out of my league! Bill laughed because he’s been there with three of his own. He tends to stay out of it as much as possible so I can get the “pleasure” of dealing with it.

Is is wrong of me to be happy to have my quiet house back?!

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9 Responses

  1. I bounce around, pout and fake cry ALL THE TIME and oddly it doesn’t get me anywhere with you either. Huh. LMT and I must get together and compare notes!

    I think something like this is no commentary on your ability or patience to parent your own child. I think it’s always different when it’s your own…even when you love the child who isn’t your own as if she was. It’s just different, somehow. That’s what I’ve heard from everyone who’s a parent any way. Because truthfully? WTF would I know on the subject?!

    Your house is quiet? Did Bill leave too? HAHA! HI BILL! 😛

    • Are you kidding?! Bill was worn out too. That’s the funny part—he sits back and watches me do the work and then acts like he’s doing me a favor, the the truth is, the old fart is tired. That 5-year-old runs his ass ragged.

      (Hi Bill! Love you!)

  2. I think you develop short-cuts when it’s your own kid. There’s none of this endless negotiation. You say no and from experience the kid knows you mean business — at least that’s the way it works if you’re consistent. The headphone thing? At the first complaint the whole kit and caboodle would have been shut off and put away. The food thing? The candy would have been removed before she even had a good look at it and she wouldn’t have even bothered to ask for candy before dinner because she’d know it would never have happened. Often it’s much more difficult for the aunts or grandparents to deal with the kids because the kids think they can get away with stuff.

    • You sound as tough as my mom was! There was no messing around with her. I’m sure it’s harder being the grandparent because I’m hesitant to discipline someone else’s kid—even if her mother allows it. Bill was probably laughing at me because he knows he wouldn’t have let it go that long.

  3. Wait until she is a teenager!! HELP!!!

  4. Oh Goodie…sounds just like my 4-year old son. Whew, I guess it is normal to act like that at this age, was starting to wonder it was only happening to me.

  5. Okay, I read this because Bill told me to. I read it out-loud for Ed. He said you need to read Calvin and Hobbes.

    Patience…it’s not easy and requires constant sedation. (Consider the source.)

    And, by the by, when the only has the sibling looming, it’s bad bad bad. Another reason your daughter-in-law let you manage it: she didn’t WANT TO.

  6. Obviously, Bill and Mo are too self-absorbed to understand what having a grandchild is all about. First of all, hello, she’s five years old. You make it sound like it’s such a bother to you that a child would want a tootsie roll. OMG, call the police! If I were LMT’s mom, why would I ever want to go back to your home and cause you such pain and anguish again.

    • Obviously, YOU’RE too self-absorbed to get the point. I know she’s five years old. And she is not anywhere near being a bother. She is the light of our lives.

      The POINT, if you actually care (and somehow I doubt that you do), is that she is adorable and smart as hell. The POINT is that raising kids is challenging and hard work. The POINT is that her parents have done an incredible job and I’m in awe of them every single day.

      The only one who seems anguished is you.

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