I’m writing tonight because it has been a good night. I dare not write when its a bad night, for its scary just to be here on those nights, much less relive it. Oh, its not all that serious, so settle down. We are just going through a phase. Its the “I want to do it myself” phase. Other parents will know exactly what I speak of… and some will come to know what I speak of later… and some will never know. And that is why I feel compelled to share.
When a parent describes this phase, it could be in any number of ways. I characterize it as the “I want to do it myself” phase because that is how it is expressed by Calliope. She wants to do everything herself and if not by herself, in the way that she deems it should be done. Don’t walk on that side of the hallway. Let her hold the toothbrush. She must be the one to remove the potty seat when we go to brush the teeth. Everything. Her way.
I’m fairly stubborn and I’ve had a lot of people walk all over me through the course of my life. In many ways, I think I’m too nice and I let them do so. I’m not so nice anymore. I’m older and wiser and my “nice” comes in carefully measured doses these days. Of course, when it comes to Calliope, I’m eager to give her all the nice I have been reserving. Unfortunately, she doesn’t give a rats ass about my nice when it comes to doing something her way! I laugh now, but in the moment, its unbearable. I want her to do it my way. Those of you who know me and have been around me know that I’m very specific with Calliope and I have certain expectations. And believe me, she has been an A student until recently. She used to listen well, follow directions. Now she considers everything said and decides to do exactly the opposite of what I say, whether it is a command or a plea or a suggestion. If I thought of it, she ain’t doing it.
What does she do when I insist that she does something you ask? She falls to the floor with uncontrollable crying. The kind that is immoral to ignore, no matter how good you are at seeing the truth for what it is. You’ve been had. And that is all there is to it. Time outs don’t work. Counting to three is a death sentence. If you want her to go to bed, you better pray. That is the best you can do. Even if you do everything that she has lead you to believe is the right thing to do, you will mess up somewhere along the line and get something wrong. Because she makes it up as she goes. You think you have it under control, that if you just do everything she asks and suggests, it will be fine. She will go along. Nope. Wrong. Horribly wrong. The next thing you know, 7pm is long gone. Its now time for you to go to bed and she is still going strong. What happened to the days when I could close the door when she cried and let her “cry it out”? Simple enough, she gets out of bed, all the time yelling, comes to the door and opens it and starts screaming “Daddy, Daddy Daddy… I want….” and there is nothing you can do. You can’t force her to stay in bed. Strapping a kid down is illegal. Isn’t it? I don’t know the answer to that, but I don’t think I could do it anyway. Plus, since we adopted, we are ever careful about being reported to the CPS (child protective services). I am a little worried right now about writing this down!
Bedtime is truly the real battle because we need her to go to bed and get rested for the next day’s activities. During the day, its a little easier to walk away from it and have her be distracted by something else. And of course, preschool is great too. I keep asking the teachers if she has thrown any tantrums etc… expecting the worst. Nothing. Apparently, she is a little angel.
This is about a month in. And unfortunately, bedtime has turned into a sad time for the whole family. We always start off happy and ready to go, but by the time we get to her room to put on pj’s, its all over. My thinking is that we have somehow made this a habit. Its now a part of her routine, so we have to stop it. And it might not be easy, but we have to get out of this rut. It kills me on so many levels. And for a while, I thought it was just me, but she is the same with Michael. So, we’re putting on our thinking caps and doing everything we have learned over the last thirty eight years we can to get a smooth nighttime ritual going again. We had no idea how lucky we were until this came along.
However, I do think it is a phase, and I am praying it doesn’t last much longer. I do feel a small letup from her this last week. I don’t know if its something we are doing or if she is just tired of crying all the time (please let this be the case) but she is definitely less defiant. Or, it could be that I am just getting used to it and learning to deal with it better. Who knows. All I do know is that twice this week we have been able to get her down without the huge hassle of late. And believe me when I say that is great!
The only real advice I have is for parents to go out and find that ever elusive patience pill. Then once you figure that part out, talk to your child. Explain the ins and outs of the situation. Take another pill, explain some more. I have found that the explanations sometimes work. Mostly as a distraction from her wants. Also, don’t focus too much on the thing that she wants, because she doesn’t know what she wants. She wants to be in control. She wants to understand. She wants to go to bed because she is so tired she can’t think straight. Oh wait, thats me. Or is it? She is definitely confused and is having a hard time understanding the ability to make decisions for herself. It haunts her and its so very hard to watch her go through the emotions. She doesn’t understand what she is doing or why. And its hard for her to emotionally deal with this confusion. I will say that this phase has lead to a lot of bruises and scrapes because she insists on doing something herself, and because I let her. She has fallen down the driveway more times than I have fingers. She doesn’t cry very often because she often understands that she fell because she wouldn’t let me help her. Its a very steep driveway, by the way. I think this has been helpful. She is starting to understand that the reason I tell her to do something, or not do something, is out of love and concern. But its taken a long time. And she is still fighting the good fight, determining which things I can “tell her” to do and those she can decide for herself. And of course, I’ve come a long way too. The important thing is to guide those choices carefully so that she comes to a place where she feels empowered to make decisions for herself but still understands the concept of authority (parental). Sure, I want her to be independent. But I also want her to do as I ask. Even if what I ask seems unrealistic. As with everything, its a fine line we walk.