She fights me every day. My 4 year old, that is. Her will is iron, and her natural inclination is rebellion (whose isn’t?). “I’m not going to” and “No, I don’t want to” frequently pass her lips. It doesn’t matter what it is or is not, she does the opposite of what her daddy and I ask.
“You’re going to preschool today!”
“No, I don’t want to!” she says. And we fight. I ask her to get dressed. She tells me no. She wants me to dress her. And I’m wearied and tired and my hands fumble to snap up the baby’s sleeper and zip the toddler’s jacket and throw a pair of sweats on myself.
“You can dress yourself,” I lament. “Please, just get yourself dressed!”
And she counters that she wants mommy to do it.
She can sense my frustration mounting but she persists. I give in–begrudgingly. I jerk at her pajamas and quickly clothe her.
She does this on her own when she wants to. I think. But when I want her to–when I need her to because I need to dress myself and the other two, she refuses.
Now some may read this and rebuke me for letting my 4 year old control me like this. “She should be getting herself dressed every day–no questions asked.” “You need to have her trained better.” “You need to show her you are in control.”
Yes, I know these things. I do. We’re working on this. It is not easy. And no child–no child–is the same.
You do not parent my child. I do. Her will has been strong since birth. Her sisters are more prone to comply.
She just wants attention.
After all, her 4 short years have been rocked with 6 moves–including one out of the country–and the birth of two baby sisters.
And when I heard the news the other day–about the Connecticut elementary school massacre–where many of the children killed were probably less than a year older than she–I thought about my little iron-clad baby.
I thought about how so often I wake with her crowded in between my husband and me–having entered our bed again, even though she’s supposed to stay in her own.
I thought about how I drop her at preschool three mornings per week–entrusting her to someone else.
I thought about how each morning starts. How we fight.
My mind’s eye went back to the previous morning’s getting ready. Did we struggle? Did I hug her enough? Did I kiss her? Did we reconcile before I dropped her off?
For all the things I do wrong as a mother–and they are many–one thing I think I do right is always strive to reconcile with my children when there has been some kind of disagreement between us.
Some may say this is undermining my authority–especially when I have a child who already so enjoys being in control. Some would say this is showing my children my weaknesses–when they ought to only see my strengths.
But here’s the thing: I am weak. I am fallen. I am human–like they.
I think I honestly didn’t “get” this about my own parents until well into my adulthood. I married thinking my own parents were perfect. And how that rose-colored-glasses philosophy hindered my marriage when I quickly realized my husband, my new authority, was not.
I want my children to see my own imperfection. I want them to learn the practice of reconciliation. I want them to see me ask forgiveness when I have disciplined in anger–even if they needed the discipline.
I want to start and end each day with hugs and kisses and I love yous.
I don’t want to let anything be left unsaid.
And when I woke this morning, with the babe nursing on one side and big sisters’s long and lean 4-year-old legs entangled with mine and freshly-cut, self-inflicted bangs nuzzled against my husband’s shoulder, I took hold of her hand and thanked the Lord she was there.
And when she asked me to dress her, I did. And when she said firmly she could put on her own tights and zip her own dress, I let her try, until in frustration she asked me to help again.
Sleepless nights, frustrating mornings and all: What does it really matter in the end…when she is here.