"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

war is not the answer

This morning I waged a war against a fierce and fearless opponent: my (almost) 3-year old. It was a war not meant to be fought; I am quite familiar with the Toddler Rules of Engagement and know very well to Pick My Battles. You are only to enter into a battle if the issue at stake involves the health, safety, or moral development of the Toddler with whom you are engaging. Not, as was the case this morning, a T-shirt.

Yup. It was epic. And it was by accident! I'm usually a very Good Mommy when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. I'm not really picky about what he wears. (I did, after all, buy the clothes....if I hadn't wanted him to wear something, I certainly shouldn't have bought it.) And he's a jeans guy, so matching outfits is easy peasy. I'll open his closet, show him two or three shirts to choose from, and Voila!, off to brush our teeth.

But not this morning. THIS morning, I had the nerve, the shear audacity, to Pick Out A Shirt For Him. But it was his Brand New, Picked Out at The Store Himself MONSTER TRUCK shirt, freshly washed and ready to wear. I thought it was a no-brainer...in fact: it was SUCH a no brainer that I didn't even give it a single thought! Just grabbed it from the hanger and called him in to get dressed.

Well. He took one look at the T-shirt laying on the floor in his room and stopped in his tracks.
Evan (instantly in fighting mode): I am NOT wearing THAT.
Me (with genuine naivete): What? The shirt?
Evan (stomping, crying, and becoming hysterical): I don't LIKE that and I'm wearing a DIFFERENT one.

Where did THAT come from? I thought we were having a nice morning....

So here's where the breakdown occurred: I could have, at this point said, "Okay. With a nice voice, please tell me that you'd like to pick out your shirt today." And the morning could have been salvaged. But no. Here's what spilled out of my mouth instead, "You're wearing this shirt. Now let's get dressed." Oh, no I didn't! As soon as the words were released into the air I recognized my mistake. It was On, and what followed that seemingly innocuous comment is what mothers everywhere can imagine with precise and excruciating detail: A wrestling match between me and my (almost) 3-year old. Me trying to get him INTO the shirt, he trying to get OUT of the shirt. There was screaming (by him, not me), kicking (by him, not me), crying (by him and the baby, not me), and gritted teeth and a Mother's Determination (by me).

And as ridiculous as I felt wrestling with a child over a shirt, I couldn't give up! Mothers everywhere will tell you that once the battle has begun, YOU MUST WIN. If you let a kid throw a tantrum to get what they want even one time, you will be causing irreversible damage to your child's emotional and moral development, and you can kiss those future college acceptance letters goodbye. It's why you can't say, "Stop or we'll turn this car around!" unless you really and truly CAN and WILL turn the car around. You can't threaten to Leave The Store This Instant unless you weren't actually planning on buying those groceries overflowing from your cart anyway. You may have unwittingly entered into this skirmish, but you must endure until the victory is yours.

Here's how ours ended:
At the conclusion of the wrestling match, size and level-headedness (remember the screaming and crying hysterics?) prevailed and the boy ended up in the shirt. I stepped away from the boy and said, with a smile (fake but present), "Okay, kiddo! Who's ready for snack?" (Remember those Toddler Rules of Engagement? Apparently, Distraction of the Opponent is a time-tested strategy that is often successful in preventing, de-escalating, and ending conflicts.) One mention of the word "snack" and the tantrum ended.

After snack, we were getting ready to leave the house. As I was putting his shoes on him, he looked down at his shirt. "Mommy, I just WUV my new monster truck shirt!"
I'm glad you do, honey.

Lesson Learned:
From now on, we'll stick with the Choice Of Two strategy of getting dressed.

No comments :

Post a Comment