Monday, December 15, 2008

Never Go Up Against a Preschooler When Death is on the Line

Do you ever catch yourself doing something and think to yourself "What in the hell am I doing?"

For me, these days, it usually has something to do with my kids and it's usually some reaction I'm having to something they've done. I don't know if it's the lack of sleep accumulated over several months (because I also neglected to mention yesteday the nagging lower back pain that has interrupted my sleep for months) or if it's just my general stress level, but sometimes I overreact. Yes. It's true. I overreact.

Take for example a couple of Saturdays ago when we went to the Atlanta Christmas parade. My stepsister's company hosts a lovely Breakfast With Santa before the parade and then gives us front-row bleacher seats for the parade itself. It's a lot of fun and this year was our fourth year attending.

Last year we got a fantastic picture of both kids with Santa.

That picture made three years in a row that I'd had the kids pictures made with Santa and frankly, I couldn't believe Punkin was so good natured about the whole experience. In the previous year she'd screamed like a banshee and I was expecting the worst last year. But nope, she was as good as gold.

When we first spotted Santa this year she jumped up and down and squealed and pointed him out to me, so I had high hopes. We went and stood in line and both kids were eyeing the little toys that Santa always gives the kids after they sit in his lap.

When it was our turn -- after twin boys who looked about 7 or 8 took FOREVER, refusing to smile and not answering Santa's questions and as the line piled up behind us -- Bubba hopped right up. I picked up Punkin and prepared to put her on Santa's other knee when she resorted to Tactic #1 in the Toddler/Preschooler Evasion Handbook: Make yourself as stiff as a board and refuse to bend your legs all while screaming at a pitch that makes dogs howl.

I appealed to reason (ha!): "Punkin, don't you want to have a great picture of you and Bubba with Santa to put with our other pictures?" She didn't say it, but her look clearly said "Hell no!"

And then I tried bribery, but with a stern tone: "Punkin, if you don't sit with Santa, Santa won't give you a toy." She looked stricken, but still refused to budge.

And that's when I caught myself. What was I doing? I was practically terrorizing my child because she wouldn't cooperate with my vision of what SHOULD be. I was so bound and determined to get that fourth consecutive year that I didn't even care that she was scared of Santa. I also realized that I was trying to make Santa look like a bad guy, for pete's sake. I realized that I looked like an ass.

So, I let it go. I realized that it really wasn't that important. What good is the picture if all I can remember about the day is the fight that I had with her over it.

"Mommy, can I have a toy?" she asked quietly.

"Sure, Punkin. Run go get one out of Santa's bag. I'm sure he won't mind."

My mom always told me to pick my battles. And I try to. It's just that sometimes you have to be right in the thick of the battle before you know which side you're on.


AndreAnna said...

"It's just that sometimes you have to be right in the thick of the battle before you know which side you're on."

Best line EVER for any parent of a toddler who was not born with the patience of a nun. I try and remind myself that the world will not come to an end if she wears her pink shoes over her sneakers.

Laurel said...

This post is perfect for me today. Although, if we are grading on the curve you would totally ace this one while my overreaction would get an F. Tonight I actually asked Griffin if he "was retarded." TERRIBLE, I know! Not only is it bad parenting, it is politically incorrect. Have I mentioned how grouchy I am today? "Please, dear God, bless him with a short memory." Tomorrow I promise to pick my battles.

Debbie said...

Good for you. I think we all get caught up at times but it is when we realize and change our direction that we really shine.

Robyn said...

That's a lesson I'm constantly having to learn!

Last year, Bear was screaming bloody murder in the picture with Santa. I didn't even bother trying to get a "good" one. It's one of our favorite pictures.

Laura said...

You are sooooooooooo not alone on this.

Katie in MA said...

Sing it, Sister. My problem, most of the time, is that I don't realize it's a battle I shouldn't have picked until it's either already over, or I'm elbow deep and I can't back down or else my kids will think I don't mean what I say. This parenting gig should come with a handbook.

Dysd Housewife said...

Amen. I have always avoided the whole "sit on Santa's lap" thing, for this very reason. :)

Burgh Baby said...

Cut yourself a little slack, ma'am. The fact that you realized what you were doing in the thick of the battle is quite the accomplishment. It's when you never figure it out that you're in trouble.

calicobebop said...

Oh, I love the Princess Bride - great quote!

As for the pictures, I completely understand. When Muffin was two I decided not to take her to see Santa because she had freaked out the year before. Not just with Santa, but with the Easter Bunny too. My mom ended up taking her behind my back though. grrr... She can pay the therapy bills. :)

Esme said...

So true. Sometimes, the battle is almost over before I realise that I'm losing the war, too...

I hope you get some decent sleep soon!

Sass E-mum said...

Very funny. It's this kind of post that inspired me to give you an award.

Anonymous said...

So true, so true. I often have to ask myself... "what am I really trying to accomplish here?" and "why do I have to control/dictate the outcome?" with my younger son (with Autism). What seems "perfect" to me may in reality be not-so-good for him. I've learned to let go of alot (A LOT of alot) and just enjoy the ride. It is so nice to hear other parents express the same. And frankly - that's when we get some of the most humorous happenings in our life!!! How lucky we are to have that!

Colleen said...

I was trying to quietly catch-up, but you had me with the Princess Bride quote. ;) Justin's actually using the Princess Bride in his big ol' fancy MacWorld presentation.

But I digress. Thankfully Cooper was small enough to just toss at Santa and laugh hysterically while he screams and Gavin cheeses appropriately. But there are plenty of other battles I've learned I need to pick/choose (like wearing Spiderman pjs 15 days in a row).