May 24, 2013

Go Big or Go Home

When my husband and I had children, we didn't just reproduce ourselves (boy and girl); we apparently cloned ourselves. Our son is my husband's exact personality; our daughter is my mini-me. There are wonderful aspects of this, since my husband can interpret for the boy and I can interpret for the girl.

The girl needs a lot of interpreting.

I am strong willed, and it's safe to say that none of it was diluted in the next generation. I watched her pull herself up into a sitting position on my lap when she was only six weeks old. She started walking around one year, and life got crazy. I didn't finish a single book for six weeks--and I read voraciously, as many as ten books a week. Her first sentence was, "I do it myself." She is rarely easy, laid-back, low-energy, or convenient. Heaven only knows what life will be like when this child can drive! I've lost count of how many times I have called my mom to thank her for letting me live.

Our girl isn't malevolent or even rebellious; she just needs to be convinced in her own mind that what you say is, in fact, true; she also will test to make sure YOU are as committed to what you're saying as you need to be. Her creativity will find loopholes you never knew existed, so that when it seems to YOU that she's disobeyed, she really just spotted a flaw in your logic. Giving her permission for a 2-block walk? She took a 4-block walk by herself, because I hadn't specifically said it had to be 2 blocks and no more. Her next walk was restricted to a one-block walk as part of her consequences--so she went around that one block three times.

Time and time again I marvel, wondering how parents who DON'T have a strong-willed mindset manage not to kill their strong-willed kids. Without knowing how she thinks, it would be easy for me to have thought she was deliberately defying me. Because my brain works the same way, I know her reasoning went the direction of, "I want a walk that's longer than this, but I can't cross any streets or go farther than one block. [Enter the creative problem-solving.] I know! I'll just go around the block multiple times. Everyone's happy!" Instead of snapping at her, I was able to calmly explain that going on a one-block walk meant going around that block one time. I fully expect that she'll experiment to see if there are any time restrictions on how long she takes to circle the one block, by the way. It just hasn't occurred to her yet. It will. She may also trying going around the one block backwards. Or blind-folded. Or on her hands and knees. Or without any clothing.

She goes big or she goes home. Every time up, she is fully committed to whatever her course of action is. It takes effort, energy, and argument to convince her, and you cannot get her to do anything without her agreement. Once she has chosen, though, an entire line of cannon wouldn't get her to recant. She is capable of standing solo against an army.

God created her like this for a reason. We may bear the brunt of bending this will now, but one of the worst things I could do to her is convince her that her creative problem-solving is wrong or that she's impossibly stubborn and won't ever get anything done. Her problem-solving abilities are ones that any number of corporations or creatives would kill to have. She doesn't think outside the box; she's never recognized that a box existed. Her strength of will may be what has her blow the whistle on her corporation someday. It may give her the courage to confront an authority figure with truth on the scale that the prophet Nathan did for King David of Israel.

This courage, this creativity, are absolutely worth fighting for, worth keeping.

Tonight before supper, my princess agreed with her daddy that she would finish all the food on her plate so that she could be the one to pray before the meal. I wondered about the wisdom of it at the time, but it matters to me that our kids have their own relationship with their dad, so said nothing. When supper ended, our girl wasn't nearly done. We had a quick parental confab in the bedroom, and I walked my best friend through how to fight this battle. No engagement, no comments (of the regular, pointed, "You need to finish your supper!" sort), and that we would both keep our distance. I knew at the beginning that bedtime (usually 7) would be off the table. We started supper a little before six, and it's now after 7:50. She's still sitting at the table.

These aren't an every day phenomenon anymore, but they do happen often. I know that if I stay at the table with her, my anger will rise. I know that the more angry and in-her-face I am, she will think the fight is against me instead of within herself. The best thing I can do is disengage: go to another room, find a chore to do, and move on with my life. I only know this because of how my brain works.

When she is done (which could take anywhere from 5 minutes more to another 2 hours; I'm prepared for the fight to go as late as 11), we'll get her into her pajamas, have her brush her teeth, and tuck her into bed. There's no punishment, no consequence, and no residual bitterness from us. Then we will both collapse into bed ourselves!

If you have a strong-willed child and are not one yourself, allow me to thank you. Know that many of the things that drive you insane from day to day are offshoots of the very traits that could allow your child to change the world--it certainly isn't going to force change on them!

Hang in there. The fight is worth it, I promise.

1 comment:

Leah said...

Some day God will use her for that incredibly difficult task with completely eternal rewards - that of raising a child with an iron will while respecting her God-given temperament, and becoming more Christlike in the process herself. God bless you, Susan.