One minnow. Couple mice.

Ah, parenting a two-year-old. Good, good times.

I’m spending a lot of my time these days wishing I hadn’t taught him this, that, and the other. Mostly the dialogue bit. As K.D. says, why did I ever teach this kid to talk?

I long ago introduced compromise to Peanut’s vocabulary, a negotiating skill that gets me out of feeling like I’m caving, and gets him in a position that he thinks is powerful. “Mommy says all done and you say more. So let’s compromise. One more minute, then all done.” Yet for every time that a compromise works, there’s another time that I rue the day I taught him the concept. It’s not like knowing how to compromise will give him any social advantage later in life, or anything.

After an hour and a half at the library, he wanted more and I wanted to go. I was cranky, I was hungry, and I just couldn’t drink one more cup of pretend water from the library’s new play kitchen. I can’t. I’m pretend waterlogged.

So.

“Time to go.”

“One minnow.”

“You want one more minute to play?”

“Huh.”

“And after one minute, when mommy says time to go, you’ll say yes?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. One minute.”

[dum dee dum dee dum]

“Okay one minute is all done. Time to go.”

“One minnow.”

“One minute is all done. Time to go.”

“Mommy couple mice.”

“I did compromise. You had one more minute. Now all done. Time for car.”

“One minnow. Couple mice. One minnow. One minnow library. One minnow books. One minnow ‘tend kitchen.”

“All done library. Time for lunch. Time to go.”

“Mommy couple mice.”

“Mommy did compromise. And, need I remind you, you compromised, too. You said that after one minute if I said time to go you’d say yes. You have to uphold your end of the bargain or compromise won’t work.”

(At this point, a previously kindly-looking elderly lady is giving me a look. Not completely nasty, but appropriately sprinkled with “are you crazy?” Because, seriously, I talk that way to a two-year-old when I’m flustered. Not good parenting, granted. See previous posts for self-aware declarations that I have a long way to go—my methods aren’t ideal, but they aren’t soda in a sippy cup and regular beatings, so…)

He’s almost crying now.

“Mommy, couple mice. One minnow.”

I try not to laugh. I would honestly LOVE to trade a couple mice for one minnow, rather than have this conversation. But mice squish easily and I don’t carry around a pocket full of freaking fish, so, let’s go.

Here come the big guns:

“Well, you can choose to take one more minute, but I’m leaving. I’m hungry. It’s time to go and time for lunch.” Turn, walk.

“MOMMEEEEEE. Come! Coming!”

I turn around and sweetly say, “I know. I’m waiting for you.”

I suck. I’m awful. But I’m noticing a lot of parents using the same tactic. If you don’t do it my way I’ll abandon you. Raising some good, well adjusted citizens, we are. Nothing keeps marriages, companies, and democracy together like threatening dissenters with abandonment.

But it got me to lunch, so I’m okay with it today. I’ll search for alternatives tomorrow.

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“No Mommy clews sraw.”

Peanut’s accelerating search for independence and control is really quite awesome.

Yesterday he was coloring and asked, please, for a cup of water. I got a cup, half-filled it with water, debated a lid, and reached for a straw. My hand collapsed back toward my body, slapped back by my half-addled brain that reminded me grabbing a straw would get me in big, big trouble. (If I ever make the mistake of taking on one of his roles, like pushing the blender buttons or putting the clean silverware away, or hanging the key on its hook, or pushing the car alarm button, I am chided very quickly and borderline hysterically. “Noooooooo! No Mommy turn. No. stop. my. turn!” Country Mama swears this sounds like, “no suck my toe!” and is still deciding whether to question the conversations Spouse and I have with Peanut when she’s not there.)

So now I know that anytime I’m fetching a drink for Peanut I have to let him choose his own straw. And not just ask what color. Offer the whole selection, and not touch any of them. Peanut had already forgotten the water (a welcome change from the normal script wherein he asks thirty-two times even if mom has patiently said yes to the first thirty-one). So I asked. “Peanut, would you like to choose your water straw?”

He turned to me and let a gorgeously bright smile spread across his face. “Yes. Pl-ease.” He seemed so happy that I remembered what was important to him. If felt quite yummy to be so appreciated and to know what was important in his life.

Sure, it drives me nuts that I’m usually asked (nay, told) to patiently watch him touch them all and play a bit and choose one (while every cell in my body screams, “It’s just a freaking straw! Pick one! If you’re really thirsty the color won’t matter!)

But today it was really nice to watch him feel completely in control of what goes in his body, how it goes in, when it comes out, and where it comes out. It seems that all the work it took to show him we respect his wishes and choices whenever possible finally made him realize that we do respect what he has to say and what’s important to him.

Aaaah.

Can’t wait until he does the same for us.