Friday, May 9, 2014

Parenting A Princess

Those of you who read the blog regularly, know that I have daily battles with both girls about what they're going to wear.  I want to be clear that these battles have nothing to do with me needing to exert control over them at the micro-level.  I don't care if what they put on matches.  I mean... when they come out with a pink shirt, lime green leggings and an orange skirt, I don't bat an eye. The other day, The Bean came out with her swimsuit on top of her jeans and shirt and I was just:  "Okay!  Ready to go?" Because otherwise, I'd never leave the house.  And I get it... there's so few things that they have control over, why can't they dress themselves?  Fine.  I'll roll with the punches as long as the punches are appropriate and don't hurt anyone.

Which is why I haven't brushed The Bean's hair in about a week. 

The problem arises because The Bird insists on wearing dresses every. damn. day.  It doesn't matter if it's raining or snowing or her face is on fire.  She wants to wear a dress.   I've accommodated her obsession by setting up ground rules that if it's raining, snowing or is cold outside, she has to wear leggings and a long sleeved shirt under the dress.  She's been somewhat okay with this agreement, but every once in a while, the wheels would fall off and we have a knock-down, drag-out fight.  This is usually because the leggings she wants to wear are nowhere to be found and those are clearly the ONLY leggings that she will allow to be worn with that dress.  And no... she doesn't want to wear another dress.  She wants to wear THIS dress and only THIS dress.  When I innocently ask if I should just get rid of the other dresses if she's not going to wear them, her face does, in fact, go up in flames. And at this point, I'll acknowledge it's really my fault that our morning veered so far off the track.  Because I am a stupid, stupid woman who is just stupid with the stupid questions. 

To further ruin our mornings, I've also put stipulations about what types of dresses she can wear to school each day.  Meaning that the super, fancy dress used for school performances is not an every day school type of dress.  Which drives her nuts.  She wants to dress up to the nines all. the. live. long. day... week... month... year.

There is no stopping this obsession.  It's like me with chocolate.  Only more maddening because chocolate is amazing and her dresses are the bane of my existence.

But here's the real problem.  It's not that she's wearing dresses.  I can live with the wearing of the dresses.  One of the reasons I loved summer when the kiddos were younger was the ease in which I could throw them into a dress and just be on our way.  No muss, no fuss.  And yes, the argument could be made that I've brought this on myself. And that argument will end with my punching you in your solar plexus because I. KNOW!

So, no... it's not that she's wearing dresses.  It's her behavior when she's wearing the dresses that makes me want to  put my finger through my eye, into my brain and swirl it around.  I'm not a fan. I've noticed that when she gets to wear her fancy dresses, or really any of her dresses, she doesn't want to play outside.  She'll stay in her room and change into 15 different dresses TWICE until she finds one she likes and then come out for 30 seconds before going back in and changing.  She hardly ever goes outside to enjoy nature and... what the hell is that yellow thing in the sky?  The sun???  And if she does go outside, she doesn't play like a kid is supposed to play.  She sits there demurely and watches other kids play.  She has princessized herself to the point that she isn't being a kid.  She's being a lump on a log, looking down at the other kids playing while she sits on her throne and blows on her nails while demanding I go grab her a sippy cup because she's parched. This is how I imagine Paris Hilton was as a child.  And so help me, God... I am not raising a Paris Hilton.  Death first!

The attitude that comes out when she is in princess mode is absolutely unbearable.  Holy mother of a headless goat, is she out of control. Even when she's not actually in the dress, she still has this insolent, spoiled princess attitude and makes demands the likes of which I, the 37-year-old with a college degree and a career, cannot and WILL NOT abide by.  Anymore. Mostly because she didn't say please.  But also because contrary to her belief, I'm not her servant and she can go get the damn sippy cup herself.

It is fair to say that I have not handled this phase of her beautiful childhood well.  In fact, last month I caught myself asking her if her legs were broken and if that's why she couldn't go get the blanket on the other side of the room?  You know... where she put it 30 seconds ago.  Because that's the adult way to handle something with your 4-year-old:  Sarcasm.

I also refuse to do things for her that I know she can do.  Like brush her teeth, chew her food and swallow her water for her.  Over the last few months, I have threatened her with taking away her dresses in order for her to understand that the behavior is just not acceptable.  I always give her a "last warning" and then forget that I've given her a last warning before giving her another "last warning".  And another.  And another.  Until my child has figured out that I apparently don't have the balls to take away her dresses because I don't want to deal with the ensuing nuclear fall out.

But last week... last week I'd had enough. Full disclosure, I was not at the top of my game last week.  I had been traveling. I was tired. I was irritable.  So, my handling of the situation was less than desirable. I admit this. And I'm sharing it with you anyway. Because that's what bravery looks like in 2014.  

To set the scene, let me explain that The Bird has rather sensitive skin and from time to time, we have to put lotion on the back of her hands to prevent some pretty painful dry skin issues.  As I was putting her to bed, I broke out the lotion that we use and was taken aback when she flipped out.  Her Highness was having NONE of it.  I asked, begged, pleaded and cajoled her until the little timer in my brain - the one labeled 'I've Had Enough of This Shit' - went off.

And cue the excellent parenting in 3-2-1:

"Alright!  We can either put on the lotion and you keep your dresses...  Or, I take away the dresses and THEN I STILL PUT ON THE LOTION. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO?  EITHER WAY... YOU'RE GETTING LOTION!!!!"  

Sounds super Silence of the Lambs, doesn't it?

Given my previous history, it's no wonder she decided to take the risk that I wouldn't follow through.  Except... yea, I did.  I may have been overly dramatic as I grabbed her dresses out of the closet, tripping on her dolly stroller on the way out of her room and throwing them into my room.  I may have scared her as I picked up the dresses that fell out of the first load and threw them in my room with the rest of them.  But that was it.  I was done.  D-O-N-E. Done.

Of course, the consequence for my consequence was miserable for everyone.  She was heartbroken. I was a huffing, puffing monster angry over lotion.  LOTION. Yea, I was mad... but seeing my little girl so heartbroken?  Not my favorite memory.  I was Mother Gothel, Ursula the Sea Witch and Malificent all rolled into one.

It isn't my best look.

Once we had both calmed down, we had a heart-to-heart.  I explained to her that her behavior was no longer going to be tolerated.  I had to explain behavior and tolerated to her, so that took an additional LIFETIME, but we got there.  I then explained that she would get her dresses back.  Some day.  But she would have to earn those dresses. Meaning she needed to be on her best behavior.  She needed to do what I asked. She needed to be kind to her sister and be happy.  No more crying over what she wanted to wear in the morning. And then... well, then we'd see.

The next morning, she woke up and asked if she could have her dresses back.  Because she missed them.  Cue the clarification that being on your best behavior while you slept didn't count and she'd get her dresses back after she proved that she deserved her dresses.

That was a week ago.  And in that week... OMG has this child been the best kid ever. And not just because she's trying to get her dresses back.  She was playing like kids are supposed to do.  Climbing trees, riding her bike, getting dirty, picking up garter snakes, playing with the dog and her sister... all without worrying about getting her dress dirty or tearing the fabric when it got caught on a branch.  She even started wearing her sneakers again... without complaining. 

Is it bad that I like my kid better when she doesn't have dresses?  My mornings were amazing for an entire week (minus the meltdowns over the placement of her piggy-tails... but cutting her hair seems like it would be too traumatizing for both of us so we'll just have to figure something else out).  

I won't lie... I have considered NEVER giving her dresses back.  Again... not because I'm anti-dress.  I'm just anti-princess-attitude and I'm pro-mud-pies, pro-snake-wrangling, pro-scrape-your-knees, pro-run-through-the-sprinklers-fully-clothed, pro-climb-a-tree, pro-bike-riding and pro-Get-Out-And-Live.  All things that the princess wasn't doing.  Until last week.

Yesterday I got my Mother's Day gift from The Bird.  She made it at school and drew the pictures all by herself.  She was very proud of it.

As I read the story about why she loves me out loud, I almost choked on the third point.  I was further taken down a notch when she corrected what her lovely teacher had so clearly edited for my benefit:

"No mommy!  You take away my dresses and MAKE me go to sleep.  MAKE!"


The Bird got her dresses back today.

Because I think we have all learned our lesson.

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