Monday, September 26, 2011

Following in My Footsteps—by Jamie Levine

“Jayda—you are just like your mother!” Those words actually came out of my mouth the other day while I was in the midst of reprimanding Jayda for her stubborn behavior. And it’s true: She’s as strong-willed as me. It’s a trait that may serve Jayda well in the future, but as her mother, I find it extremely frustrating to deal with.

When I was a child, my mother used to joke that I should be a lawyer; I always had to get the last word in—and I always stood my ground. Who knew that my behavior would come back to haunt me—all wrapped up in a miniature version of myself? But my daughter does look exactly like me, and she does spend the majority of her non-school time with me, and I am her number one role model, so why am I surprised? I guess I’m really not.

Lately, Jayda’s stubbornness has morphed into a battle of wills between us. Everything I ask of Jayda turns into a negotiation. If I say, “it’s time for me to brush your teeth,” she says, “first you have to count to 30.” I realize that she’s trying to take control of the situation, and if her request is a simple one such as that, I comply, simply to get the task done quickly. But often, she’ll continue to make me jump through hoops: “No—not yet. I want to wash my hands first….and then you need to say, ‘pretty please with sugar on top.’” And then, Jayda may just force her mouth closed and simply refuse to get her teeth brushed despite my insistence that it has to get done. And it will get done. She never wins this battle; sometimes it even ends badly, with me forcing her mouth open and jamming the toothbrush in her mouth. When I threaten, I follow through on my threats. And when a task is non-negotiable, like picking up her toys, going to bed, or, the aforementioned teeth-brushing, I never back down. Jayda knows that…but she still never gives up. And just as predictably, a short while after Jayda has lost a battle, my teary-eyed daughter always throws herself at me sobbing and declaring, “I’m sorry, Mommy.” Then we hug, and Jayda promises to “never do that again,”…but she does.

In the past few weeks, our altercations have been escalating—and occurring over every little thing—but Jayda’s “I’m sorry, Mommy,” comes a whole lot sooner than it ever did—almost immediately. And I appreciate Jayda’s apologies—and her realization that she was wrong—as I know how difficult and embarrassing it is for children (and adults!) to admit their mistakes. But I keep trying to explain to Jayda that “just doing what Mommy asks—for once!” would be a whole lot more commendable than simply apologizing for her refusal. She keeps nodding her head…but she just doesn’t get it. Or maybe she does. Maybe she really is just like her mom…who always has to be in control. And if that's the case, boy am I in big trouble.


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