“Five.” She refuses.
“Four.” She kicks her bed.
“Three.” She throws her shirt at me.
“Two.” She tries to hit me.
I turn, pull the string to her ceiling fan, and the hysterics commence. I ignore her despite every part of my being reaching back in her direction, wanting to hug her, calm her, make her giggle, but instead I swoop up her baby brother & my water, and quickly leave her room. Though my heart is racing, I appear calm. I’m really trying.
In between the enraged screams and frustration fueled kicks are the desperate cries, “MOMMY! MOMMY! TURN ON THE LIGHT! MOMMY!” The words cut deep, opening my heart, and spilling its pieces on the floor.
There is no story time. I got down to 1.
And it hurts. It really REALLY hurts. It hurts because I want to read her stories. I want to lie on her butterfly covered twin bed cuddled up both our heads occupying the same pillow while I read her princess tale after princess tale. I want to watch the way she tilts her head up to glimpse at the pages I am holding above us. I want to catch her looking at me after she quickly rests her face back down against the pillow, before allowing her heavy eyelids to close as she continues listening to the words we both have memorized. It hurts because I know I’m depriving her of something that is beneficial. I know story time has fostered her love of books, of reading, and she should do well in the future because I read to her now. It hurts because I truly do not want to be in the position of disciplinarian. Why can’t she just listen the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th time…? It hurts because ignoring my crying, devastated child, goes against every motherly instinct so deeply woven inside me. And it hurts because right now she only understands me to be the reason for her sadness. Yet, I try so diligently, every single day, to be the reason for her happiness.
But I got down to 1….
I know that if I do not stand my ground, the “count down” will no longer hold any clout. I know this because I had given in, gone back on my word, too many times. And I had lost my authority over my 2 year old. “Time-outs” were mocked or just blatantly ignored. I had become the pushover parent full of empty threats. I had a toddler who was asserting her own control and refusing to listen to my requests in a variety of situations, dangerous situations. I know my children need to respect me. Part of earning that respect from them is standing by my word. And so the count-down began because I simply can’t survive motherhood being a pushover.
As I fill up her Dora sippy cup with water, I remember when my parents used to tell me, “this is harder on me than it is on you.” Of course, I did not believe them. I believed they were getting some sick enjoyment out of denying me whatever it was at that moment that would bring me contentment; because they were the assholes -not me. Now, as it has happened many times before, I realize in my own parental angst that they were telling the truth. So I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and I make a mental note to apologize to them-again.
I can’t get back upstairs soon enough, but I go unrushed and say a prayer on the way.