Friday, July 20, 2012

The Stand-Off

Many memories from raising Drew have already faded into the shadowy places of my recollection.  I don't really remember when he started potty training or exactly how long it took to accomplish that milestone.  I don't recall how old he was when he began sleeping through the night or which solid foods were his first favorites.

But some memories, some milestone moments are apparently in more readily-available mental storage spaces.

As was the case tonight.

It was a simple command.  Part of a nightly routine.  We'd finished dinner and a little bit of play time before I advised my daughter (as I do every night) that it was bath time.   What normally follows is a race to the bathroom where she's allowed to choose whether she wants a shower or a bath.  Tonight, though, she mistakenly assumed there was a choice "C".  So, when I announced bath time, she threw her pacifier on the ground and her body on the floor.

I stood her up and directed her face toward mine.  "It's bath time, Miss M."  Her lips pursed.

"Say Yes Ma'am."

Nothing.  Her eyes avoided mine.

Oh yes... the memories flooded back in a deluge of similar situations with one tow-headed, strong-willed young Drew.  As a first time parent, I'd usually stumble unaware into a stand-off with that boy.  Sometimes it was over a snack, or an owed apology or an outfit choice.  But it always played out the same way.  He'd draw his battle line and refuse to budge.   I learned quickly how important those little battlegrounds were in shaping his boundaries.  So I'd take my place, kneeling on my side of the line, eyes meeting his, determined to win.

With Drew, it was heartbreaking and scary sometimes to choose to fight for his obedience and respect.  I would repeat my demand over and over again, a stoic broken-record on the outside and a bundle of nervous second-guessings on the inside.  "Say you're sorry."  Nothing.  "You must say you're sorry."  "NO!"  "Say you're sorry."  It would go on like that forever.  He'd try every response except the one I needed.  Defiance, tears, tempers, and negotiating.

I remembered thinking that I was probably screwing one of us up big time.  I remembered wondering why he couldn't just say those words or eat the raisins or simply put on a pair of pants.  I remembered fearing that his fierce determination (or mine) would draw out our stand-off for hours, or worse, that I might just give in eventually.

But by God's grace, I also remembered tonight that those moments were by all means worth the effort.  They began a journey that, although it still requires daily maintenance, is moving Drew in the right direction toward becoming an obedient and respectful young man.

So, I shored up my resolve for this skirmish with my daughter.

"It's time for your bath.  Say Yes Ma'am."
Her eyes searched for a safe place (any place but mine) to land.

"It's time for your bath.  Say Yes Ma'am."
Now her gaze was locked on mine.  I could see she was searching for her out.

"It's time for your bath, Miss M.  Say Yes Ma'am."
"NO!" she wailed and began to sink back down to the carpet.

A firm hand propped her up again and even Daddy was drawn from his kitchen clean-up to watch the drama unfolding.

"It's time for your bath.  I need you to say Yes Ma'am."
Tears pricked her eyes and she opened her mouth wide to let out three giant sobs.

"It's time for your bath.  Say Yes Ma'am."
"Can I please have my paci, mommy?"

"It's bath time Miss M.  I need you to say Yes Ma'am."
She breathed deeply and held up her white flag.  "Yes Ma'am."

We hugged, and she got her pacifier.  She immediately reached up for my hand and held my fingers tight as we made our way to the bathroom.  Within five little steps in the right direction, she began singing a song from Vacation Bible School, and by the time we reached the bathroom, she was giggling over which bath toy she'd play with tonight.

I don't like this part of parenting.  Not one bit.  But I am comforted by the familiarity of this road.  Surviving the confrontations with Drew seasoned this warrior a little bit.  I'm not as fearful of screwing her up.  And I am firm in my resolve... the battles for the obedience, respect, and hearts of my children is one worthy of the struggles.

I'm guessing the lesson was still fresh on Miss M's mind tonight as I announced bedtime; I was met by one smiling, compliant, eager little girl.  I'll take it.  Experience tells me to rest up, because once the dust settles, it'll just give her a better view of where to drawn her next line in the sand!