Lately my little girl has taken to staring me right in the eye, and declaring, at the top of her lungs, “I doan want to!!!” This is usually followed by a loud and insistent, “No! No! NO! No!”
This morning as we were about to walk out of the door she refused to put her coat on. She looked me in the eye and said, “I doan want to pit my coat on!! No! No! No! No!” Her little body was rigid in her refusal. She hugged the wall and didn’t break her eye contact. She was NOT putting that jacket on.
I had a couple of choices here. LOL I could force her jacket on her and carry a crying, miserable child out in to the cold. I could appeal to her reason and see if she changed her position. Or I could allow her to choose not to wear a coat.
I chose the last one. First I explained that it was VERY cold outside. I showed her that I was wearing my heaviest coat, gloves and a hat. I told her that I would carry her coat so that when she got cold she could put it on. I also reminded her that the only reason I wanted her to wear a coat was so that she would be warm. None of it moved her. LOL I gave her one last chance. “Are you ready to put your coat on now?”
“No! I doan WANT to wear my coat.”
So we left the house. I was carrying her coat and she was wearing a hat and two layers of clothes. I panicked when we first got outside and she exclaimed, “It’s nice out here.” Did I dress her too warmly? Was my experiment going to fail? Was she going to freeze from stubbornness? As we reached the end of our block a little voice said, “My hands are cold Mommy.” “Really?” I questioned. “Would you like to put your coat and your mittens on now?” “Yes Mommy. It’s cold outside.”
Sometimes I want to throttle her. LOL We are walking out of the door and I have to get her to my Mom’s and myself to work on time…or we are getting ready for bed and my patience is low… or it’s a day that ends in Y where we breathe oxygen. It makes me wanna holla when she puts her defiant hat on. I am the Mamma dang it! I know what she needs to be doing. Why can’t she just listen? And when did she become such a little person?
Here is my confession. I secretly love it when she stands up for herself. I am raising a beautiful, little brown girl and I want her to always stand up for herself. No matter how silly the stand she is taking might seem to me. “I doan want to sit in that chair. I want to sit in DIS chair.” (Yes that has happened and more than once.) She launches into her refusals, full body, full steam, fully committed to her no. She has a voice and she will use it!!!! Even at the height of my frustration I admire this little person, standing up to one of the people she loves most…fearlessly.
She doan want to.
She is pure fire. She is fighting for herself. She is fighting for what matters to her the most, in that moment. Sometimes she is too fire to even listen to me as I try to calmly explain why she must do this or that. When she gets in to her fighting stance I try to back up. I listen to her. I ask her what her objections are. I explain why I want her to do this or that and I evaluate how important this thing I’m asking her to do truly is. Do I really need to douse her fire over wearing her shirt to sleep? If Doc McStuffins is her happy place maybe I can give up the pajamas for tonight and let her sleep happy.
It’s a fine line for me. I know she needs to learn how to listen. I know she needs rules and boundaries. But I also know that she is TWO! Right now I feel it’s more important to give her a safe space to fight for herself. First she will learn to fight. She will learn to connect with what she wants, thinks, feels. Then we will teach her finesse. When she loses battles now I often tell her how and why she lost the battle. “Next time you want something you should try using please instead of yelling at Mommy.” I can see her thinking, as she cries her heart out over this lost battle. She’s so passionate.
Parenting is noisy. I’ve stopped apologizing for it. It is more important to me that I raise a child who feels heard and connected to than that she be quiet. I’m prayerful that the battles I have ceded to her will fortify her as she gets older. I hope that her screamed, “I doan want tos,” will translate in to “No I’m not ready for sex or drugs or fighting or lying.
I am water to her fire. I am bigger. I am stronger. I am smarter. I have more life experience. I could put her little fire right out. I could squelch her, drown her in liquid and watch the embers go out. I have no desire to do that.
Can someone please remind me of all of this the next time Nia doesn’t want to put her coat on and it’s 30 degrees outside?