17 Mar Not Hot, Hot Chocolate
I was woken out of a sound slumber by a 4 ft, 7 year old telling me that I was supposed to go downstairs and turn on the TV for her. It was still dark.
We were in Dallas with the in-laws and the kids had decided that sleeping was for losers. My wife was attempting to get our younger girl, H, back to sleep and had sent, F to watch TV in order to get her out of the room, as she was keeping the younger one awake and exasperating my wife.
I wasn’t in all that bad a mood but I was sleepy and wasn’t really inclined to jump at her command. So she barked a whiny “C’mon- mom said you’d turn it on!!” I didn’t snap at her, but I did wonder out loud if perhaps yelling at me wasn’t the best strategy for getting me to do her bidding. At this she stomped out of the room to get a pillow from the other room- the one that her mother was trying to get her sister to sleep in. Let’s just say she didn’t go all that gently into the room, and that she happened to ask her mom at full volume where her sweater was.
For her entire existence F has been… difficult. For the first 3 months of her life I spent the hours of 3 am to 6 am walking around the kitchen table with her to stave off the wailing that would pick up if I slowed to below 5 miles an hour. When she was 2 and a half she led an insurrection during nap time at her daycare that led to the assistant quitting. Last year, 1st grade, had seen a robust flourishing of defiance and anxiety. She has powerful emotions… and charisma. She can charm the pants off most people, but she has decided that she didn’t need to bother using charm on her parents or sister. Instead she relies on brute force. By the time she woke me up in Dallas I was pretty sick of it. So was her mom.
A few minutes after she re-woke her sister with her full volume sweater request we had a family meeting to discuss the proper way to handle these difficult situations. One of the reasons that the kids didn’t sleep so well was excitement. The big plan for the day was to go shopping at Toys r Us. In our little family meeting I brought up the idea that I wasn’t so sure that going shopping for toys was the best idea since the girls were already fighting viciously over the new toys they had gotten. When this discussion turned ugly I couldn’t exactly lose face by letting her go that day. I made it clear that she might get to go in the future if she figured out how to treat others with respect. I made it clear that she wasn’t going that day.
Desperate is probably the best adjective to describe her subsequent behavior. For the next hour and a half I was treated to exasperated begging coupled with alternating promises of a new improved girl. Even if I had wanted to let her go, if only to shut her up, I knew that I couldn’t. It would only empower her. After I calmly explained to her that if she brought it up even one more time she wouldn’t be going at all on the trip she got a look of steely determination on her face and glared at me. I knew what was coming but wasn’t sure how to stop it, so I didn’t.
We were sitting at the dining room table, which oddly enough sits on a pristine white wall to wall carpet. F picked up her cup of hot chocolate (which was only luke warm) with a cold deliberateness and walked the three steps over to my seat. I ignored her as she slowly, and without passion, poured it on my head. The grandparents were reading the paper at the same table and didn’t even notice as I slowly backed off the carpet towards the kitchen carefully containing the drips with my hands to make sure they didn’t sully the brilliant white rug.
I succeeded in saving the carpet, but my sweater was soaked. My daughter was waiting for an explosion, but I wouldn’t give it to her. “Go to your room”. She vaguely protested but one powerful look sent her scurrying.
I had a dog that was a bit territorial. More than once he peed on another dog that wasn’t even worth fighting. I had the sense that my daughter was trying to establish her dominance. I saw it coming and I knew that it was an opportunity to turn things around. F went to the room but immediately started hard core lobbying to still go to Toys R Us. She was wailing but I left her in there. It was kind of shocking that she would even consider asking after what she had done, but I also saw a light at the end of the tunnel in her desperate behavior. When she had failed to get a reaction out of me she panicked because she knew that something different was going on.
The grandparents were pretty freaked out by the whole situation, and they split. My wife and I gathered up the kids and headed out to lunch on the way to go ice skating. The walk to lunch was a little shaky. F was still wailing a bit about how awful her parents are etc, etc. However, about halfway through lunch things turned around , and we actually had fun ice skating at the mall.
She never did get to go to Toys r Us, her grandparents think we need counseling (they’re probably right), and things have slowly improved over the last few days. This morning F was nice, responsive, and sweet. she ran into school calling, “I love you”, and I felt better about things than I have in years. A little hot chocolate on my head wasn’t such a high price to pay.