There once was a girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good, she was very, very good…
But when she was bad, she was horrid…
That might be the only poetry I can actually quote by heart. I remember it from a book of well-worn short stories my mother owned called, “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories.” I believe these books were published in the early 1930s. This poem was at the beginning of a story called, “The Two Carolines.” It was a story about a little girl that was sweet as pie most of the time, but could turn into a little terror on occasion.
My mom delighted when my sister and I pored over these antiquated children’s instructional volumes in the hopes that we were soaking up all the positive behavioral lessons replete within their covers. But, I honestly believe the volumes might’ve informed my parenting style far more than my actual childhood behavior.
The story of “The Two Carolines” debunked, at least for me, any notion that there was such a thing as a “difficult child” or an “easy child.” I believe this story convinced me, no matter how good one’s children are, they’re ALL difficult.
To parent (or grandparent) effectively, one need merely employ some basic survival skills.
I’m in Texas babysitting my 3 year old granddaughter while her parents are flouncing about Europe. A concerned friend texted this morning to inquire how bedtime went last night. I responded with my typical candor.
“There were some tears, but I did manage to pull it together eventually.”
The problem is that I’m not really a, “Night Person!” I start to wind down around 6 or 7 pm, right around the hour this little gal seems to be revving up. So, yeah, I guess you could say we tussled over a few details. I postmated Chic Fil A, fetched Soy Milk and streamed Netflix Kids for her all afternoon and well into the evening. So, by 8 pm, I was depleted. Out of money, calories, apps and any shred of good humor. When I agreed to read some bedtime books, I was thinking 2, maybe 3 at the most. When she insisted on 5, I said, “No!” for the first time since I crossed the Red River…
All Hell broke loose.
As we entered a heated discussion highlighting our opposing viewpoints, I couldn’t help but notice it was MY voice that started to crack and MY eyes that brimmed with tears… I can’t believe at one point in my life I fancied I’d make a good attorney? I can’t even “lord over” a toddler with conviction, resolve and authority.
Her parents would not be pleased to hear that I’m this fragile at the helm. But, then again, they probably know. After all, they’ve been checking in regularly and I’m pretty sure there’s a hidden camera in this house connected to an app on their phones. But, I’d have to care to look.
Yesterday morning her mother texted to ask how “getting her off to school” went. It was 9 am!
I texted back, “I thought you said I didn’t have to rush her off to school in the mornings if we wanted to just relax?”
“That’s fine!” she reassured me. “Take your time!”
Truth is – I’m not really a “Morning Person!” either. Moving Heaven-and-Earth at the crack of dawn to coax a reluctant 3 year old off to Montessori Pre-school is just not my thing. They’re not going over vital information she needs to know for her ACT. With that said, my daughter did remind me the school doesn’t accept drop-offs after noon.
We skidded into the parking lot on two wheels at 11:59.
What I HAVE mostly been doing a lot of this week is focusing on the things I LIKE to do with kids. We’ve been singing and dancing and playing. We’ve also enjoyed traveling vicariously through her parents on Instagram. Well, at least that WAS enjoyable until she decided that MY IPAD was OUR IPAD and just lost it with me for, “not sharing!”
“You aspost to share with people you things Laylay fo nice!”
That’s tough to argue with. Especially when you consider the language barrier.
The language barrier presents an interesting conundrum. Before this week I would’ve bragged to anyone that I, “speak fluent 3 year old!” I am after all a veteran mother of 5. But, what I’m just now remembering is that all 3 year olds speak the same language, but with different regional/familial DIALECTS.
So…it is the same language, but it’s actually not. To remedy confusion on my part, she speaks LOUDER and SLOWER, the way my dad spoke to people in foreign countries. Now I know how all those cab drivers and waiters felt. It’s tremendously condescending. Just because I don’t speak your mother-tongue doesn’t mean I’m “stupid” or “slow!” Geez.
But, she said something to me this morning I understood clear as day…so I’m not sure why I asked for clarification. We were taking a bath together and she asked,
“Can I pee in here?”
Although I was touched by her well-bred manners and uncustomary thoughtfulness in asking first, that’s the 2nd time I’ve been forced to use that word in 48 hours. It doesn’t go over well. I get it, it’s just not Grandmotherly, but in this case I managed to stand firm.
Well…psuedo-firm. I bribed her to get out of the tub.
“Let’s go to Starbucks and get you a cake pop on your way to school!”
Wow, does that ever work! She popped right out of that tub. I have no problem bribing children to achieve my desired outcome. Besides, I wanted a latte and desperately wanted to drop her off at school for a few hours of respite.
And, what’s so wrong with that? Adults respond favorably to bribery too. I bribe myself to do almost EVERYTHING I do these days. I don’t get out of bed without the promise of coffee. I bribe myself with dessert to get motivated to work out. And…If I have to babysit my grandchildren, I promise myself a nice glass (or bottle) of Cabernet. I see nothing wrong with this method of living. My life is a non-stop bribefest of personal accomplishments.
So that’s how it’s gonna be for the next 5 days. We will have all of our collective vices (Postmates, Netflix, Disney Channel, Montessori, Starbucks, Cabernet, Soy Milk, Chic Fil A and our co-owned IPad) on constant rotation. As well as the newly downloaded Babbel App – “Speak Toddlerese In 3 Short Weeks!”
It’s called Survival.
Because when we are good, we are very, very good, but when we are bad…well…we are horrid.