I wrote yesterday about my little dude. I described him as rambunctious and mischievous, etc. All true. And while the consensus is that he is not a bad or mean child by any means, these traits do make him my more difficult to manage child. His 15 month younger sister….well, she’s the easy one. Not better. Just easier. Most of the time. All rules have their exceptions. The exception for my little princess is dinner time.
During the day, the princess is generally compliant, easy going, and if she steps out of line (she is 3 years old after all) a simple “do you need to go to your room?” will suffice. I call her my angel or my princess. She’s not perfect. No child is. And I’m really not saying it to indicate perfection. She told me one day, very sternly I might add, that she was no angel. True! And perhaps my term of endearment will be just another thing she talks to her therapist about one day. But she really is an easy child.
During the day, she certainly does things that make a busy mom frustrated. She has a huge imagination and, thus, she often ignores me, opting instead to continue what ever story she is making up at the moment. She loves stuff animals and we often disagree about how many she should take on any outing. Then, prying them from her hands so I can get a shirt on her or her car seat strapped up can be ridiculously difficult. But, to me, that’s kid’s stuff. It’s not disobedience or defiance. It’s just she has her child agenda of play and I have my adult agenda of taking them to school on time or going grocery shopping, etc.
During the day, the most frustrating part of parenting my princess is generally when she doesn’t have a nap and gets cranky and fussy. She’s not perfect. She’s not better or nicer or more lovable than her brother! But during the day, she just doesn’t get my dander up much.
Now to that exception. Dinner time. Daddy has usually just arrived home. Isn’t he lucky that he got to miss all the easy stuff and shows up in time for the exception? It begins with just getting her to the table. First comes the ignoring and continuing playing. Eh, like I said before, I generally chalk such behavior up to kid’s stuff, but this has become such a well choreographed dance, my blood pressure often begins to rise at this point. Then, she will nicely decline dinner. Then, when I make it clear that I wasn’t merely offering, she gets a little less nice in her declaration that she will not be joining us. Eventually, some how or another, she will make her way to the table. She rarely, however, just gets up in the chair and sits. No, no, she will lay on the chair. Or maybe stand on the chair. Or perhaps crawl under the chair. Anyhow, some sort of physical statement will be made indicating her decision to not properly join in on this nightly custom.
Then comes the plate of food in front of her. It’s always exciting (can you read my sarcasm) to see how it will be greeted. It’s never, ok, never say never, RARELY a warm and happy greeting. And for those reading who just see the day-time princess, let give some examples, because you may be surprised. Some of my most memorable responses are: the plate being pushed across the table, a loud “YUCKY” or “NOOOOO!” coming from this child that I have called angel all day, a stuffed animal being plopped down in the middle of the plate. Well, you get the idea.
Then comes the moral decision of to pray or not to pray. I know, this should not be a hard decision, but because of the drama that generally comes along with the prayer, we often skip it. Sorry, God! When a prayer occurs, the way we do it is to let each child say a prayer of his/her choosing. We tend to let little dude go first, oldest first. But, of course, this can cause a fight. Then, the children are quite fickled as to whether or not they want others to join them in their prayer. And it never fails, on the night that little dude wants to say his prayer solo, the princess wants to join in. On the night little dude wants the rest of the family to participate, the princess will refuse. Then, it’s the princess’s turn. She has one prayer she always says. She’s made it up. It has nothing to do with God or thankfulness or blessings or anything else one might associate with a prayer before meal time. The words to her prayer are easy enough, though. They are “horsey, horsey every where.” But not once. Not twice. She will repeat these words until Dad and/or I say amen loud enough that she finally gives up. Now, we are not critical of the content of her prayer. Little dude was once, and I quickly told him that God likes us to talk to him about anything, even horseys. It’s the length that’s the problem. It’s the fact that it’s quite clear at this point that the horsey prayer is just another trick in her dinner-time playbook.
After the prayer, if we’ve been that brave, comes the princess playing with her food. Little dude is often happy to join in. There’s the up and down out of her chair. She has a million reasons. She has to potty. She wants to give me a hug. She needs to get a toy. The dog is bothering her. Oh she has an imagination and when she wants to, she can use it for evil! Eventually, Dad usually ends up feeding this nearly 4 year old two or three bites, whatever has been negotiated that night, and then she is sent skipping out of the room and Dad and I collapse on the table from exhaustion.
Now, you may ask yourself, and rightly so, why we don’t change up the game a bit. Well, we try, but thus far, she has proven to be the more skillful opponent. Our latest attempt was to send her to her room until she was ready to eat and not play. As I said earlier, this is usually a very effective discipline technique on the princess. While she loves playing by herself, for some reason, being sent to her room seems awful to her. But there are exceptions to every rule, remember. And dinner time is an exception. She loves being sent to her room at dinner time. She has since ASKED to be sent to her room during dinner time.
Ahhh, my angel, except!