Rory ran off in town today, just shot merrily off down the sidewalk and around the corner. We were on a block with no crosswalks and a sort of little plaza, and she was going right back to where we’d been a few minutes ago, before we went to–you guessed it–the potty–so it wasn’t that bad, and I almost let it go. I wasn’t angry or even worried–even if she’d gone a little farther, we live in a small town and she was fine. BUT…we could have been somewhere else–Beijing, say, or Cape Cod. And she would have done the same thing, I’m sure of it.
So I called her back, and when she didn’t come, I started to go into the store we were heading for–she could see me–and she came running in. I knelt down, and I told her–you can’t run away from me in town. You were too far away, and you couldn’t see me, and that’s not safe. Next time you might not be able to find us, and that would be scary! Her face crumpled a little, so I added that I would always find her, but she still couldn’t run away.
Nope. I Maybe that was too little, too late, but I’m inclined to think it’s just that she doesn’t like to be told she was wrong when she didn’t KNOW she was doing something wrong. The crumpling continued. The little mouth opened. And the hideous wailing began.
So we walked out of the shop.
And stood on the sidewalk. And I reminded her that I would always find her, and asked herr if she could “stick close” to me in town next time. “Stick close” is a phrase we always use, and it’s become what she says when she doesn’t want to hold hands, which is fine.
No dice. She’s pissed now. Wail, wail, wail. I sit down on a bench with Wyatt. As soon as she’s done, we’ll go in. But no, wail, wail, wail, fury, fury. So I say it again. Can you tell me you’ll stick close to me in town? She stops wailing for a minute. I know she’s listening. But nothing. Stony silence. She’s giving up nothing. Then you’ll have to hold hands when we’re in town, and right now, we have to go home.
La, la, la, through town, holding the unwilling, wailing struggling hand, sometimes carrying her by it, but I don’t want to pull her arm out of the socket, so if she won’t walk, I pick her up to carry her in a safe–but uncomfortable for her–way. Wyatt is trotting along, so proud to be the one being good! And I am saying, cheerfully, big girls stick close! But Rory can’t stick close, so she has to be carried. Wyatt, I am so proud of you, you are such a big boy! You are being so good! Rory, look at Wyatt, having fun, walking along next to Mommy. I’m hitting her where she lives, and I know it. She HATES being told she’s not a big girl. And I am getting the sympathetic fellow parent smiles–everybody gets this one.
Into the car, and on to phase two. She’s still yelling. I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to go home! Oh, but we’re going home (which I’m not thrilled about, as I’ve been trying to get into that store for days, but the owner was late yesterday and didn’t open early enough–told you this was a small town–and I just haven’t been able to get there, but it’s not that urgent). We’re going home, and now it’s no yelling in the car. If you can’t stop yelling, I will stop the car, and Wyatt and I will get out, because we don’t want to ride with someone who’s so loud. And we do, twice, and we stand right by the open window, and I say, will you stop yelling? Will you stop being so loud? And she shakes her head fiercely, and there we are. Until she does. And I thank her for being quiet, and she sniffles all the way home, and dozes off, and when we get home, she’s a snuggly contrite muffin.
And that’s exactly what’s happened with every one of my kids at some point or another, except for the getting angry at being mildly scolded part. (And that was seriously mild.) I could find a nearly identical story about any one of them, including me getting out of the car and waiting right outside where they could see me until they stopped yelling. Sometimes, you tell them the way it’s gonna be, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. So I guess we’re moving on to just ordinary parenting.