Parenting a Strong-Willed Child
"I am not giving you any more hugs, Mama!"
Today my daughter stomped across our yard to wait for the school bus, her parting words to me, "I am not giving you any more hugs, Mama!". Standing on the porch in my slippers and flannel pajamas, I had to smile at the threat, but felt a tiny sting of tears at the same time....
My son Ben is nine, and has always been a physical kid: very busy as a baby, running before he could walk, you know the type! These days, he lives for hockey and basketball, loves to ride bikes and build forts with his friends, and his favourite subject in school is "gym". I remember when I was pregnant with Lucy, her tiny gentle movements had me believing that I was going to have a very calm and quiet second child.... I was mistaken!
Lucy is six. She is outgoing, affectionate and really, really smart (I am only slightly biased!). However, Lucy is a force unto herself. She never backs down, she is strong-willed, unafraid to try new things, and loud if she feels she is not being heard. On one hand I am proud of this; Lucy is developing into an independent, free-thinking girl and her circle of friends is large because she has a magnetism that other kids seem drawn to. On the other hand, her fierce determination has been challenging as a parent.
Today Lucy reminded me as soon as she woke up that, being Wednesday, it was her Sharing Day, and Library Day. "Oh brother", I thought. Lucy's room is a continual state of chaos. She changes clothes at least three times per day: depending upon her mood and the activity of the minute. Items can go missing in Lucy's room for months. I could vaguely recall seeing a book on Fairies but where it, or the other two books she borrowed were, was anyone's guess. I embarked on the book-finding mission while Lucy looked for something to present to her class for Sharing time.
By some miracle, I found the three books under the ottoman in the family room, no worse for wear either except for a few dog hairs! Lucy showed up with my Dad's antique coin collection. I explained to her that the coins were both sentimental and too valuable to take along to school, "Could you please look for something that is yours", I said. I suggested sand dollars from our summer vacation, "Too boring," a photo with Ariel from Disneyland, "The kids won't like that", and her ribbon from the cross country race she ran in, "No way", she quickly dismissed.
Time marched on and the school bus would be arriving shortly. I finally had to send Lucy out the door empty-handed, this is what prompted the no-hugs threat. As she waited across the street she was giving me her iciest stare and giving me the two-fingered "I've got my eyes on you" gesture that means she is REALLY mad. I confess as the school bus pulled away I breathed a small sigh of contentment, and I took a cup of strong, black coffee back into the living room and settled onto the couch for a few minutes of peace and quiet.
Then I noticed the three books on top of the ottoman. In the mayhem over the Sharing item search, we had forgotten to make sure her library books made it into her backpack. I looked at the books, then looked away. My head was telling me that Lucy needed to learn from this. She needed to remember to pack up school items the night before, to avoid these early-morning conflicts. I started to go on with my day: unloading the dishwasher, feeding the dogs, making a grocery list.... Somehow it seemed like those books just kept jumping into my field of view, and my maternal guilt tap turned on full force.
I imagined Lucy in her Grade 1 class, her big blue eyes filling with tears, wispy blonde hair hanging over her face as she sat dejectedly at her little desk. No Sharing meant having to read a book to her class instead, and missing Library books meant no more borrowing. I went upstairs to Lucy's room and found a framed photo she has on her night stand of her two good friends who last year both moved away. I went down and scooped up the library books and headed out to the minivan.
Lucy's teacher looked puzzled as I entered the class, "Oh I'm sorry for interrupting," I said. "Lucy forgot her Sharing and her library books". Her teacher smiled kindly and said, "You didn't have to do that, Library day is Friday."
I looked at Lucy sitting in the front row of desks, and she smiled at me with one of those magical smiles that erases all frustration, and filled my heart instead with that warm love that only a child can give.