Last night Funny Girl and I had a disagreement. It wasn't our first, but it was definitely our worst to date. The problem started after our nighttime reading, before we were going downstairs for bed. I asked her to grab her purse (which has her glasses case in it), as well as her blankets and pillow if she wanted them in her room. I mentioned it three times, and I know she heard me, but she chose not to get them. After teeth were brushed and I was about the turn the lights out, she suddenly decides she needs her glasses case. I said no.
< tangent >
Sometimes I wonder how different my life would look if I had only one child, and this child was Funny Girl. If she was my only child, I imagine that even if I had told her three times to grab her things, I would still have let her go upstairs later. The truth is that it's so much easier to reason with Funny Girl. I could talk to her about being mindful of the situation and how current choices can affect later outcomes, etc.
On the other hand, Robotson was an only child for nearly five years. While I could give him all of my time and attention, no amount of talking or being reasonable ever made much difference with him. I would have told him something three times, but probably would not have let him back upstairs - just to make a point with him that listening is important.
So why did I take the hard stance with Funny Girl just because she's not an only child?
< /tangent >
I think it boils down to my needs. As a mother of three children, I need them to listen to me sometimes. While I'm no where near perfect, I do try to not be bossy just because I am the parent. I want to let them make many of their own decisions and be part of processes, but I have boundaries too. In this case bedtimes are one of my needs. The kids don't have to go to sleep, but I do want them in their rooms by 10pm. This is a rare occurrence, but it's my goal. That gives me some time to decompress without staying up until 3am. The main issue with this is that the girls want me to stay with them while they fall asleep. In that case, I insist on lights out so that I can do a few things quietly on my computer. And it's for this reason that I did not let Funny Girl go back upstairs. It was already 10:30, we'd spent all day running errands, and I was tired. Dimples was finally settled in her bed, and Robotson has to check things out every time he hears a door open. Everything might have to be resettled again if she left, and I didn't want to deal with it.
Funny Girl is a really amazing person. She's just as in tune with her emotions as Robotson is, but she's able to verbalize so much better. It's rare that she throws a fit that devolves into being physical. She also rarely fights unless it's that important to her. Of the three kids, she's always the first to share, come to a compromise, or decide to give up because it's not worth the fight. I often think she is the reason I need to be the best parent that I can be, so I don't ruin with bad parenting what comes so naturally for her.
Even as I told her no, I wondered if it was the right thing to do. The result was Funny Girl having one of her rare tantrums. After a while, I decided I wasn't going to sit there while she kicked things off of her bed and made noises at me. I took Dimples upstairs to my room. Downstairs I could hear Funny Girl throwing things around and slamming her door. I kept thinking, "This is why you should have just let her get her purse." But I was angry too. Why didn't she just take it down with her?
When I went to tell her to stop slamming the door I found she'd emptied the bookcase and knocked over the dollhouse. Perhaps not as calmly as I should have, I informed her that she would be responsible for cleaning up the mess, which would need to be done before she came back upstairs in the morning. Then I left her again. She screamed for a while after that, but then it was quiet. I figured she'd fallen asleep. Around midnight she came up to tell me that the room was picked up, and would I come see it? Before I went down, I gathered up the purse and bedding to take down with me. I got the girls tucked back into bed, with the lights out a little after midnight.
I'm not sure I was really being mindful last night, and I don't know if I ultimately made the right decisions. I am glad that Funny Girl was able to vent her emotions, and take responsibility for her actions though. That's something that is unique in my children at this point. I think if it happened again, I would let her leave. Even if I had to resettle everyone, I would have gotten over my frustration at not being listened to much faster than I've let go of my decision to take that hard stance position.*
*Thinking about what I wrote here yesterday got me thinking. It's not really an either/or issue. I took the time to talk with Funny Girl about what happened and why. It's precisely because I can talk to her after the fact, that I would choose a different path next time. My lingering thoughts yesterday were because I don't think I chose the right battle at the right time, not because there is never a reason to have a hard limit.