Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Action Item for Bindy

My first grader, Violet, has been making school mornings hell again since our move. I'm already in trouble with her principal for tardies a few months into the school year. I don't even know how to convey in words how bad it is, especially if you're familiar with Violet's TV-host face. I've said this a million times before, but with other adults, away from her mother, Violet is rarely anything but charming. I've even seen her put on a happy face for her father. It's not that it's always the case, but usually, if she goes off on anyone other than her sister, she goes off on me. Especially when we have to be somewhere.

I asked Violet the other morning, exasperated, why she thinks it's OK to take out her anger on me. Without missing a beat, she exclaimed, "WHAT? You want me to be MEAN to my FRIENDS? Maybe I don't want to hurt people's feelings!"

I'm a person.


And, believe me, Bindy, I already know.

*She needs rest.
*She needs routine.
*She needs exercise.
*She needs her clothes set out the night before.
*She needs boundaries.

What if you are addressing all those needs in a slightly flawed, human way, and the kid still fights you every step: waking, dressing, eating, brushing, and leaving? Our morning routine is a noisy scuffle. I've noticed how much louder the three of us seem when we bust out the front door in the morning at the condos, as opposed to at the apartments when we at least had sirens to compete with the howling and the stomping and the slamming.

And the mooing. Whenever Violet's really annoyed with me for not giving in to her stubborn, stubborn will, she moos like an angry cow. That sound can do me in like few things can  - I have screamed til I don't make sense in the face of the mooing. When I'm in the zone, I can tease her out of it by calmly wondering where that angry cow might be. And, I'm never proud of screaming, but that kid has found one of my buttons and she's found it good.

The other day, I marched Violet to her teacher after school and told on her because she's obviously on the path to living in a van down by the river. The teacher took my cue and brought home the message to cooperate with getting ready for school in the morning in a stern voice, ending with a hug. Violet smiled brightly and looked a little pale. She is petrified of getting in trouble at school.

Then it was to Daisy's teacher for a parent conference, so I took the opportunity to tell on Violet again. Violet doesn't actually make herself late very often, but she makes her fourth grade sister, Daisy, who starts 10 minutes earlier and is held accountable for being on time, chronically late. The tardies feed into Daisy's anxiety around being behind grade level in a few of her skills. The coping strategy Daisy inherited from me is to release her stressed-out mind to fly free in the clouds, far from the light of reality. For three years now, I've heard that you can tell Daisy something in class and know she hasn't heard a thing even though she's looking right at you. Will Daisy's path even include the van? What if it's only a bench in a park? Inevitably, it's the mother's fault, so what am I going to do about her little hothead of a sister Violet?

Violet was tense with me about something tonight, and I reminded her of our daily affirmation -- "Fighting your mother is fighting yourself." It's actually been surprisingly effective at times, but she  wasn't into it, "I wish I lived with my teachuh!"

You listen to your teacher! If you didn't refuse to cooperate with me so much, your life would be a lot more pleasant. Why do you listen to your teacher anyway?

"Because she has a principal. I nevuh wanna go to the principal's!"

So if I had a principal, would you listen to me?

"Who ah you gonna get to do the job?"

Hmm . . . I don't know. Who are you scared of?

Daisy interjected, "She's scared of Bindy!"

Violet nodded in agreement, "Bindy's mean to me. Remembah when she made me put on pull-ups to go to bed because she didn't know I DIDN'T EVEN WEAR THEM ANYMO? And you saw and told huh I didn't need them? Membah that time?"

I don't really remember, but more importantly, Violet does.

So, Fair Lady Principal Bindy, (I know how you like a fancy title) we might have to set up a skype meeting with you soon because talking to you is my child's consequence. The hope still burns for Mothers for Peace, but this one can be done from the comfort of your own home. Talk soon.


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