Everyone says strong-willed kids make great adults, that their strong wills serve them well in the future. So today, as my child made Livia’s Last Stand prior to walking in the school door, I’m trying to envision what her future will look like. Will there be that After School Special moment on the empty football field where some druggie offers 15 year old Livia a joint and she, in all her strong-willedness, just says no? Will she be a future Condoleeza or Hillary and stand eye-to-eye with a communist general, declaring, again in her strong-willedness, that for the sake of her country she will not back down? Will she, in that future world that fundamentalist Christians like to imagine, declare that she will not denounce her faith in Christ before a judge and jury of her peers? People, one of these scenarios had better play out or else I’m telling you that this strong-willed kid stuff is for the birds!
There are some stinky, dirty, slinky cats that live near Livia’s school. In the beginning of the school year I broke my “no petting cats without collars” rule and let Livia caress and hug and do her Cat Whisperer thing with these felines. I had met their owners and had seen how all the school kids adore the cats and against my better judgment I opened the door to a routine that would eventually torture me.
However, because I am a 33 year old woman and thereby wiser than my child, I started to avoid the sidewalks by the cat house and thus avoided the time required for cat coaxing and cat petting prior to the school day. So guess who forgot to be wise this morning? And guess who made her Last Stand on the corner of the cat house?
Scene: School bell rings, school children enter the building. One adorably-dressed little girl is stubbornly standing on the corner. One woman, looking like she’s rolled out of bed and is wearing the same clothes for three days straight, seeks to regain control.
Bus driver looks on from his perch inside the yellow bus. Para-educators nearby offer small smiles as the duo eventually walks past. Well, the walking is questionable. It is stop-and-go there for awhile; stubborn child demanding to pet cats while haggard mom says no repeatedly. A little arguing takes place. Stubborn child refuses her mother’s hand. Stubborn child eventually has to go to the office for a tardy slip. Mother’s eyes start to do the crazy dance, and the hand-off, an apologetic one to teacher in the classroom door, takes place.
Control. Where was it and who had it?
Though I felt like I lost the battle this morning, I actually won it. No one died on the corner by the cat house. No one yelled, no one pulled, no one cried (though I kind of felt like it after our war of wills was complete). My strong-willed first grader not only did not get to pet the [smelly] cats this morning, she will have to earn the opportunity to do so again.
Oh my friends, parenthood is far more challenging than I ever imagined. It offers up the most ridiculous moments and challenges. I write so I won’t forget these absurd times—and so I can remind Livia to stay strong when she’s dealing with her own strong-willed child someday. We’re going to laugh about this, right? Right?