I am standing on the sidewalk glaring at Elli while she glares right back at me. We have a long walk ahead of us and I have told her that she can have a ride on my shoulders for part of it - but not until she has walked 4 blocks on her own. She has decided that walking 20 meters is plenty and now she is entitled to be carried the rest of the way home. Somehow although I feel like I should be able to address this situation calmly and rationally I just can't and my mind is filled with twisted visions of punting a unruly child into traffic. I have tried asking, I have tried giving her time to come around to my point of view and I have tried explaining. Nothing has worked. Finally I end up tossing her over my shoulder in a fireman's carry and walking down the road. My mind churns with doubt - what exactly should I do? She is screaming and wailing the whole way but would rather be carted than walk so I am really faced with either standing on the street corner until she is willing to move on her own, carrying her home over my shoulder or initiating some greater level of violence.
It is amazing how *trapped* this makes me feel. I will not live my life as a parent a slave to my child's whims so I simply will not sit on the sidewalk waiting for her to decide to obey. Never mind the fact that she would use this as leverage to do absolutely anything she wanted and make my life a misery but I would be entirely derelict as a parent; children must have boundaries. On the other hand I absolutely hate the idea of constantly carting Elli around over my shoulder with her screaming and attacking me. This isn't good for her or me to say nothing of the passerby. Just putting her on my shoulders is just as bad since then I have established that she has absolute authority over my body and that tantrums on the sidewalk are a great tactic. I know I can just grab her ear, twist it around and drag her along with me. This is how things would have been done in years past and after a fairly short walk with her ear feeling like it was going to be ripped off I am confident she would walk on her own... but I really don't want to be inflicting serious pain on her multiple times a day to get her to obey basic instructions.
My natural inclination is toward demanding obedience by any means necessary. Something very deep in my brain insists that she must obey and violence in the pursuit of obedience is acceptable. This creates so much conflict because Wendy and I often don't see eye to eye on these things. Wendy is the softy of the two of us and wants love, patience and a gentle touch to solve all problems while I instinctively play the hardass. I know she would find ear twisting and dragging to be unpalatable at best and although I usually do things more her way than mine there are times when my spirit of compromise is very severely tested. Is it okay to have a different set of rules entirely when Mom is around and when she is not? How do I balance my own gut instincts and the compromises we reach when both of us are around? The rest of the world has opinions on the subject but quite frankly it is challenging enough making rules between just two parents and one child - I have no intention of giving anyone else a vote.
I stand in front of a pouting child and I am thinking about the fact that she makes me so frustrated, that she has cost us $225,000 so far at age 4.5 (I calculated it one day awhile ago) and that she creates conflict in my marriage. I need to be thinking of how to calm her down and jolly her along and my mind just can't focus on those things with all the messes swirling around in there. The trouble with raising children is exactly this I think; you might be able to sit around and come up with ideal solutions but you don't make decisions in ideal situations. You end up having to decide what to do when you are hungry, late, mad at someone else, and tired. You fight because you are just so mad that the little person won't or can't notice that *you* need a little slack right now! That slack and those ideal conditions are not the norm in real parenting though because children act up at the times you most wish they would not and then you must come to grips with the fact that you lack the implacable will and unending patience you imagined you possessed. Child rearing is very much about good enough for right now and not so much about perfection, which is hard when you have as much of a perfectionist streak as I do.