Sunday, February 12, 2017

Strong Willed

It was a simple bargain, made without thought, if Youngest ate all her dinner, she could have the entire sheet of bubble wrap, a glorious 6"x10" sheet of air bubbles for popping. I tucked the sheet away without another thought and proceeded to prep dinner.

Taco Tuesday. I knew this would be a contentious meal - with both Youngest & Tween avoiding Mexican food at all times - but the other three people love it, so que the struggle. Much care was taken in the prep of the girls' plates. The chicken was extracted from the sauce with any trace of pepper or onion thoroughly removed before placing the shredded meat in a warmed soft corn tortilla. Liberal amounts of cheese were sprinkled over the meat before the taco was plated with corn & rice. We all made our way to the ring table.

Youngest poked and prodded at the taco, folding it this way and moving it from here to there. She finally settled in, thoughtfully scooping corn kernels onto her spoon as she eyed the offensive taco with much hostility. With only a few errant kernels and grains of rice remaining, she began the task of bemoaning her fate eating the taco.

Food battles are not of value to me. My children need never finish their plates if they do not enjoy a meal. Of course they may not trade-up to a bedtime snack if they turned their noses up at dinner, but neither will they be sent to bed with hunger pains. It is the standard practice at our home not to force feed our kids.

Knowing she didn't want the taco, I offered Youngest more corn or rice, and upon her declining I excused her. She did not leave. Whining, moaning, and general all-around complaint about each and every bite ensued. The time dragged forward and all, eventually, left the table, all but Youngest. Nerves were set to their very edge by the vocal struggle to eat playing itself out at the table, and I cast my mind to the freezer and fridge to figure if there was some exotic dessert - like ice cream - she was struggling to win. Nope.

At some point I really just wanted it to be over. "[Youngest], why don't you just be done?" To which she looked up to me over the last 1/4 of her manhandled taco, huge, round eyes brimming with unshed tears and said, "I want that bubble wrap!"

And at this is the point I was faced with that parental call - forgo the previously established rule, or ride it out. I am no monster. In that moment, the words of excuse tickled my lips as they began to slide out, "Okay, you did a good job...." and I caught myself. By giving in at this moment, the previous 3/4 of the taco chocked down bite by bite would have been for naught. I would be stealing the victory from my youngest child who prides herself on being "a not giver-upper!"

So, I bit back the words that would free her from this self-induced agony. Instead I finished with, "only a couple bites to go. You can do it." And do it she did. It took twenty minutes longer for her to eat than everyone else, but she moaned and groaned her way through the last bite.

Was her bubble popping pleasure made that much sweeter by the lengths she took to earn it? I do not know. What I do know is that she is "not a giver-upper" and that tenacity paid off in bubble wrap, as it will pay off time and again in her life. I love this spirit and fire and drives her - until that will is pit against me, but it's the price paid for raising strong kids - at least that is what I tell myself as she insists she should spend her saved $10 on a balloon at that fair...