Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stubborn and independent? I'll take it

My mom group of friends (see most of sidebar at right) is currently discussing what to do with stubborn or spirited children. Most of them are talking about their second children, who are all mostly three, and let's face it, three is the tough age.

But Andrew is just 2, and still, despite his fierce budding temper, is mostly sweet most of the time. Elizabeth is also mostly sweet, most of the time. But she is is also very stubborn, and very independent. She knows what she wants and she works hard to get what she wants. And if she doesn't want it? Well, she will work very, very hard at NOT working hard.

This sometimes is stressing. Just this weekend, I was moaning to a friend how frustrating it is to get out of the house. If it were up to Elizabeth and Andrew, they would stay in their pajamas all day and we would never leave the house. Except, that also makes them stir-crazy and once we are out doing something they thoroughly enjoy it. But the struggle to get them dressed in the morning and out of the house usually involves some variation of the "put your coat on right now" "if you don't get dressed we don't go do [fun thing]" "why can't you all cooperate" line of parental nudging. In order to get out of the house on an average weekend day (or even during the week), Rich and I must fully dress Elizabeth. She appears to be incapable, at age 5, of getting dressed herself. This stresses us out. Other 5 year olds appear to have mastered the skill of getting dressed. And, for Pete's sake, when she wants to, she can concoct an outlandish outfit and put it on herself in less than 2 minutes.

Anyway, the very night I had complained that my child appeared not to be able to dress herself, we put her to bed wearing her Snoopy pajamas. When I went to check on her at my bedtime, she was wearing a completely different set of pajamas. I just sighed and tucked her in. The next morning, I saw that the other pair of pajamas seemed to be wet, so I asked if she had an accident in her bed (because I had tried to tell her to use the bathroom before bedtime, but she stubbornly refused!). No, no accident in the bed, she replied, I had an accident in the bathroom. Oh, you didn't make it in time? No, she replied, so I changed my pajamas and cleaned the floor up. Oh, hon, you can always call mommy and daddy to come help you if you need help at night, I told her. Well, she said, I didn't need help.

Which sort of illustrates something another friend of mine told me. We want compliant, dutiful children who listen to us and do what they're told. But later in life, the skills we want our children to have are exactly the ones we moan about now. We want them to be self confident, independent, determined teenagers and young adults. It just so happens that the skills we want them to have when they're older make these young years tough.

And that reminds me of a quote from Laura Thatcher Ulrich: "well-behaved women seldom make history."

Elizabeth may be very stubborn and very independent. But we wouldn't have it any other way.

The From Left to Write Book Club is consists of over 100 bloggers who read books and then write posts inspired by the book (not a review of the book). This month's post was inspired by Young Mandela, by David James Smith. As a member of the book club, I was given a free copy of the book, which I will be passing along to someone else (want it? just ask).

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