My daughter refuses to leave the car. We’re already late to meet someone. She turns her back to me, literally. In the backseat of our car, with me standing by the open back door, she turns her full body away from me and folds her arms. She is wearing her purple backpack and her bright green hood is pulled up over her head – as if she intended to leave the car – except now she doesn’t budge.
“Come on,” I say. “This is not negotiable.”
She doesn’t move. Neither do I.
How do we always land here, in a battle of wills? How do I respect her need for control, maintain parental authority, get done what needs to be done, both modeling and teaching responsibility? To h*** with that. How do I get my daughter out of the d*** car?
The days of, “Would you prefer to walk with me or skip with me?” and “Green hat or red hat today?” are gone. Choices will not lure my tween out once she’s dug in. My bag of tricks is inside out. And empty. And still, our friend waits. And still, we remain outdoors, arms folded, in the freezing cold.
This much, I know:
I am someone who pursues. I pursue connection. I pursue closure. I pursue what I want until it’s mine. My daughter does, too. She may have learned it from me. It is a strength and a liability and it is how I am. I have never been willing to let go.
I have two settings – hot and cold. Near and far. When I let go – when I disengage – it is a lot like snapping a rubber band – pulling back just the tiniest bit, getting in the last word, and then firing into my opponent’s court, walking away in a huff. Gone. Hot. Cold. BAM.
I want to be a person who will give a little first, offer my daughter (my partner, my parents, my friends) a way to preserve self-respect. I want to gently, respectfully set down the rubber band. I want to hold the space for us to connect – once the anger, the battle of wills, the taut moment has gone.
Have you been there? You want him to finish his homework and he won’t. You’ve asked her again and again to feed the cat and it hasn’t happened yet. Your frustration rises. You feel yourself spoiling for a fight. What do you do? How do you handle that moment? Do you lovingly lay down the rubber band, or do you snap?