Thursday, December 2, 2010

Drying off

I may or may not be torturing my child. I think at this point it’s a matter of opinion and what her future shrink will say. Welcome to the mother of all power struggles – drying off.

It all started about 2 weeks ago when I told Miss E it was time for her to dry herself off after bath at night. This was for a few reasons, 

1) A lot of nights I am the only parent here and bath time is my most stressful and least graceful. I am trying to make it less work for me so my temper is less likely to blow
2) she’s old enough and capable of doing it and
3) she was starting to fuss at me that I wasn’t doing it right/good enough, etc.

Enter the power struggle. She won’t do it. WILL NOT. I told her that after she does it 2 or 3 times without fussing/whining/complaining, then I would split it with her half and half. Halt the time she would dry herself off, and half the time I would.

Well, we are two weeks into this and most bath nights (bathing is every other night) she gets in the tub at 6, won’t get out, and at 7(lights out time) I go in, get her, dry her off, have her get dressed, brush her hair and teeth and go to bed – no books or free reading. This is a huge loss since she loves the night time reading time, as do I.

I have tried explaining, I have tried logic, I have told her I don’t want to do it, I have tried bribery, I have asked her for her ideas.  Nothing. So tonight, at 6:30 I decided enough was enough, pulled the plug on the tub (with her in it), put a fresh towel next to it and left. She lay naked, wet, shivering and crying in an empty tub for half an hour. And I felt like a dirt clod, a really shitty dirt clod. I really truly did. But every time I wanted to go in and get her, another side of me said “the towel is right there, right next to her, this is her choice” and I stopped. So yes, if any of you out there think I'm a horrible mother, well, first I kind of thought so myself tonight and second you are welcome to head on over and get that girl to dry herself off.

I have got nothing. And partially I’m thinking “This? This is what we are drawing lines in the sand for? Drying off after a bath?” It seems so stupid to me. Stupidly crazy. But I don’t want to give in and neither does she. When I asked my mom for advice and told her how silly this all feels to me, she reminded me that this wasn’t about drying off, it was about power. Now, as I have mentioned before Miss E is unrivaled in her abilitly to throw a power struggle and a lot of the time I let her prevail because I have no pride wrapped up in things being exactly my way. And I learned early on, that if I take on every gauntlet she throws down, we will be fighting all the time. But dammit,  a time comes when I just want to say, "I’m the mom and you will dry yourself off because I said so". That probably wouldn’t work but that’s where we are at. 

The good thing about this power struggle is even though I am feeling frustrated, I am not feeling angry about it. There is not a lot of yelling (OK, a little but not a lot) and I have been pretty good about remaining confident and upbeat. Assuring her that yes she can do it, I wouldn't ask her to if she couldn't and then leaving. In the end, I love how independent and strong Miss E is. It is one of her finest qualities. At some point, she will get tired of missing out on books and decide to do it for herself. But until then, we are in some kind of standoff. And I miss reading to her. 

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