Today started a lot like this:
progressed through to this:
and shortly before noon arrived at this:
Much of my day revolved around a battle of wills with my youngest, yet most fiery and independent of all three of my children. They say that the twos and threes are a time in child development where the will exerts itself and the child learns to understand what they have control over in their world, and what others are responsible for. Unfortunately for us, my son began his road to independence at age 6 months, when he flatly refused to take any food from a spoon that we were holding. If he was in control of the spoon, then the food was consumed at lightening speed.
Whens he going to get it – I don’t need the help!
Of course we were not to know that this was a precursor to the following years in which our mantra became “pick your battles”. Over the next 3 years we would be faced with moments when we let his will exert itself, other times when we negotiated and finally moments when there was no choice but to tow the party line of “Mum is the boss”. On those occasions, we went in (mostly) prepared, usually with full body armor, ear plugs and a suitable exit plan should we find ourselves in a public place.
Today was one of those days when I moved quickly through all stages of ‘will-negotiation’. It was a 10% day so we started from 4.30am having some inclination of what was ahead of us. It was not necessarily the early start that gave it away…..more so my constant need to repeat such phrases as ‘shooting clothes hangers is an outside game’ and ‘throwing is for outside, not inside’. In those out-of-body moments my warning light goes on and I prepare for imminent battle.
So this morning, with warning light engaged, we piled into the car to head off for a brief trip to the local public library. Initially lulled into a false sense of security due to the unusually high level of cooperation demonstrated on our trip into town, I actually began to relax my guard as I perused the library shelves……even briefly considering the option of heading to the adult shelves in search of my own reading material. That was perhaps my biggest mistake.
Just when my arms were full of books, my daughter was lined up with books ready for renewal, and my teenage son (having also dumped books at my feet) nowhere to be seen, that my youngest informed me that he needed to go to the toilet. And then he literally ran off. I vaguely heard in his departure “but I know where to go, I can do it by myself”. As I saw him head for the entrance to the library I realised that he thought he knew where to go, but in fact we were not in our usual library. We had headed to a different, much larger one that he was unfamiliar with. Dropping the books in a pile with instructions to my daughter to stay put I raced after him as he came back in through the library entrance. Upon sight of me, he quickly reiterated his initial statement that he had this covered. I did see mild panic cross his face when I pointed out he didn’t know where the toilet was as this was an entirely different library……but it quickly disappeared when he stated that didn’t matter as he could find the toilet by himself.
At this point I had visions of a large puddle appearing on the library floor and seemed to have a far greater sense of urgency in locating the toilet than that of my son. I could not stress enough that this was not the time for negotiations, that if he followed me he would be met with relief. But his will kicked in and he stood ground. So I feigned defeat (another tactic with a previously high success rate). I suddenly took a great deal of interest in the stack of large-print books to my left. In doing so I noticed he had managed to navigate his way to a point where the toilet signs were obvious. My next manoeuvre was to get him to the ladies and not the mens so that I could still monitor the entire event. “That’s it….this door here, you found it by yourself awesome!” But it would seem my mere presence implied war, so any suggestion of mine was met with extreme opposition.
Somehow, (still not entirely sure how) I won the round of ‘what’s behind this door’ and we negotiated our way into the ladies. Before I could remind him not to lock the cubicle door, he was in (by himself) and door locked. I was told to ‘leave me’ as he attended to business. I reminded him I was not going to leave him in the toilets, but that I was outside waiting for him. Further protests ensued, but at this stage I was just grateful we had made it there without any major incident in public view.
It was not over by any means. As time ticked by and it was clear the original purpose in being there was accomplished, my attention turned to exactly what he was doing in a locked cubicle. I reminded him I was outside waiting for him. Again, he protested his independence. I then issued my bottom line statement ‘I will be here until I see that lock turn and the door open’. A little head appeared from under the cubicle door. His reconnaissance was met with an image that clearly confirmed the battle lines were drawn.
The lock turned and before he knew it, the door was open and he was in custody, frog marching out of the bathroom and protesting his objection to the intervention that had occurred.
It must’ve been the combination of audible protests and their mother’s face that indicated to my other two children that our time at the library had come to an end. Our ‘exit plan’ kicked into gear without a hitch and we all were able to leave the area in one piece, with no one harmed and, as a bonus, full book bags. Walking pace quickened as we reached the car, buckled in and began the long and rather loud drive home.