03 March 2011

a lot in common with drunken fraternity boys

My first and most favorite girl child has a tendency to be a frustrated big sister. Why?
Because my second and most fun child has a tendency to be an annoying little brother.

Frustration is not the problem - it's life - it's the reaction that matters, right? But Ada doesn't always react well...
I mean, we're all going to be frustrated at something most days of our lives.

Poor drivers, milk cartons with holes in them, 3,923 loads of laundry left to fold, miscommunications, our own sin, onions that won't hurry up and saute, husbands that don't call when they're going to be late, children that spill things and walk away, and, yes, little brothers that won't leave you alone.

They keep following you everywhere.

Or climbing up on your bed.

Or interrupting your reading time.

Or drawing on your paper.

And, like any imperfect six year old who nonetheless expects perfection out of herself and everyone around her, especially her little brother, Ada gets frustrated. Bee doesn't particularly like Eason to bother her. Would you?

Eason and Ada still share a room. In a year or four, we'll have to move her out, and Collins in to Eason's room, but as long as Collins will stay in his baby bed, everyone is going to stay where he or she is.

And at night, Eason can become a bit needy.

And he worships his sister. We're working on that, but it's a nuanced issue, so it takes time. When Eason becomes needy at bedtime, he gets up on the bunk bed belonging to Ada. And sometimes Ada loves on him and he scurries back to his own bed.

But sometimes she gets irritated. He's invading HER space AGAIN, and he WON'T MIND.

The rule, as should be obvious, is that if Ada doesn't want him on her bed she's supposed to

(1) Ask him nicely to get down.
To which he should respond by respecting her wishes and
(2) Getting down with all deliberate speed.
If (2) doesn't happen, she's supposed to
(3)calmly remind him
that by not respecting her wishes in this case, he's actually disobeying his parents who have instructed him that if Ada calmly requests for him to leave her bed, he needs to comply.
To which he's supposed to respond by now engaging in step (2). If that doesn't happen, Ada is supposed to
(4) Calmy remove herself from the situation and come get us to intervene.

And this is what happens. Because secretly we're living in Eden, or we're the Walton or the Ingalls family and everyone obeys first and if they don't, they feel genuinely bad about it, and everyone works together for the good of each individual.


So, what actually happens is that Eason gets up on the bed, Ada yells at him, or pushes him off, or pinches him. And if she does remember to proceed with step 3, Eason almost never actually gets down. He just becomes more belligerent.

After all, almost four year olds have a lot in common with drunken fraternity boys, and at bedtime, those commonalities are exacerbated.

And we've never before made it to step (4).

Until a couple of weeks ago.

One Friday evening, I think, in February, Paul had tucked the children in bed, and we were proceeding to have a nice adult supper with some nice adult friends.
All of a sudden, without any warning, my eldest child appeared.
I didn't even hear any conflict preceding this.

She said, 'I've asked Eason to get down from my bed, and he won't. Would you please come help me?'


Sometimes, we don't love the obedience. I didn't want to get up. I wanted her to deal with it. Just shove him off the bed, I thought to myself. My soup is getting cold.

I'm a monster.

One of us, I think Paul, begrudgingly got up. And went and did our job. You know, as the parents living at this house.

But, I know she saw it on our faces. I know she saw that we didn't want to fool with it. That we were beleaguered and wanted a glass of wine and uninterrupted dinner. Wanting that - now, there's nothing wrong with that at all - I'll trump the horn myself for that cause. But, in reality, unless they're in the care of someone else, we aren't ever off duty.

So, though we did not let Ada down by our actions, we certainly did by our attitude. And I wonder, as I listen to her this morning not following the steps of appropriate conflict resolution when her brother is annoying her. I wonder if I had hopped up! and bragged on her! done a little dance! - bragged on her doing the right thing - coming to us calmly, removing herself from the situation without committing her own sins - if I had done all that, what an impression I would have made.

It works on the 1.7 year old. We get excited when he does what he's supposed to do. And that has an effect on him. When Ada Brooks does what she's supposed to do (in this situation -appropriate conflict resolution - which frankly most adults cannot muster), I just stare at her like she's heaped another burden on my list of parenting duties.

I pulled her aside in the morning and bragged. But the moment was lost. The good thing is we get 18 years with them. Almost 2 decades to instill the fact that we love them and how to act right. When Ada's college roommate leaves the refrigerator door open again or her husband absolutely will not quit stealing the covers, hopefully, she'll use a kind tone to correct him or her. Lord willing, she won't pinch or bite or throw anyone out of the bed.

Though, I think I may have pushed a husband out of my own bed for cover stealing before....

I have faith that this one moment won't do any damage. But it's a great reminder for me. One that I needed. Keepin' me on my toes these little people are. Keepin' me on my toes.

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