It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Calling His Bluff

Lately, Zach is emerging as a child who will cut off his nose to spite his face. This is not an uncommon pattern in a two-year-old, masters of manipulation that they are.

Yesteday morning, he arrives in a funk. Nothing that happens is right. He flops around dramatically, he throws himself to the floor with great fanfare, he fusses, he pouts. (He pouts beautifully, this boy. He is a beautiful child. He is so adorable that his pouts are worthy of framing. He is a beautiful child, and man, does he work it!) Whatever his internal workings this morning, the external is one giant pose. Each and every negative action he takes, he is playing to the audience, done with one eye on my reaction. Which is unforthcoming.

After giving him a welcoming cuddle, I utterly ignore the flopping and flailing, invite him to join our activities (making a garage from a clementine box), and otherwise treat him as if he isn’t behaving abominably.

He will have nothing of it.

“Here, Zach. You can have the green paint brush.”

“Nooooo!” More floppage on the dining room floor. I survey his prone figure, being sure not to make contact with that lustrous green eye, peeping up from under his arm, fringed by those ridiculously long lashes.

“You know what, sweetie?” I announce cheerfully. “I think you must be tired. Off to bed with you for a little-lie down.” It’s 9:15 a.m. He has been in my house for about six minutes. I have had about enough of this. (I told you I wasn’t patient. Of course, I am PMS-ing. In mid-cycle, I can put up with it for EIGHT minutes.) Even though nap time isn’t officially for another four hours, I trundle the child upstairs.

When I put him in bed, he rolls over with a big dramatic flop and buries his face in the pillow.

Three minutes later, I return. He is wailing.

“Hello, Zach. Are you ready to join us now?”


“You want to stay in bed?”

He rolls over, presents me with his back.

I let my shrug sound in my voice. “Okay, if that’s what you want. But since you want to be up here, you can stop that silly yelling.”

I have a brief – and very satisfying – flash of his astounded face as I pull the door closed. There is silence behind it. Dumbfounded silence, I am sure. In Zach’s world, I was supposed to coax. I was supposed to wheedle. I was supposed to sit on the side of the bed, stroke his back and speak soothing words of reason. While he ranted and roared and made me really, really work to get him to play.

I will not do any of that, for innumerable reasons, an entire post all on their own. Let’s just say I have too much self-respect to allow myself to be so blatantly manipulated. I know he wants to join the others; he knows he wants to join the others. He can be the one to tell me this. I stand outside the bedroom door, and wait. Let a couple of minutes pass. (Emma, Haley, and Adam are home with me today; the children downstairs are well attended.)

When I open the door the second time, “Hello, Zach. You ready to join us now?”, the answer is a calm, if snuffly, “Yes.”

Victory is mine.

© 2006, Mary P

August 3, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 19 Comments