It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Power struggles and cookie crumbs

We are in a coffeeshop. (Of course we are!) Where else do I ever take these children? Because it’s for their socialization, it’s for their betterment. It’s very important that children learn to sit in one spot for 20 minutes, to observe without touching, to talk without shouting.

It’s also very important that Mary get out in adult environments at least once a week. The coffee is secondary.

So we have two complimentary agendas happening here. That’s okay. What is NOT okay, of course, is an adult who puts their own need — to have an near-adult experience — above the comfort of the other patrons (who also desire the same thing) when the child(ren) accompanying them are in no way ready to sit calmly for the required 20 minutes. That’s just selfish. And rude. If your child is being disruptive, you peel out of there as quickly and graciously as humanly possible.

So there.

This does not mean you’ll have to keep out of coffeeshops until said child is school age. A child of any age can manage this — not every day, and the younger they are the more you have to pick your moment — but it’s eminently do-able. And I aim for 20 minutes. Thirty, tops. That’s reasonable. It is not reasonable to expect a toddler to rein in their energy for a solid hour. (If you have one that will do that, count your lucky stars. You are blessed.)

So, anyway. Insufferable lecture over. Coffee shop. Sitting, talking at normal conversational volumes, eating (with mouths closed about 25% of the time; acceptable).

Malli, who does not have a huge sweet tooth, puts a good-sized chunk of her cookie back on the plate in the centre of the table.

“Are you done?”
“Are you sure? You don’t want any more cookie?”
“No. I don’t want it.”
“You really don’t want it? You’re all done?”
“Okay. I’m going to give it to Anna, then, because she dropped her cookie.”

She did, and she was very good about it, too, but she’s long done the tiny bit that remained, and has been chatting while watching the other children finish theirs. Now, I know Malli has said she does’t want it. She’s been very clear about that. But I start the mental countdown anyway. Three … two … one … wait for it …

“Hey! That’s MINE! She got MINE!”

(Was this predictable? Hoo, yeah. But does she really want it? No. I know this girl. She doesn’t want resolution, she doesn’t want the cookie. She wants a conflict. She wants a conflict because, even though she didn’t want that cookie, she feels a proprietary interest in it, and she’s pissed that she gave it up. She wants a conflict so she can express her outrage. Resolution? Cookie? Not on the agenda. Just you watch.)

“Oh, you want some? You can have a piece.” I smile, because I know, I just know …

NO.” The glower could freeze water at ten paces. Good thing my coffee’s nice and hot.

“Okay. You don’t want any more cookie. That’s fine.” I smile again. I take an unholy glee in pissing off control-freak kids. I really do. I probably shouldn’t enjoy it quite so much, but it gives my smile that much extra voltage, knowing that she doesn’t want me to smile. I’m supposed to be coaxing her to be happy. “Oh, come on, honey. You know you didn’t want it.” But I don’t enter into Power Struggles unless essential, even when issued a gold-plated invitation.

Refused an overt Power Struggle, she settles back with the Glower of Ice. At least it’s quiet. I turn my attention to more deserving behaviours, chatting with the other children, being particularly warm and inviting, hoping that Malli will be drawn in despite herself. If often works.

And when I turn back? She’s leaning towards Anna, delicately and thoroughly gleaning cookie crumbs off her sweater. And eating them.

WHAT a kid.

November 28, 2007 Posted by | behavioural stuff, Malli, Mischief, outings, power struggle | 14 Comments