Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I worked as a babysitter practically up until the time that I had my own child. I thought it was a great way to make easy money, since I loved children, and thought it was really fun -- most of the time. I got to travel all over the world with families I worked for. Some of the parents were great people, and some of the kids were great kids. Every so often though I would only like half the equation, and had to put up with the other half.

One summer I went back to live in Manhattan to work and live with a family. It was a single mother and her four year old son. I'll call him "Hungry Jack." We were all from LA, but she had a job in NY that required her to have help around the clock with Hungry (with the exception of two free hours a day for me). I had my own room of course, and felt pretty at home since our apartment was on the Upper West Side, where I had lived before moving west. It was fun to be back home, near my family, and to take Hungry around to all the places I went as a kid.

He was pretty well behaved and I liked him, despite never completely connecting to him. Still, I shared daily rituals with him by playing little games, riding public transportation together and doing good day/bad day (sharing what you liked and didn't from the day) before bed. We had a rhythm and for the most part it worked except for when it came to food. He was a terrible eater, and only loved junky sweets. He had a panic, freaked-out response to even trying anything healthy. He would cry and gag.

I made it my personal mission to introduce him to vegetables. It was no easy task, and I had very little support from his mother. She had a hard time with discipline so most mornings she would give in quickly and he would be eating marshmallows or meringues for breakfast. He was not a small child, quite the opposite, as you can imagine. I was up for the challenge and worked at it everyday. Eventually I got him eating lunches with cucumbers, carrots and peppers all made into faces on his plate. Occasionally though I had to say no to his request for crap instead of food. That was when I regretted taking this job. I decided it was time to teach him about the Rolling Stones and sing him a little song they wrote.

Yesterday, I decided it was time to teach it to my Pinball. She is a few short months away from three and she seems to be getting very talented in tantrums. My fuse feels shorter than usual and I can hear myself responding to her in a very snappy tone. I am not happy about all this and I know she isn't either. I hear myself say things like "No, you may not lick the fire hydrant, that's gross" or "Stop it right now, or we are going to have to leave," or the worst "If you don't take a nap, then no ice cream!" Who have I become? I even have a pointed finger at her sometimes. This I know because yesterday she pointed hers at me and said "Mommy, you may not lick the glass." Great to see it's all sinking in.

I don't want to scream, threat, or shame her, but I feel like I am in a bit of a bind. She doesn't take no for an answer and will cry quite a fit when she doesn't get what she wants. Lately, she pulls my pants, purse or leg when she is upset. I try to pick her up and she squirms. I try to walk away and give her space and she screams. I try to ask her what she needs and she just ignores me. In the past, it has very occasionally worked to explain that when I say no to her, a response she could choose would be to shrug and say, "Oh well." Every so often she will do it and then I can hear birds chirping, trees blowing and the sound of peace in the air. Otherwise we have a "fight." So today I am going to play her some rock and roll and see if Mick can help teach her that she can't always get what she wants.

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