I read some good advice today, bizarrely as dished out by the pop star Pink.
She said: “I look at Willow [Pink’s daughter] and she’s so naughty and fiery, and I’m not going to take any of her fierceness personally — my mom took all of my behaviour personally. Everything I did, she thought it was an act of rebellion against her. But it was just me being me. And that’s something I want to post on every mirror in my house: ‘This is not about you!'”
This was a quote in the sea of Facebook regurge which struck a chord. Because my daughter is currently being ‘fierce’ – AKA a little bugger – and it’s been turning me into a monster. In my sleep deprived state I have lost the ability to laugh at the teenage-style rebellions chucked out by my almost-four-year-old. I am already knackered when the constant questioning, contradicting, stropping and deliberate winding-up begins, meaning I’m already a beaten woman halfway through the interaction. I try to be patient, kind, consistent and constructive, but it’s bloody hard. My daughter is waging and winning a daily battle that neither of us really wants to fight and as a result I’ve been finding myself going in on the defensive. This is not planned or intended, but it happens and it’s not a positive way of dealing with anything.
We are still having our moments of loveliness. Like when we went to see the town’s Christmas lights switch-on and meet Father Christmas and she was so excited and inquiring and cute that it didn’t matter that it was pouring with rain and freezing cold. That moment made my heart swell.
Or at 10 o clock at night when she came downstairs all sleepy and snuffly into our bedroom and climbed into my lap to hug me. It was so lovely, she’s not a cuddly child, she’s usually too busy to waste time on cuddling so it’s usually me running after her for hugs. So we cuddled and cherished the moment.
Or when we spend time together doing something fun, like decorating pizzas for lunch, or reading a book or playing a game. Time that we spend talking normally and equally, without one of us becoming agitated or cross. This is the best time ever.
But at the moment these treasured times are rare and broken up with crossness and difficulty. Every mealtime is an issue, with my daughter messing around on her chair, kicking me under the table and not eating her food.
She constantly pushes the boundaries, testing and prodding by just banging the door one more time, deliberately dropping food and drink out of her mouth onto her clothes and the floor, ignoring and dodging my attempts to dress her and corral her out of the house to an activity or nursery. And by always, always having the final word.
Just reading this back is therapeutic. I can see all of this behaviour is a bid for attention and a power struggle and is most likely directly caused by having an imposter in the house. An imposter who takes my time and energy, who must seem permanently attached to me. Who is spoken to in kind, quiet voices and who gets his demands through crying and screaming – the very behaviour that gets her into trouble.
I’ve had great advice and support from friends and family who all say consistency, spending time together and being resolute are the key to getting through this phase. Ben and I have devised our strategy and are implementing it: discipline and guidance supported by hugs and reassurance.
I remind myself that all of this behaviour demonstrates the very reasons I love and I am proud of my daughter. She is fiercely independent, she loves and cares, she is forthright, bolshy, interested and intelligent. She forges her own path. All of these things are important.
This doesn’t mean we can let her think it’s ok to steamroll, bully, shout and scream. Discipline and guidance are vital if we want to help her become an independent and self-sufficient teenager and woman without becoming a mini-dictator and bone-crusher.
But it’s hard not letting it get to you. It’s hard Not to ‘take it personally’. And it’s difficult to believe I’m typing this as the words to ‘So What’ revolve in my head, but Pink’s words are wise. This isn’t about me. It’s about her. It’s about her now and in the future. If I take a step back, a deep breath and ‘think Pink’ when things start to escalate at home it might help me stay focused, firm and kind rather than turning into a shouty, screamy example of what I don’t want my daughter to be.
Thank you Pink. And happy Advent everyone.