Sometimes, in my weaker moments, when my three year old (the one going on, like, sixteen) decides now is the time to assert her three feet of independence, I bluff.
The trouble is, it’s starting to backfire. Here’s a recent example.
“Okay, ready to go? We have to go pick up your bothers and sister at school!”
This is an exciting event ninety percent of the time, and she usually hustles to grab shoes and whatever miscellaneous items must accompany her – and there are a lot – but lately, she gets downright mullish.
“No,” she’ll say, turning on an enormous frown and aiming it my way.
My reaction varies on any number of things – how late we are, whether I’m frantically trying to meet deadlines or relatively on top of things, if I’m hoping to grab a quick coffee on the way over.
On my better days, I can take a deep breath and remind myself that three year olds are tiny, irrational creatures put here purely to test you. On my bad days, when an iced latte is really my main goal, I’ll bribe her with a chocolate muffin at the coffee house. And on my worst days, I go straight to my standard bluff.
“I’m going to school with or without you, E,” I’ll say, keys in hand. “Are you staying here?”
This usually works, and after some stomping around, we’re out the door.
This time, she looked me dead in the eye, this three year old with no socks and no shirt, clutching a zippered pouch she calls her suitcase and a soft doll swaddled in a huge baby blanket.
And she called my bluff.
“Put Pecka Pig on first.”
Then she dismissed me, shifting her attention to her baby and shuffling her armload of stuff.
So, I left. I walked into the garage, climbed in the Jeep, backed into the driveway and sat there dithering.
I mean, obviously I couldn’t leave her, even if my internal five year old argued that’s how we’d show her! And the longer I sat in the car and stared at the door, waiting for it to open and a wailing kid to come running out, the more incredulous I became. I mean, I was half pissed, half impressed, really. She’s pretty ballsy for a three year old.
After a good minute or two, I stomped back inside, where she was calmly playing with her baby. I told her I was sorry, but she actually had to come with me.
It was a fight, I’ll say that. Nothing like trying to wrestle a highly resistant three year old into a five-point harness.
Luckily, she’s nuts over the swing set on the school playground, so I dangled that carrot in the coffeehouse parking lot and we made up.
Mental note – forget the bluff, and go for the swings next time.