My youngest daughter and I are in a fight right now.
Well, not right now; this battle emerges daily for a few periods of time before being resolved happily and melting away into the past, where I'm sure it will remain until, sadly and inevitably, it crops up once more.
It's the pick up your toys battle. And I'm just about out of tactical maneuvers. Lauren, though, has plenty.
She doesn't mind if I confiscate the non-picked-up toys, hauling them away in bags or boxes to another room until she's proven that she can handle picking up after herself. She really hasn't been bothered by being told she can't exit her room until she's put away the toys. She almost didn't get dinner one night because she refused to budge. (And how terrible is it that I even threatened such a thing? I never thought she'd come remotely close to making me follow through!)
The standoffs might last for hours, and are almost daily. I've stopped taking the toys away from her if she doesn't clean them up, because she just doesn't care. She's probably happy to be rid of the mess. So I stand firm. Which I hate. Really, I'm a terrible firm parent.
It's true that I'd like to be able to make this all go away (poof!) like magic. I'd like to have things simple and easy, especially since there's about to be a baby in the house. And maybe that's where my insecurity really lies.
If I'm about to add another child to the family, shouldn't I be better able to keep the house running smoothly by now? Shouldn't I have it all under my belt, with children who have learned to understand the value of picking up after themselves? Of being considerate and thoughtful no matter what?
But nothing stops just because a baby is on the way. The lessons I'm trying to impart to my first two children will still need imparting. I'm not starting over -- I'm adding-to. Which sounds both liberating and frightening at the same time.
So I stand firm, perhaps more firm than I would if there weren't a baby about to join us. Maybe my resolve will help her learn about picking up her toys; maybe it'll only aggravate both of us to the point that we're angry so often that we throw in our respective towels. I don't know.
What I do know, is that when faced with something that is out of my control, I try very hard to gather control in all other areas indiscriminately. When the upcoming birth will happen is out of my control. How we'll settle into life as a family of 5 is unknowable. Whether or not I'll fall apart at the seams from lacking the logistical knowledge required to manage 3 kids simultaneously is still up in the air.
So I'm tightening up my strings in other places, taking up slack, getting ready for the waves to become bigger for awhile.
And that means that my sweet Lauren, baby of my heart, and I -- we're going round and round. Luckily, on the flip side of our circle, there's always a little girl who hugs and kisses her mama, even if she has to put her ponies all back in the box instead of leaving them on the floor for all of eternity.
(But help me out -- how do YOU get a 3-year-old to pick up after herself? Part of seeing the Bigger Picture today, for me, means that I need your advice!)