For as long as I can remember, I have been a morning person. I'm not sure if I was like this as a child, but as an adult I've always felt the need to get up early. I like to take advantage of the day to do things like exercise, chores, or to sit on the couch and play a video game while I try to motivate myself to exercise or do chores. My wife, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoys sleeping in. Part of this is due to the fact that her RA wipes her out and her body demands lots of rest, but the other part is that she just likes sleep and is annoyed when I try to wake her up early. As of late, Olivia has been taking after her mother, which is causing a lot of problems on days where I have to take her to daycare. This past week in particular, things came to a boiling point.
Since we've had prior issues getting Olivia out of bed and off to school in the mornings, I generally check in with my wife via text to see if everything went smoothly on the days she takes her in. Last Monday I got no response to my inquiry. About an hour later Jodi calls me at work and before I can even get off a, "Hello," I'm hearing our child screaming through the receiver. This can't be good.
Jodi explains the situation and asks if I have any ideas on getting our child to comply and get her out the door. For a second I wonder why no one ever warned me about the times when I'd have to provide over the phone tech support for our child. I ask if she's tried rebooting to see if the problem persists, but my wife is in no mood for my humor. All of our normal tactics and tricks have failed, and my being phoned meant that Olivia was really in trouble (because I'm the bad cop in this family). After brainstorming a few ideas, Jodi hangs up to try again. Twenty minutes later I get a text saying 'mission accomplished.'
That night we discuss things further, and decide it would be best if I take Olivia in the mornings for the rest of the week. Generally speaking she's been pretty good when I take her in the mornings, so I figured I'd let Jodi rest and worry about the pick-up side. For some reason Olivia tends to listen and (mostly) behave when it's just her and me. My theories as to why this happens are: 1) it's because I'm the disciplinarian; 2) I let her do cool things (watch TV, read my comic books, base jump off of skyscrapers) if she behaves; 3) unbeknownst to mommy, daddy has been letting Olivia brush her teeth with cake frosting when she's a good girl. Whatever it is that seems to do the trick, I was confident I could get her out the door in the mornings with little trouble. I could not have been more wrong.
I go in to wake Olivia up while Jodi gets ready for a doctor's appointment. Miss O is responsive and lets me get her out of bed and onto our changing table without any trouble. Then I try to put her sweater on, and that's when things go south. Lately Olivia has been really weird about putting on a shirt, sweater or anything that goes over her head. She squirms, cries and tells us that said article of clothing is "too hard," the tag is "too scratchy" or that it simply offends her religious beliefs. She turns over, assumes the Samus Aran 'morph ball' position and refuses to move. I calmly ask if we can try another sweater, but she just grunts back in defiance. I decide to give her a few minutes to cool down by herself, letting her know that I'd be right back.
I come back and she's still giving me the stink eye, but this time she decides to add a firm, "NO!" when I ask if she's willing to get ready. I tell her we have 20 minutes before we have to leave and give her more time to calm down. 15 minutes to go, and she still won't budge. 10 minutes left: "NO!, NO! NO!" With 5 minutes left I tell her that we're leaving the house, with or without her clothes on. I note that it's cold outside, hoping that might convince her to rethink her position in this matter. "NOOOOOOOO!!!" is all I get in return. 1 minute remains and I make the same warning to no avail.
I give Olivia one more chance to change her mind, but she still refuses. I determine that I have no choice but to follow through on my warning, hoping that she will be scared straight and do what I ask well before we leave the building. I grab her clothes, coat and shoes in one hand, scoop her up in the other, and head out the door into the hallway. Let me tell you, the acoustics of our empty hallway at 7:30 in the morning are so incredibly good that you can hear every sob, whimper and cry of a toddler no matter where you are in the building. Someone should record an album here.
We hit the sidewalk and head towards our daycare, which is about 4 houses down from us. Olivia finally realizes that my threat was not empty and cries out that she wants to get dressed, but at this moment I'm determined to make a point, carry out her sentence and make her think twice before she pulls this stunt again. We pass our neighbor and her daughter, who also attends the same daycare, who greet us but also see what is going on and move out of the way. We pass a set of parents who had just dropped off their child and give me the wide-eyed look of judgement as they go by. We get inside daycare and the workers look on in slight shock and ask what's wrong. It is here where I stop seeing red and wonder whether I have gone too far, but what's done is done. I finish dressing Olivia, comb her hair, try to calm her down and remind her (and myself) that I love her even after all that has transpired.
During my commute to work I was conflicted over everything that had happened. Had I gone too far in trying to teach Olivia a lesson? Was I a bad parent for doing what I did? Had I truly exhausted all my alternatives before turning it up to 11 like I did? I spoke with Jodi about it during the day, and she felt I could have turned back and dressed her in our building. That night I apologized to Olivia, but also reminded her that she needed to listen to us. I asked whether she'd be a good girl and get ready without a fuss the next morning, to which she responded, "Okaaay." Translation: "I'm acknowledging you so I won't get in trouble, but don't get your hopes up."
Remember that, "Okaaay," I got the night before? I think a certain little girl must have been crossing her fingers behind her back at the time, because it was more of the same from Team Olivia. After much protesting I had to call in some backup, and Miss O finally got ready with the help of mommy. Olivia wouldn't even let me look in her direction when they were getting ready, which I guess I deserved after what happened the day before. Thankfully she went in without much fuss after that, and the rest of the day went off without a hitch.
Before bedtime I made sure Olivia understood that the next morning needed a flawless performance from her. Jodi had just received her monthly infusion of RA medicine and needed as much rest as possible while her body re-adjusted. This time I got another, "Okaaay," but that was followed by, "I'm not going to cry or get upset because mommy doesn't feel good." I was hopeful that she understood just how important this was for her mommy, and that there wouldn't be any problems. By now she must be tired of putting up a fight in the mornings, right?
I'd like to write about how amazing our daughter was this morning. I'd like to tell you about how she didn't curl into the fetal position as soon as I went in to wake her, and that she got dressed with no refusals. I'd love to recount how she didn't scream at me when I tried to get her out of bed. I would like to assure you that when I reminded our daughter about what happened on Tuesday, and asked if she wanted to be cold again when I took her to daycare, she did not, in fact, yell out, "I want to be coooooooold!!!" I also don't want to admit that this response reminded me of 'Goldmember,' and that I did not offer my child a schmoke and a pancake for breakfast.
Of course, all those things happened. And, of course, I decided to try and teach my child the same lesson by taking her back outside into the cold again. We stood outside our building and I asked if she wanted to listen to me and get dressed, but she just shook her head and refused. I set my barefoot child down on the cold sidewalk, waiting for her to come to her senses, which thankfully didn't take more than a second. We went back inside, I dried her eyes, put her clothes on and gave her the biggest, warmest hug that she would allow. From that point on she's born again, has seen Jesus's face on the burnt toast and is ready to set the good girl locked up inside her free. We skipped to daycare with smiles on our faces, love for each other in our hearts, arm-in-arm with Nipsy, Diana, Ted and MJ while easin' on down the road. Let me tell you, it was a true Hollywood spectacle to behold. That night I reminded her about being a good girl the next morning and prayed for the miracle that would allow Friday to be peaceful.
Friday morning I woke up to the sound of rain coming down outside. I thought about the cleansing nature of the rain, and wondered if it might wash away all of the hardships we'd had throughout the week. Maybe this was just what we needed to start anew. Maybe this was a sign that we needed to meet each other halfway and focus on being good to each other. Maybe...it was a chance to use the brand spankin' new pair of rain boots we had gotten her as incentive to get her butt out of bed and ready for the day. She's 3, so the mushy stuff doesn't work on her yet. But shiny new boots? Maybe.
I go into Olivia's room, wake her and immediately ask if she hears what's happening outside. She does, and I ask her if she knows what that means. After nodding her head yes, but not being able to answer what that meant exactly, I excitedly responded with, "You get to wear your new rain boots!" "I do!!!," she cried out. Folks, it was as if someone had just found out that they had the chance to win a new car on 'The Price is Right.' She jumped up and down on the bed, fell to the floor and rolled around in a fit of excitement, then asked me when we could get a puppy so we could spay or neuter it. She got changed and ready for her day with no problems whatsoever, then out the door with bright new boots on her feet and a huge grin on her face. Did it matter that it had stopped raining about 20 minutes earlier and I didn't bother telling her? Hell no. She was wearing those boots even if it had suddenly turned into the Dust Bowl out there.
So it seems as though I'm back to needing a gimmick to get our child out of bed in the mornings. It used to be that I'd bring in a toy to keep her preoccupied while I changed her, but now I have to step up my game. First comes shiny new rain boots, but who knows what's next. Probably a pony and then a new diamond necklace from Tiffany's. The other thing that concerns me is having to turn up the heat on the discipline side of things. I know I went to extremes with some of my tactics, but when some of the tried and true methods aren't working, what's left but to try something new? While I do not enjoy my role as the disciplinarian, I have to accept it and try to be better at it. Plus, I don't want to be the only one dishing out punishment in our household. I think it's just as important for my wife to take the reins on that once in a while as it is for me to learn to be more compassionate and empathetic towards our child. I know it won't be an even split, but I'd rather tip the scales in the other direction for a bit so I'm not always the bad guy. I wonder if there are any local stores that sell black cowboy hats for women...