We’ve only got one kid. I know a lot of people only have one kid, and a lot of people have more than one kid, and a lot of people have no kids. Today I am talking about only having one kid. Specifically I’m talking about us only having one kid, because probably if you only have one kid you don’t do things the same way.
One of the benefits we’ve appreciated about only having one kid is that we don’t have to set a lot of rules. I’m not talking about, like, household anarchy. But with more than one kid, with several kids, you’ve got to work harder to keep order. You probably want to keep order, what with all those arms and legs in your house. But for us (for us), with just one, we’re just really flexible. We only have a few hard rules. Listen the first time. Don’t be a turd in public, you can’t be rude to people. Manners. Actually, that’s about it. We feed her a separate dinner a lot. There’s no set rule on eating this to get that. Her bedtime is within a certain window, but largely relies on when she seems like she’s ready to go to sleep. Lots of things have no set “rule” in our house, and it works with just one kid, because we can bend a previous guideline to fit the situation without having the whole house erupt into unfairness or madness.
Mostly this stems from just not wanting to fight about every little thing, because she’s at that age. Where she is ready to fight about every little thing. So we’re careful not to make everything a hill to die on. We just evaluate whatever situation is currently happening and do what works, rather than set a hard line for every time a similar situation comes up. As a rule for myself, I don’t dig my heels in unless I’m ready to fight something down to the end, and with Penny, every little thing can become a fight down to the end, and it is EXHAUSTING to battle a five year old because it’s not like she comes up with new and interesting arguments.
“Can I paint?”
“No, we’re not painting today.”
“Ok, but can I paint?”
“I just said no, no paint today.”
“Can I paint, though?”
“Penelope. There’s no painting right now.”
“When I finish with this, can I paint?”
“HOLY SHIT IF YOU SAY THE WORD PAINT ONE MORE TIME I WILL EAT OFF YOUR ARM.”
Point is, I’m careful not to say anything that I don’t really, really, really intend to stick to, even in the face of endless questioning and fit throwing. That’s not a lot of stuff. Mostly like, you will say thank you, you will apologize, you will not burn this house down.
I made a mistake a few days ago, though. I mean, it’s not really a mistake. I think I’m in the right. But holy shit, has it turned into complete insanity in this house. I didn’t know Penelope had the attention span to harp on an issue for more than an hour, but it has been like a WEEK and we are all LOSING IT.
Kohl’s has these magic blankets, you know? And they go on sale multiple times a year, right around Christmas, usually. So in October, I think, I picked up three of them with the intent of having one for each of us at Christmas. One gray, one purple, one blue. The gray and purple have the same pattern on them, and the blue one has white polka dots. I don’t know why this matters. They’re all the same goddamn blanket. (You with the multiple children that you’ve had for a lot of years, you’re probably already laughing at me, like OH IT MATTERS.)
Every year on Christmas eve, we go out for dinner. While we’re gone, our elf, Roland, takes off to help Santa for the night and leaves a gift. This year, he left a microwave s’mores maker (AND IT IS GREAT), and I also put out the three blankets I got, thinking it would be nice for her to have a new blanket before bed, and that she could take on the car trip to Disneyland she didn’t know we were taking at the time.
So we get home and she sees the gift from Roland, and I tell her hey, I also got us each a blanket, go ahead and pick one for yourself. She chose the blue. Phil took the gray and I got the purple. Everyone was pleased. We took them along on our trip. Penelope actually even got a second magic blanket from family, one with dogs in sweaters on it. So she has two. I am not jealous because I am an adult and I will use her dogs with sweaters blanket while she’s at school if I want to. As long as I put it back before she notices.
A couple days after we got back from our trip, Penelope informed me that she wanted my blanket instead of hers. She wanted purple, not blue. And here is where I fucked up. I told her no, you had an opportunity to pick out your blanket, and you picked blue. The purple is mine.
WHY DIDN’T I JUST SHRUG AND EXCHANGE THE BLANKETS?
(Probably because she had just filled hers with a particularly rank fart and I was trying to escape her bedroom with my life at the moment.)
Oh, she was mad. But I decided. If you pick something, you stick with your choice and that is that. This is a life lesson. A life lesson with blankets. You can’t go back and take what someone else has because you regret your decision for whatever stupid reason. THE BLANKETS ARE ALL THE SAME.
The next night, she comes at me again. She wants the purple. I told her, look, you have the blue. The purple and gray have the same pattern, but you have the special one. You’re keeping the blue. I’m condensing this conversation for your sanity, but the back and forth was very, very similar to the paint discussion above (which also happened recently).
The next night she comes to me and tells me she doesn’t want the special blanket. In fact, she says, I should have the special blanket because I’m the most special one in the house. Well, as much as I agree about my own specialness, I’m now in much too deep to just let this go. NO. You keep blue. Purple is mine.
“BUT MAMA, when I picked the blue, that night, I was feeling like blue, but every every every other night EVERY OTHER NIGHT has been PURPLE!”
Penelope is like most kids, and when she’s tired, she just… loses all control. She’s completely unreasonable. Two nights ago she came in my room after school and made her play, again, for the purple blanket, and she was ON THE EDGE OF SANITY. Just going on and on and on, yelling and stomping her feet. She’s not a bad kid and she’s not really prone to tantrums, except when she’s this tired. She just latches on to something and can’t let it go for anything, absolutely cannot handle disappointments she usually takes quite well. I had to send her out of my room.
A couple minutes later, I get a text from Phil who is downstairs with her. It just said, “please kill me.” I can hear her yelling and yelling, and I just assumed, I guess, that she’d moved on to expressing her displeasure about her dinner, or about wanting to play a video game, or about not being allowed to launch a pirate ship from the backyard to sail the seven seas plundering unsuspecting cruise liners for their quality shrimp spreads.
But no. What am I, new? She was downstairs, pleading her case to Phil about the blanket. How she’s feeling very purple. How she needs to have the purple blanket. How he should make me give her the purple blanket. She was loud and shrill and in a full on meltdown over this.
At this point, I realize I am a 35 year old adult refusing to give a 5 year old the blanket she wants.
But I said! I SAID! That I wouldn’t exchange the blankets! That I was making a point! That you can’t pick and then unpick! This is how life goes! It’s my job as your mother to teach you these hard blanket-based lessons! What am I now if I give it to her? I’M NOTHING! I WILL CEDE CONTROL OF THIS HOUSE! I CANNOT!
Phil finally managed to stuff a little food in her and send her to bed, after 15-20 minutes of shrill blanket monologue, because while she really does want my blanket, she doesn’t usually resort to out of control shrieking unless she’s just too exhausted to go on. She’ll come back at me again, when she’s rested and at her most dangerous, with some new logical approach that will surely make me see the light and understand that she is the most deserving of the purple blanket.
But you guys. I SAID. I ALREADY SAID. I can’t let this go now. THIS IS WHY RULES ARE STUPID. I swear to never ever ever speak in absolutes to my child ever again. I will only ever say maybe. I promise you on my purple blanket, I WILL ONLY EVER SAY MAYBE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.