Hello Korio
12. 01. 2017

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?”
“… paint.”

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.


(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.

23 responses to “I can’t undig my heels.”

  1. Amy Perry says:

    I’m so sorry. I have a 7 year old and I know your pain.

    The worst thing is that when she eventually gets over it, you’ll hear about it down the road.

    “Hey mama, remember when you wouldn’t let me have the purple blanket? That made me really sad.”

  2. Kara says:

    This is actually a good hill to die on. You’re setting a limit and sticking to it. It sets a good precedent.

    And yeah, with 3 girl children, I learned you either get everything EXACTLY the same or everything VERY DIFFERENT. There is no grey area. Because if two have polka dots, even different color polka dots, while the third has stripes, the WORLD WILL END.

  3. Wendryn says:

    “I WILL ONLY EVER SAY MAYBE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE” until next week or next month, when you say something off the cuff and then realize you’ve done it again.

    No? That’s just me?

    We have one child who is also 5 and I know EXACTLY what you are going through. I’ve heard it gets better or, at least, different. Good luck!

  4. Becca says:

    We also have just one kid, almost 5 years old, and I find myself constantly arguing with her all day every day. I just want her to accept what I say and leave it at that. What is so hard about that?

  5. Rachel says:

    YESSS! I only have one, he’s smart and reasonable, but dear god, when I lay down the law, THAT IS IT!

    I would do the same thing on the blanket thing, but here’s what I would add at my house. (You can tell me if this makes me a bad mother)…

    “You know what doodle, I get that you want it, but it’s mine. And I’m a person too and a member of this family and my needs and wants matter as well. No one should have to give up something they love just because someone else wants it. I matter to.”

    • Wendryn says:

      I like that – I think they don’t quite know yet that we are people, too.

    • LeighTX says:

      Ooohhhh, this is spot-on. You do need to hold your ground, both for the life lesson you mentioned and also as Rachel said, to teach her that you can’t take something from someone else just because you want it.

      But Amy Perry is right–you will be hearing about this forever and should probably put a few bucks in her Future Therapy jar to cover it.

  6. Michelle says:

    What Rachel said!!!! That is EXACTLY why it would be a hill I’d die on.

  7. heidi says:

    As a mom to 4 boy children I have to say, THIS IS A HILL TO DIE ON. It seems to be a most difficult concept for kids to learn but they must learn it. Once you make a choice, you can’t change your mind. What if it wasn’t you she was doing this to? What if it was a friend? It is so hard (I have had to have this same argument at LEAST 4 times.) but it will make her a better person.

  8. mari says:

    Could you loan her the purple blanket sometimes so it’s still yours but you’re modeling sharing? (Although not when she’s whining for it.)

    I was thinking about this as I was about to open a new clock for my 5yo that I’d threatened to take back to the store.

  9. Amanda says:

    Please, please we need pictures of the magic blankets.

  10. Phancy says:

    So my tactic in these types of situations is to basically teach my 6 yo to negotiate. Because yeah, sometimes you are stuck with your choice, but sometimes you can change. It just can’t be easy. So I’ll say that I’ll trade her for her blanket plus x. Or that I’ll trade her for her dog blanket. Or that she has to write me an illustrated book about what she I’ll do with the blanket. I dunno, maybe I’m screwing her up. But I hope I’m teaching her to negotiate and think outside the box to get what she wants. Or maybe I’m just a softie and will raise an a-hole kid.

    • Mary says:

      I was going to suggest some kind of negotiation for the dog blanket or something else. I think if she wanted to trade a sibling or a peer, there would probably be some wheeling and dealing. It could also be a good way to gauge how badly she wants to trade – like, is this just the thing she’s stuck whining about or does she truly want to exchange it.

  11. VHMPrincess says:

    hahahaha. i have 3 kids here. I will never pick a hill to die on that isn’t something along the lines of “we don’t cheat at school, we don’t lie, we dont’ hit people”. This kind of stuff, NO ABSOLUTES.
    At this point, if you are holding into the “you can’t have mine”, then “someone” (maybe an aunt) could weirdly SEND her a purple one and be done with it?
    NEVER give those kinds of ultamatiums to kids that you aren’t willing to die on the hill for. I made that mistake once. Once. 🙂

  12. Ruby says:

    You’re teaching her that no means no, and that’s a very important lesson! I work with kids Penny’s age and older, and so many kids seem to think that “no” means “maybe, if you can be annoying enough about it.”

    And honestly, you have a valid point about the blanket thing too. Would it have been a big deal if you’d just traded with her in the first place? Probably not. But it’s also important for her to know that you’re not entitled to something just because you really, really want it.

  13. Sara says:

    I die on this hill regularly with my mostly delightful 5 year old. She was an Only until very recently (6 months ago) and we’very always been pretty flexible with her. But! Once she makes a decision and takes action on it, that’s it. And yes, eventually it just feels silly, but 1) sticking with a decision and 2) you can’t take something that belongs to someone else just because you want it (especially fun with the someone else is an infant who obviously doesn’t have any idea what’s going on, much less care). Both important Lessons.

  14. Katie says:

    I think this is a great hill to die on. It’s a lesson that will matter in life, not just in your house. To me, that’s the hill to die on test- if this is only a problem within the confines of my home, then meh, let it go. If this is a problem that is going to make me and/or my kid look crappy in the outside world, I prepare to duel to the death. I wasn’t an only kid, but it sounds like P is a lot like me as a kid. I think Rachel’s suggestion above about reminding her that you are also a person and you also have likes, is a great tactic. She’s only thinking of herself (which is normal) and that may help her see outside herself a bit.

  15. Meredith says:

    I love what Rachel said. I find that talking with F about how *I* feel really has made her view me differently (i.e., as a real, human person with feelings and faults). All of it is a lesson worth learning (you don’t get what you want by being annoying; you can’t take other people’s things; no backsies, etc). I have had to take similar stances and it is BRUTAL, and I have also resorted to loudly shouting, “if I hear ONE MORE WORD about it, [the item] is GOING TO GOODWILL.” So sometimes the empathy approach works, sometimes not.

  16. cindy w says:

    We got a book from the library once called “You Get What You Get,” and it’s about a squirrel(?) who’s kind of a dick and throws tantrums about not getting his way all the time. I reference it a lot.

    You’re right that you can’t undig your heels now, and this is a good lesson for her – which, like you said, you would have to enforce a lot more frequently if she had a sibling. I agree with Mari that you could let her borrow the purple one, with the understanding that its still yours & the blue one is still hers.

    P.S. The thing about how she’s relentless when she’s tired? Lucy is the same way. She’ll just cry the same word/phrase over and over again no matter how I respond. There was one time I ended up screaming “SHUT UP!” at her because I couldn’t take it anymore. Not my finest parenting moment, but damn. 5 year-olds will wear you down to a nub.

  17. Michelle says:

    I also have this flavor of 5-year-old. I’ve actually found “Let me think about it, and I’ll let you know my decision when I make it.” to be better to “Maybe” because I get less pestering after. But, yes, I say “Let me think about it.” a LOT because I, too, want to carefully pick the hills I decide to die on.

  18. Sandra says:

    I totally get this. I also think that at some point in your future you might use this to your benefit as it relates to a chore or something she doesn’t really want to do.
    Negotiate using the blanket like “Penny, I know you really want Mama’s purple blanket and if you do this (whatever it is) then you can have it and I’ll take the blue one.” Just saying, maybe you can use it to your advantage another day.

  19. Jenny says:

    I have an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old and I only EVER say maybe. Like, “Are we eating dinner?” Maybe. “Are we going to church?” Maybe.

    I’m going to gently offer a dissenting view to most of your commenters and say that if (and only if) you think you might have made a mistake in digging in about the blankets, you could undig. She’s not old enough not to be annoying, and it’s important for her to know that parents sometimes make mistakes. I often apologize for yelling or digging in too hard on something or arguing too long about something dumb. It’s good modeling for them, to see that coming down from a hill doesn’t make you a lesser person or less of an authority in their lives. Quite the reverse.

    But if you think you were absolutely right to keep your purple blanket, then don’t do that! 🙂

  20. Amanda Janse says:

    I work with kids and sometimes I decide too quickly to put my foot down somewhere and it turns out to not be the right place and I end up in this situation. If it get’s to be too much I usually try to find some space inbetween, like you could let her borrow the purple blanket every other night or something.

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