Finding Neutral Ground

My day with Peanut falls under one of the following three types:

Battle Day: ‘Nuff said.
Peace Day: These are days when everything opposite of Battle Day happens. She’s cooperative, doesn’t interfere with my plans, and keeps herself busy if I need her to. These are the days I dare to whisper (as I knock on wood), “She is so easy.”
In reality, most days are somewhere in between. I call this Finding Neutral Ground Day. It’s when she’s not in a full battle mode, but she constantly tries to test her limits. She loves to see how far she can go. She also loves to push buttons to see how I will react. She loves to pull me into a power struggle. It’s a challenge for me to resist being pulled into one and to keep enforcing boundaries and consequences with calmness. Another challenge is to let go of my idealistic expectation (of wanting it to be a Peace Day) and find a neutral ground instead.

I just experienced this type of day today, so allow me to describe it to give you a better picture.
Every morning, she wants to know the day’s agenda. Today’s agenda was a bit more complex than usual. I explained to her, “We’ll drop off LittleBit at Mimi’s house, because Mimi is taking her to a birthday party. You and I will hang out, then later Mimi will take you to Japanese school.”
I knew that she understood the agenda the first time around, but lately she developed a habit of asking me repeating questions.
“Mommy, may I go to Mimi’s house with LittleBit?”
“Mommy, may I go to Japanese school with Mimi?”
“Mommy, what are we doing today?”
She will bring up one question at a time periodically, until I lay down the law to let her know she must stop. “I’ve already answered that question for you. You know what you’re doing today. Do not ask again.”

Once the “I’ll Ask Mommy Questions I Know the Answers To” round was done, next came the never-ending “Potty Power Struggle” round. Potty-training a strong-willed child is a topic I will write about in detail later (by the way, I did it all wrong). For now, I will briefly mention how it’s been a constant power struggle ever since. Bottom line, she does not like to be told when to go. She would rather wait until the very last second, until she has to go so badly that she can hardly take off her pants by herself. This is a battle I try not to choose. However, there are times (like today) when I’m getting ready to put them in the van and she’s doing the pee-pee dance and I need her to go. She then tries to put up a bit of a fight, and I use my stern voice to say she must go. Next she tries the “passive-aggressive” angle and heads to the bathroom only to sit on the floor. Sometimes it’s not about going potty. Sometimes it’s about washing the hands. She hates being told what to do or when to do it. She first tries to object openly and when that doesn’t fly, she tries to passively delay because she knows I want her to do it quickly. It drives me absolutely up the wall. Still, I try my best to keep my calm and administer the consequence if I need to, when she does not obey immediately and/or completely.

After the potty round, we finally went out. I dropped off LittleBit, and I decided that I want to spend some quality time with Peanut. I told her that we’d go to lunch after we run some errands. At the bank, she did not stand still next to me for a second. I was constantly telling her not to touch things or crawl on the floor. We came out of the bank, then came the “I’ll Take My Time Getting into My Car Seat” round. Again, she knew that’s what I wanted her to do, so she subtly pretended that other things in the van were keeping her attention. I then took a privilege away from her of something she wanted. She quickly gave up that power struggle.

Lunch went really well after this. The way she stood in line with me to order food was a major improvement from the bank. We enjoyed our lunch together and headed home. When we arrived home, before she gave up the power struggles altogether, she had to go for one more round of “Potty Power Struggle” as she demonstrated another pee-pee dance on our way back into the house.

I just described half of my day with Peanut. No major outburst, but throwing out a minor power struggle here and there to see how I will bite, mixed in with her very busy and unique personality. I’ve become accustomed to having a day like this. It’s much better than a full-blown battle day. Still, for a perfectionist who likes everything to run smoothly and peacefully, it can be a challenge to say the least.

Later on as we were in the van, a children’s worship CD was playing. Peanut asked if I would sing with her. I said yes. We both began singing these words together:

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

(“You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman)

As we sang this loudly and proudly (both out of tune), I knew that Peanut and I arrived at the Neutral Ground for today…or maybe just for this moment. It’s a place where we can both put aside all the stress and conflicts we had shared and find a way to connect with each other. She loves to sing; I love worship music. At the Neutral Ground, we’re able to discount the frustration and simply let each other know, “I still love you.”

I rely on God’s wisdom and strength during the battle days.
I rejoice and praise God during the peace days.
On a day like today, I keep smashing my sandcastle (my ideals) and allow God to mold me into a mother who has a little more patience, a little more calmness, and a whole lot of more love for my Peanut.


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