Well, the Bean-girl's anti-clothing streak is running well into a second week now.
Of course, a streaking toddler is nothing new. Once they learn how to walk, it's not soon before they are off and running naked away from you, bare bottom and giggles vanishing down the hall. But it is not funny this time. My 3-year old is a stubborn, cunning adversary. And despite her diminutive size, she's suprisingly strong.
She doesn't misbehave much. And her misbehavior isn't a matter of actively doing something bad--like drawing on the walls or hitting her sister. Her misbehaviors are more a matter of refusing to do something asked of her--like putting away a toy, or allowing her father to put her to sleep. In these cases, a single good tantrum and its consequences has usually been enough to stop the behavior--we ignore her and walk away, or, in really severe cases, confine her to her room. After much "crying and wailing" (and those are her own words) she acquiesces, and the battle is not fought again.
Except now. We are fighting the same battle, day after day after day. What is that saying about insanity again? And who is it in this family that is insane?
This morning we all got up late, which is both blessing and curse. Bean-girl heads into preschool with her father in the mornings. She did not want to get dressed. After cajolings and attempts at reason and finally threats, her father made the decision to forcibly dress her. This is an approach I normally avoid because (1) the Bean-girl feels humiliated and degraded by it, and I greatly empathize with her on that, and (2) I do not have eight arms with which to wrestle her.
My husband and I combined have four arms. However, it is still nearly an impossibly task to forcibly dress a 3-year old child who does not want to be dressed. He held on while I tried to fit flailing limbs through pieces of clothing, and he snapped at me helpful remarks like Come on, Mommy! Hurry up! Just do it! Finally the deed was done. Husband went off to his morning shower while the fully dressed Bean-girl sobbed and sobbed at the unfairness of it all.
I want to get dressed by myself! she hiccupped.
You want to get dressed by yourself? I repeated.
Furious nodding of her head.
I thought quickly. Husband was still in the shower. I knew this girl. She did want to get dressed by herself. We could take off her clothes and she could put them back on herself in two minutes. She just needed to have some control over this, and we had taken all control away. She was behaving like this all the time now--refusing to do something, and then when I did it for her, insisting that she be the one to do it after all, all by herself.
I want to put on my own socks, she said. I want to put on everything myself.
I helped her take off her socks. She took off her pants and underwear. I pulled her shirt up over her head.
You can all see where this is going.
Okay! I beamed at my naked girl. Time to put it all back on again, all by yourself!
She ran away.
3-year old tot versus 30-something Ph.D.-educated mom. A tot who can't even grasp numerical quantites over four. Is it any contest?
We did eventually get her dressed, before my husband was late for work. If you don't get dressed right now I told her, we will take you to school naked!
She was sniffling in the corner of her bedroom. Her father was bustling around downstairs, getting ready to leave.
Then we heard the roar of the garage door opening, directly below her room. I think she thought that we really were going to toss her naked into the car at that point, for she came running out of her corner toward me. I handed her the clothes, and she obediently put them on herself, all within the space of a minute or so.
There, that wasn't so bad, was it? I said, as I always say after one of our battles.
She had a perfectly good day at school today, so the teachers said and so it seems. And of course she was a sweetheart when I picked her up, and has been the most charming little sprite all evening. But I really really hope she grows out of these clothing battles soon.