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Walking the tightrope
November 1, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
I wasn't sure I was going to send Emma to school today. After four days of Halloween parties and trick-or-treating in coldish weather with too-little clothing on, I could tell last night she was dragging. The past two days, she has been quieter and clingier than usual, always a telltale sign of impending illness. She's been coughing a bit. And last night, she woke up three times between bedtime (8 p.m.) and midnight, calling for me. It wasn't bad dreams, she said. In fact, she couldn't vocalize what was wrong, but silent tears popped from her eyes. I was at a loss. I felt completely in the dark, uncertain of my next step. Each time, I just tucked her back in, kissed her and told her I loved her.
I decided this morning that I would see how she was feeling and then keep her home if I thought it necessary. Maybe she just needs a break, I thought.
But then something unexpected happened. She woke up insisting she didn't WANT to go to school. She refused to get dressed. And the kicker: she told me she wanted "a break"! And all of the sudden, I'm sure-footed. I'm insisting she go to school. I'm surprised I don't have whiplash from the 180 I did.
She whined, she yelled, she whimpered, she hid under the covers, and she even armed herself with a stuffed animal and was prepared to launch it at me but made the good decision to cease and desist when I gave her "the look" and said, "Don't you dare.
I couldn't keep her home because SHE WANTED to stay home, could I? It didn't matter that I was considering keeping her home in the first place. She played the first card by being defiant.
I tried empathizing ("I understand how you feel"). I tried insisting ("You HAVE to go to school"). And finally, I tried bargaining. After school today she is supposed to go to ballet class. I told her if she went to school, she didn't have to go to dance. This time it was her turn to do a 180. She smiled. She got dressed. She was obedient. No whining. No yelling.
After keeping an eye on her to make sure she was not, indeed, on the verge of illness, I felt completely at ease with this decision — and a little chagrined that I had considered keeping her home at all. A rest AFTER school seems much more appropriate than a break FROM school. I might not want to go to work every day, but it's my responsibility. And it's hers to go to school. It's important she learn that lesson early.
Parenting is such a tightrope act, isn't it?
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