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Not you!

One thing I was totally unprepared for as a parent was how much the rise of independence...so young!...coincides with preferences that can (intentionally or not) come across as hurtful as a parent. They don't mean to be mean and oftentimes are simply asserting control or their growing personality. But it sucks to be on the receiving end. As parents, if you prick us do we not bleed? Sometimes young kids don't understand that there is someone on the receiving end of their rebellion and newfound likes and dislikes. (I suppose all of this applies to teens as well?)

With Cole, even his teacher has noticed that he's been saying "no" a lot lately. He doesn't want someone else setting the agenda, he wants to be in charge of his destiny, he resents the power adults seem to have. I get it. It's psych 101. He's tiny, the world is big and hard to understand--there's outrage.

But some of the cruelest words you'll ever hear are "not you." The variations are endless. I don't like you. I want mama. Go away. I'm busy playing and want to be alone. He doesn't mean them really. It's just especially hard with a kid who isn't overly affectionate already. Leda is the opposite. You'll get hugs and kisses and requests for singing from Leda...which makes the hitting and throwing tantrums somehow more acceptable. My oldest, on the other hand, you have to carefully harvest affection like a crop. Too late and the moment is over. Too soon and you'll get an uncomfortable squirm away or a change of subject like some taboo has been violated. In some ways, it makes me respect the subtle times I do get with Cole even more. But lately he's taken some of my favorite special times away. Bedtime becoming the domain of the Mama has been especially hard to handle since reading books is one of my favorites. And several nights I've started the bedtime routine only to be tossed out of the room in favor. It made me feel a little better last night to learn that it doesn't go smoothly for the Mama either...I can't hear inside the room and had been imagining gentle goodnight wishes.

I'm having to teach myself to remember the way he rests his head on me while we watch videos or the quiet way he asks me to come watch him play whenever he decides to become an independent being. We have been telling ourselves for months that we need to be more patient and now you can add the need to channel a guiding principle of love. When you're in the middle of an argument about whether or not your preschooler has to pick up toys before bed, it can be hard to remember you're the adult when they're screaming "go away" at the top of their lungs.

Leda, for her part, has her own independence issues...which on the surface look like she's a clinger. She's the type of girl who wants to be carried everywhere and can't stand the fact that you closed the bathroom door. Her latest is a demand to go to the kitchen with you so she can pick out her own snack. It's the same sort of control issue as Cole, just disguised as cuteness and precious. It's no longer good enough that you will be getting her a cracker or a cup of juice. She wants to be there to possibly select something better, be included, and is afraid she'll miss something important. It also has become a clever time for her to make mischief in a usually off-limits room while Dada is making toast. For breakfast this morning, she found the cookie tin.

In the end, I know better. They don't understand that it's not nice to treat someone as your personal servant. We're slowly trying to work on the Golden Rule the same way we have installed the "please and thank you" application. We're not to the point yet where they can control their own emotions well enough to extrapolate that the emotions of others may need to be taken into consideration. For now, we're in a gray area where they recognize that having someone parent them can be a hindrance to their autonomy, but they have an inability to reflect more deeply on relationships. Friendships are judged by who was mean today and who wasn't.

We, as parents, are more than caregiver, but not quite a person, too.

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