Had an interesting moment today. Monki and I had a fight. Not a big one mind you, but an important one. See, every day, we change the calendars. Over here in Lithuania (and maybe the rest of Europe, I can’t really say), calendars come with a piece of elastic with a little red square for putting over the date. Handy, right?
Anyway, this is just something we do on a daily basis. There’s three calendars in the house at the moment, one in the living room and one in her room, on which she likes to “X” off the days as they happen, and there’s a page-a-day Marvel calendar in the office. And this last one is where the problem occurred.
See, it’s not a true page-a-day since they double up on weekends. Not a big deal, certainly, but it just means that on Sunday, Monki doesn’t get to rip the page off. Not as much fun for her. Today happened to be Sunday. So we did the calendar in her room and she started heading for the office. I calmly told her “no, we don’t rip that one today.” She’s still working on the concept of weekends so I get that she might have been slightly confused, but I distinctly told her no, don’t rip it.
She headed right for the block of papers on the desk. Again, I told her not to rip it. Didn’t stop her.
She reached for the page. I told her again to stop.
The page started to rip.
I said, calmly, if you rip that page you’re going to be in trouble.
She continued to rip.
A little bit louder, I said “that’s it, you’re in trouble.”
She stopped ripping. She looked at me.
“You’re in trouble now,” I explained.
“No,” she said
“I told you not to do that and you ignored me so you’re in trouble.”
“No,” she said again, but without so much conviction.
“Yes,” I explained and turned around, walking away. She followed and went to talk to mommy, the tears starting. In Lithuanian, she plead her case. She explained (I was told) that she didn’t mean to do it, it wasn’t on purpose. I asked her if she heard me say no? She did. Even after hearing me say no, did she still rip the paper? she did. But it was still an accident. The tears were coming harder now, the breathing hitched and ragged.
I decided we should have a little chat, so I asked her to join me on the couch to talk. She, being the incredibly self-aware 4 1/2 year old she is, said okay, “but I need to calm down first.”
I had actually been about to do other things when this all started, so I suggested she could calm down (clinging tight to mommy) while I did what I needed to do. She agreed and liked that plan. So I did a few of my chores and Rasa suggested we try to have our talk now. I asked Monki and she said “I like the plan you said.” But Rasa insisted that we talk before I went and exercised for 45 minutes. Monki reluctantly agreed.
And here is why I’m writing about this. Sure, fights between parents and children happen all the time, that’s not the issue. And yes, this was a stupid thing to fight about in general, but the larger issue, of not listening, is what really needed to be discussed. But here’s the thing. When I started talking, and tried to get her to understand why it was important that she listened, she said, tears again coming hard and fast, “I still want to be part of the family.”
“I still want to be part of the family.”
That nearly broke me. Somehow, and I swear it wasn’t from either Rasa or myself, she got the idea that her position in the family was at stake. Immediately, I changed tack and explained that she was always going to be part of the family. That even if we were mad at her or she was mad at us, we would always love her and we would always be a family.
Yes, I also explained why it was important that she listened when mommy or I told her something, but I had to convince her that her being part of our family was never an issue. She was stuck with us. I even made a double pinky promise to seal the deal.
It took a while, but eventually she calmed down and the rest of the day resumed as normal, but that moment scared me. It scared me how delicate she perceived us to be, even though we do everything we can to let her know every day how much she is loved and included. In the end, I think she got it. But still…