Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Battle of the Dirty T-shirt

I am used to peace and quiet in the mornings. I like to reflect on the day to come and to anticipate possible problems and work out strategies. I don’t anticipate problems before 8.30 am – apart from the minor things of no bread for sandwiches, or a hole in the last pair of tights. I can deal with them!

This morning a problem surfaced that I didn’t anticipate and there was no effective strategy. It was a 7.30 am problem that did not include bread or holey tights. Shannon made mention, last night, that she was running out of clean clothes. It wasn’t a problem as washing had been done – and courtesy of some very generous friends – it had also been ironed. Two tops were ready and waiting.

I took them up to Shannon. She was wearing a T-shirt that she had been wearing all week! I told her there were a couple of clean ones. She insisted that the one she had one was good enough. 7.30 in the morning is not my best times, and probably not hers either. I asked her to change it, so I could put the dirty one in the wash.

What happened next was not pretty. Neither of us come out of it with our dignity in tact! The volume rose significantly. The clean tops had long sleeves and we had bought a pink cardigan earlier on in the week. I think she wanted to wear the pink cardie, but couldn’t wear it with the long sleeve top, so she intended to stick with the short top she had on – which was dirty.

I am still working out where to draw the line between giving way or digging my trench. The dirty top was to my mind a “digging the trench” issue. Well, it didn’t go down well. She refused to take the top off. She said the “Mummy let her wear her tops even if they were dirty” and make it clear that she was not going to change! Patrick watching from the door added his match to the gunpowder keg of emotions saying Mummy wouldn’t let her go out in the dirty top.

A small girl can say a lot of loud cross words when she chooses to. I manhandled – or in her case – girl handled her out of the dirty top. At one point I threatened to take a pair of scissors and cut her out of the top. I left the room with the top, leaving Shannon sobbing hysterically!

I know that I am bigger than Shannon is, and I know that there was probably a more diplomatic way to part her from her dirty T-shirt. At 7.30 am I was not looking for diplomacy – just obedience. I don’t want her to be the mini dictator in my home. I don’t want to be a big dictator in my home either. We both find ourselves in a situation that we would rather not be in. I want to put boundaries in place so we can live harmoniously.

I am aware that I am a novice at parenthood. I am sure I am not having any harder a time than any other mother. I am not any other mother though. By the time the child had reached eight most mothers have had eight years of experience – me – I have had just eight days.

I am finding out that teaching and parenting are not the same. I may be able to deal with thirty pupils in a class – but one eight year old girl is a different kettle of fish.

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