Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Last Straw

Ally likes her morning milk heated in a mug. We started using straws with her milk back when we were desperate to get her out of the habit of drinking everything in a sippy cup. Sometimes I have visions of her as a college student drinking hot coffee with a straw, but oh well, that's not nearly as bad as my vision of her insisting on a bendy straw for her coffee when she's a partner in an established law firm (or an astronaut, or a princess, or whatever her career choice might be).

Sometimes, when Ally hasn't gotten her way with something else, she'll latch onto any other possible method of putting herself back in control of the situation. One morning last week she dawdled as long as she possibly could in the bathroom before coming down to breakfast. As far as I can tell, this is just a control issue. She knows I want her to come downstairs so she can eat her breakfast. I know she's doing this on purpose. So every weekday morning we have our regular skirmish of Mom vs. Toddler over Coming Down the Stairs.

I try to be as calm as possible in my requests to hurry up and come down, and Ally is generally very polite about telling me, "I'm hurrying up." Only she's not hurrying up, she's playing in the sink and brushing her hair and taking as long as she can. We've gotten to where this is a standard dramatic exchange between the upstairs bathroom and me in the kitchen. You'll have to pace the following dialogue over ten to twelve minutes to get the true flavor of our mornings.

Me: Ally, do you need help?

Ally (pauses): Noooooooooo.

Me: Hurry up honey, you'll be late.

Ally: Okay.

Me: Are you washing your hands yet?

Ally: Yes. (But strangely there's been no sound of running water.)

Me (hearing tuneless singing upstairs): Your milk is getting cold, so hurry up.

Ally (pauses): I'm hurrying up, Mommy.

Me, finally: HURRY UP NOW, CHILD!

Ally finally stomps down stairs after this, but not without some wailing and tears.

So on this particular day, I had heated her milk in a mug and put the required straw in it for her. It sat on her placemat on the table, just as it always does.

Ally (sniffling and rubbing her eyes): I wanted to put the straw in the cup.

Me: Sorry, honey. I didn't know. I'll let you do it next time.

Ally: But I wanted to put the straw in the cup. (Her voice is getting dangerously close to the tantrum stage.)

Me: Honey, the straw is already in your cup. Just drink your milk.

Ally (screwing up face into a red knot): But I wanted a blue straw!

Me (sighing): Ally, you have a pink straw this morning. You can have a blue straw tonight. Drink your milk.

Ally (with wailing and tears): But I wanted to put a blue straw in the cup BY MY SELF!!!

Me: Ally, if you don't start drinking your milk with the blue straw in your cup, I'm going to take it away from you and you won't have any straw this morning.

Ally grunts and scowls. I take the offending straw away from her. There's a twenty second delay before large howls of indignation start issuing from my daughter.


So some of you (Hi Mom!) are probably wondering why force the issue with Ally. Why do I try to get her to hurry up and not just let her come downstairs when she's ready? First of all, I let her have ten minutes or so in the bathroom to herself where she can do whatever she wants. Only after that do I start asking her if she needs help, if she's washing her hands, etc. If she does need help or she really is still using the potty, then I help her or leave her be. I don't start telling her to come downstairs until I'm certain we've entered the "I just don't want to do what Mom says" phase of the morning. Then I do my best to get her to hurry up downstairs without triggering an outburst because the girl can be slow as a glacier while eating her breakfast, but that's a story for another day.

And how did our dramatic scene wrap up after Ally lost her straw privilege the other day?

Ally (all smiles): Daddy, I drank my milk LIKE A BIG GIRL!!!

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