Resist by Alexandra White

Topic: Love

We keep our art supplies by the kitchen table on an old pale-pink metal cart with wheels that I bought at a thrift store years ago. The cart was likely meant for serving cocktails or nicely arranged hors d’oeuvres to adults, which shows how far away our life has diverged from that time period.

My daughter loves to draw with crayons and then paint with watercolors over her markings. She has informed me that the fancy name for this technique is “resist.”

“It’s my favorite,” she tells me.

This seems such a perfect fit for her, since at four, resisting is one of her top priorities. Washing her hands before dinner, having her hair brushed in the morning, or her teeth brushed in the evening—these simple things she used to do so cheerfully. But now when I ask her, her rosy lip juts out, her feet begin to stomp and within seconds we see that terrible slide into hot, wet tears and those high-pitched shrill objections that torture the ears of dogs and mothers.

My instinct is to comply, to soothe, to give in. She’s only four, I say to myself, and mourn the day she will no longer take a strand of my hair and wind it around her fist at bedtime.

But being a parent means I must resist this instinct, I must push back against it. It’s not yielding she deserves. Sometimes she resists to see if I will reinforce the routine and the rules (“We always wash hands before dinner”), if I will push back to remind her—this is what we do.

This is not the hardest part of loving my children, but it is the part of me I must fight against.

I instinctively see defiance as a place I should comply—to go soft. But my children need me to resist.

My kids were talking a few months ago about what makes a “bad mommy,” and their commentary surprised me.

“A bad one would not make her kids go to bed,” said my six-year-old son. I smiled, thinking of his pleas to stay up and read just one more book. Just five more minutes, he entreats, it’s still light out.

“Or eat bad things,” my daughter added. I thought back over the fit she threw when we misplaced some candy a friend had given her. “That was my candy,” she had wailed, as I held her, her tears hot and salty on my face.

Resist.

To children, giving in may feel like you are giving up. You care enough about me to push back—to hold me in a tight grasp. This is what we do in our family, and this is the way we do it, and all the tantrums and fits you throw will not change that.

This is the deepening of the roots, the digging in.

I want to say ‘yes’ as much as possible to my children, to indulge them. But what they need, in this game of tug of war, is for me to pull back on the rope and show them: I am here. I am here. I am here. They don’t want the slackening of the rope with them left in charge.

The watercolor washes over the crayon, blurring it for a moment, but the waxy marks shine through, and no amount of paint can obscure them. They resist.

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Comments
4 Responses to “Resist by Alexandra White”
  1. Jared Karol says:

    This is so reaffirming to me to read this. Sometimes I feel when I’m being firm and “resisting” the temptation to give in to my kids’ demands that I’m doing the wrong thing, even though I know that I’m doing the right thing. Thank you for putting those thoughts into words for me.

    • talleygilly says:

      Jared – Thank you so much–it’s always challenging when we want to please our kids and make them happy (and what parent doesn’t?). How do we know where to give in and where to push back? Every day we get another chance to negotiate that delicate balance. -A

  2. Anne says:

    “This is not the hardest part of loving my children, but it is the part of me I must fight against.”

    So true. It’s that control they need — and although they always resist it they do want it on some level (as your wise children pointed out to you). It is a never-ending struggle.

    And I like the “deepening of the roots” too – the more they resist, yes, the more it is affirmed, and the more (hopefully) it will take. As they continue to resist day in and day out!

    Beautifully written!

    • talleygilly says:

      Anne – Thank you for your kind words You are right, it’s a daily struggle and as parents the messages from our kids can be so confusing, and you are right, it’s the affirmation they are looking for, which ironically means that they don’t always get what they *appear* to want, but we hope they get what they truly need. -A

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