Leaving the zoo today, Rio engaged in some civil disobedience. On the way in, we’d passed a playground she wanted to play at. We told her no, we needed to get to the gorilla house to meet the rest of our party, but we could play there on the way out.

On the way out, we passed the playground again, and she wanted to stop and play. She was told no, she couldn’t play because we had run out of time, and some of us wanted to go to yoga class.

She sat down and would not move. My impulse here was to say, “Go play on the playground while we wait for the other family we came here with to catch up.” But I foolishly did not, because I’d come into the conflict already in progress and did not want to second-guess the other adults who’d already told her no.

We tried reasoning with her that she could play there later, next time we come to the zoo, and that I would take her to our local playground tomorrow, etc. No dice.

Finally, she banged her feet on the ground and growled: “SKIP YOGA! SKIP YOGA! YOGA IS STUPID”

Now a part of me was mortified and outraged to see my child behaving like this in public, and I also felt angry and sad that she was holding my friends hostage. It’s bad enough that she does this to me, and I am frequently late for events or miss them altogether because she digs in about making a transition from one place to another, I hated the fact that she was doing it to my friends.

But I managed to keep my feelings in check and take that elusive deep breath I always wish I’d taken when moments like this turn into full-fledged tantrums.

And I noticed that her position and mine were strikingly parrallel and equally fair. She wanted me to give up my activity so she could do hers. I wanted her to give up her activity so I could do mine.

I sat down on the ground next to her and reached for a compromise.

I didn’t reach very far because the rest of our zoo companions caught up with us at that moment and leapt into the fray with ideas of their own. The added input was too much and Rio just melted into tears in my arms. I picked her up and started carrying her toward the exit; she quite sanely struggled and kicked until I dropped her and ran back to the playground of her desires.

I sent everyone else ahead and then did something radical. I said, “Sure kid, go play on the playground.”

She was shocked and immediately stopped tantruming. She told me what she wanted to play on while we walked over to the slide. I told her she had one minute, and then I was going to put her in the backpack and leave the zoo. I started counting to 100 in my head. She was at my side and ready to go by the time I hit 80.

I don’t think I handled this particularly well. I made her a promise and then tried to break it. I mistrusted my own instinct about what my child needed and said ‘no’ to her when she should have gotten a qualified ‘yes’. I tried to use my ability to physically carry her away from the situation to end an argument. Finally, I gave in to her bad behavior and changed my boundaries. I know I’ll pay for that one sometime in the next few weeks.

I’m kind of grateful that I handled this badly because it gave me that moment of clarity about our competing agendas. The only thing that gives me the right to expect her to give up what she wants so I can do what I want is “I’m the Mommy.” It comes down to me being bigger and stronger and in control of more resources. It’s not fair.

It drives me *crazy* when I feel like she’s holding me hostage to her whims and desires. What I realized today was that I am not teaching her to be considerate of others’ needs and interests and commitments if I plan all of our time without her input and expect her to step in line with my agenda. I need to find ways to bring her into the conversation about how we spend our time, and be more open to give-and-take.

A lovely book* I picked up on a whim the other day suggests the following:

Meeting in Bed
…For our Meeting in Bed, we all gather first thing in the morning and begin our official meeting of the minds. Everyone is at the ready with clipboard, paper and pencil or crayon. We all simply go around and talk about what we would like to get done, projects we want to work on, things we will need help with. Then, together (based largely on the ages of the children), we come up with a prioritized list of what’s to be done for the day, being sure that everyone gets something they desire on the list.

I hope I’ll rise to the challenges today presented me with in ever more creative ways.

*I generally reccomend this book. I’ve had it for two days, and every time I open it at random and read a passage I come away with a nugget of wisdom or a good craft idea or the like. It’s a real gem.