Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Picking My Battles

I'm happy - no, thrilled - to report that Lauren has slept willingly and peacefully in her own bed ALL NIGHT LONG for the past 2 nights (and 1 nap). I'm not sure what's changed, what's prompted this fantabulous change other than me bitching about it here and determining that it must stop. The first night I decided to take my sisters advice and leave the table lamp on all night. I had been turning it off when we went to bed. She stayed sleeping in her bed the entire night. But last night, sort of as an experiment, I didn't leave the light on (other than the little night-light). The kids both skipped naps yesterday, so it was an early bedtime for both of them, and it was still pretty light outside. We don't have any light-blocking shades yet in Lauren's room, so there was plenty of ambient light at bedtime. She didn't insist on her table lamp being turned on as a result, so I didn't offer. Instead, her room naturally dimmed as she slumbered, and she remained asleep and in her bed all night. I went for a run this morning and when I got back home I glanced up at her window and there she was, all smiles and waving to me. 11 solid hours - I'll take it.

Of course, just because Lauren is not on a hot streak where sleeping is concerned doesn't mean Mr. Chick and I are off the hook. Last night Nicholas decided he needed to sleep with us because of scary dreams involving "bad guys". Sigh. It's a rarity for him to climb into bed with us, and he's not nearly as stealth about it as his sister, but of course we allowed it. It won't be much longer before he's outgrown the need to be so close with us. But man - ! I thought Lauren was a physical sleeper?? No way - Nicholas is way worse. Probably just because he's bigger, but there was lots of kicking of legs, elbows to the boobs, head knocks in the battle for pillow share, and sudden blasts of cold air hitting me as he'd roll over and leave a big, open gap in the covers. Add to that the occasional snore from Mr. Chick who is suddenly out of range for the gentle nudge to roll over, all thanks to our gangly son taking up all the middle of the bed real estate and blocking for his daddy, and I got another terrible night of sleep. I'm hoping the adrenaline from my run gets me through the day. And lots of coffee.

So the sleep battle continues to rage over here, but it's improving. The battle that's just starting, however, will have a much, much longer life: the battle over what to wear. It started a couple of weeks ago, rather suddenly. With no warning, my previously docile girl-child who didn't care one iota what outfit I put on her, suddenly had some very strong opinions about which clothing items were put on her chubby little body. And there's been no looking back. Each morning I brace myself when it's time to get dressed. I've been doing all the things you're supposed to do: present 2-3 choices ONLY and allow the child to select one. Only Lauren will make her choice, quite definitively, only to completely lose it the second the item is on her body. It's exasperating, but not unexpected. All my friends who have older daughters have warned me that this day was coming.

Easter was a pinnacle. It's Easter, for crying out loud, and my children will be dressed nicely. No Blue's Clue's t-shirts, I don't care how hard you cry. I envisioned Lauren getting one last wearing of a sweet floral dress that she wore for Easter last year, Mr. Chick's graduation, my sister wedding, and one or two other special occasions. But sticking to the theory that she should have a hand in deciding what she's to wear, I offer her the choice of the floral dress (pick that! pick that! I was selling it HARD but she was not buying it. AT.ALL.) or a more casual navy corduroy jumper. Not my favorite for the occasion, but I'm all about compromise and I really wanted her to wear a dress, damnit. It was Easter. Lauren picked the jumper (of course), and selected a shirt to go underneath. I got her fully dressed and she flipped out. Sobbing and pulling at the jumper trying to take it off, like it was burning her flesh or something. So I pulled out the floral dress again and told her she either kept the jumper on, or wore the dress. Neither was acceptable to her. She pointed at the cardigan sweater. THAT was what she wanted to wear. Just that. She's sort of in a pants-less phase right now... I told her the cardigan went with the floral dress, and that just sent her hysterics into the stratosphere.

Thinking quickly, I grabbed her sheer pink ballerina skirt from the closet and asked if she would wear this. Through her choking sobs and snotty, running nose she nodded her ascent. Great - a silly ballet skirt and cardigan for Easter. How lovely. So I put on the sweater (which she insisted be buttoned up to the very top button) and some sheer tights and the ballet skirt. Her diaper was now in plain view for the whole wide world. NOT a pretty sight. To solve this, I put on some pink biker-style shorts under the skirt. Are you able to visualize the ensemble? Very 2-yr old. Very not me. But Lauren was finally satisfied and willing to go to Grandma's house. Fit over. Parents shaking their heads over the getup. It was quite the compromise - at least she was in a dress of some sort and not sweatpants, so victory for me, and she was wearing the sweater she insisted on wearing, so victory for her. But I think the general viewing public was the biggest loser having to see her parading around my parents yard for the Easter egg hunt looking like she did. Sigh.

So it's about time to go get the kids dressed for the day, and I wonder what today's choice outfit will be. I know in the grand scheme of things this is not a big deal. It's not worth forcing my choice of outfit on her if it causes this much distress. I must pick my battles wisely, and I'm not sure this battle would be a good one to engage in. It's just that this is my first go-around with the whole clothes thing. Nicholas has yet to care at all what he wears, and in fact still prefers me to choose his clothes for him. But I take pride in the appearance of my kids, and it kills me - KILLS ME - when Lauren chooses something so off-the-wall that I wonder if the child can really see colors and patterns like the rest of us. I know it's just her asserting her growing independence, but I also know that this is just the beginning of a lifetime of self-expression via fashion, and a lifetime of her pushing the envelope and me trying to set limits of what is allowable and appropriate and what isn't. I fear her teen years. For so many reasons.

But for now, this is a battle I'm choosing to sit out. I'm going to try to be a little zen about it and attempt to see the humor in her appearance and the endearing fashion choices she comes up with. Because only a kid can make pink sweats, her brothers blue shoes, and a red sweater look cute. Not so much a 15 year old.

With Sam, he never cared that much about what he wore -- as long is what green. These days he'll branch out but he gets so excited when I pull out a green shirt. I pick out his clothes to this day -- he's a typical guy and doesn't care.

So I am waiting for the girl clothing nightmare to begin. I could soooo visualize her Easter ensemble. Chuckle!
Boy am I lucky that Alaina never went through that stage! How I missed it, I don't know. But I count my blessings. In fact, she is 9 1/2 and still lets me pick things for her to wear. I did start making her set out her clothes the night before though to try to get her to take responsibility. She couldn't care less to go shopping and pick out clothes. I buy what I think she'll like and what I think is appropriate and she wears them. No arguments. I'm telling you, though, I know there will be Hell to pay soon with the teen years right around the corner!

A quick little anecdote that my mother still loves to tell about me, her perfect daughter: I too went through the "I'll dress myself" stage. It was very evident one morning when I came downstairs wearing red pants, a blue shirt, and orange socks. My mom told me it didn't match. I said "!" and turned the waistband out to show her the rainbow of colors inside my pants band. sigh. I just loooove it when my mom tells these stories.
Oh, it's so hard when kids exert their opinions like that. I, too, take pride in what my children wear, so I have a particularly hard time when they look all out of sorts. Kudos to you for keeping your cool about it. All of us parents have been there.
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