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Parents: losing the battle in order to win the war

February 19, 2015 The Wine Time Dad 0 Comments Category :

You may have won the battle, but you have not won the war..

An apt truism for parenting, if I ever heard one. It's also an oft used collection of words I repeat to myself, when I think I've gained the upper hand. Then, looking back over the course of a morning, a day, or the last few months, perhaps, I realize that the past does not reflect this truth in my favor. No, sir. The war is ever in favor of the tyrannical monster that has taken the place of my baby.

These days, with the golden glow of "babydom" receding faster into the past, I see my daily interactions with my daughter as more of a strategy to maintain the balance of peace. Or, as a battle when moods go south. Where not every day, but some days, or some parts of every day, turn(s) into a contest of wills. Like me keeping her alive vs her growing independence, for example.

Any activity from eating the food she liked yesterday to wanting to wear sandals outside in winter can instantly manifest our daily conflict. Just getting out the door can be a monumental task that often times takes no less than 45 minutes. A daily process that can leave you, the adult, feeling mildly shell-shocked and questioning your very existence. Even with our superior intellect, strength, a plethora of parenting books, google and bribes, we are constantly playing catch up with our toddler's dynamic personality shifts.

Which I suppose is the point of the struggle after all, right? The end result of all these little skirmishes, this push and pull, is that this toddler will be an actual human being some day- less of an animal. A human with independence and a will of her own. But, first both parties must survive the protracted test of wills and the even lengthier struggle for independence.

The full realization of this life period came upon me, several weeks back, like an offensive, yet inescapable odor, when I struggled to change the morning diaper. I was attempting to maneuver a horrible sewer-nappy from beneath my daughter before she could get her hands on it. We found ourselves in a furious stalemate, time seemed to have slowed down, her defiant gaze locked on mine and seemed to say, "Oh, hell no, motherfucker." After several long seconds, our stare down ended and I gave up trying navigate our impasse peacefully. I finally managed to liberate her red ass from the messy diaper, but not before she screeched at me and also got in a couple of good groin kicks. Afterwards, she rolled off the pad, ran past me and said, "Oh, thank you, daddy!" Laughing. All. The. Way. Ha. Ha. Ha.

It was only 8:45 am at this point, and I had the rest of the morning to go.

We still had a schedule to maintain today. We absolutely had to get to the museum before her nap. Or, there would be no nap. But, first I had to get her out of the apartment. I idly wondered how many more tantrums there would be? Could we make it to the metro without any altercations? Could we have a cease fire?

Ah, wishful thinking...

I pushed the rest of the won'teatanythingcryingwhiningfightingdiaperchangesbreakingthings *breather* anddoingdangerouscrapallmorningmoodytoddlerbaby to the back of my mind. The remainder of the morning progressed with its usual battles, stare-downs and maybe a few Hallmark parenting moments, too. Up until it was finally time to get out the door, when an unprovoked attack came out of nowhere, and the factions were once again in open conflict.

Her tantrum reached soul-splitting proportions.

Over a coat.

You get the point. However, in order to spare you from another long-winded anecdote, I'll illustrate the exact point of failure in the parent- toddler cease fire, with a handy "Toddler Conflict Awareness" flow chart:

(That's exquisite work, isn't it? Don't answer that.)

Anyways, as you can see from this sophisticated, yet not necessarily comprehensive chart, there was a hiccup in our final egress preparations. The toddler wanted to go outside and she wanted her jacket, she just didn't want to put it on. Nor was I supposed to touch the jacket.

After this meltdown, she was inconsolable. I didn't want to stand in the hallway forever, so I did the easy thing and lied to her. I told her the moon was outside. Did she want to see the moon? She did want to see the moon!

It didn't matter that it was cloudy and only 11 am.

I tricked the toddler. I cheated and won. So what? It's totally a fair tactic with a semi-social toddler. They won't remember, anyways.

Until it dawned on me how tired I was- wiped out, actually. And, thoroughly relieved to finally get outside. For the brief eternity on the elevator, from the 6th floor to the lobby, I mulled over these two sensations. Then, as we hit the lobby, an overwhelming lassitude settled over me. I looked down at the toddler, who was now beaming up at me, excited to see the moon, and completely unfazed by the whole morning. Her tank was on full. She was ready to go. She had an infinite supply of joy and rage stored up.

I had... mental fog.

I thought back to the struggle with the diaper and the kicks to the groin. This had been going on for months- the toddler beating me into submission by the shear force of her will and inexhaustible energy.

You may have won the battle, but you have not won the war..

Little battles for the war.

The war of the wills and the struggle for final independence. We parents all come to this war with the role of being the loser. It's part of nature's game.

The cold war of her pre-teen/ teenage years was still in the distant future.

The life implications are sobering. Sobering enough to warrant a drink, I'd say.

It's a good thing I've kept such an extensive photographic and video record of her many embarrassing moments. They may come in handy when she starts building her arsenal during later in life...

I may not be supposed to win this war, but I can certainly threaten to "ruin" her social life.

Thus, I remain prepared for battle.