Pushing Buttons and Boundaries

J has worked out that she hasn’t got to stay in her bed. She knows we’d like her to stay in it but if she stands up and walks around she looks at us as if to say,
“Really what are you going to do about it – put me to bed early? Mwhahaha.”
It seems that lately, seeing what we’re going to do about it is part of the fun. She’s calling our bluff. The other day I walked into J’s room, assuming she’d be asleep as she had been quiet for ages, and she was stood in the middle of her room wearing a life jacket and holding a slightly deflated dingy under her arm. Although they were not necessarily well thought through plans – this girl had ambition. My ambition from this point was not to laugh. I just kept saying over and over in my head,
“If you laugh you’ve lost.”
So I kept my eyes alarmingly wide and bit the inside of my cheek to keep myself together. I also didn’t speak – as I didn’t want my tone of voice to give away the fact that I thought the situation was hilarious and ridiculous. I just kept wide-eyed with a steady look, biting my cheek, while unclipping the life jacket. I must have looked mental. I did it all in silence and then lay her in bed. She kept on saying,
“But I want my life jacket on mummy!”
What kind of dreams must this girl be having that she feels the need to be buoyant?
I think the silence and the strange expression weirded her out because she stayed in bed and went to sleep. I thought,
” I’ve won! This time.”
As people with little ones in our lives, we talk a lot about nature and nurture and what molds a person into the little human beings they are. I look at my parental friends and although differing in small ways, we rear our children in pretty much the same way. We go into parenting in a winging-it fashion being as kind as we can, and when our little cherubs are being really difficult, secretly swearing at them in our heads. I think there is a lot of nature in there and I would even go as far as to say it’s about 65 percent nature and about 35 percent nurture. Meaning, if a child has had that fairly consistent good-enough-parenting, the rest is on them. This theory is great when they end up in jail.
“Well we put in a solid 35 percent but that pesky 65 percent nature took over and he’s ended up banged up. What-are-ya-gonna-do”.
This is a fail-proof feel-good parenting theory.

J has never been a fan of doing nothing. I lay her next to her niece when they were both around the 5-month mark and we all marveled at how J’s legs and arms did not stop moving. I remember googling it frantically – is there something wrong, some sort of nervous condition that makes her twitch? Turns out no. She just can’t stop moving and hasn’t stopped since. She was chilled for about the first four days of her life when all babies lull you into thinking they’re going to be sleepy babies, then bam, she wanted entertaining god damn it! I’ve turned into the opposite kind of parent I imagined, pleading her to watch some TV.
“Would you like to watch a little bit of telly lovely?”

“No,” she says almost disdainfully, as she lassoes my dressing gown chord over the door and attempts to scale it.

She doesn’t, so far, appear to have any interest in being good. As a child, I was pretty interested in people thinking I was good. I was only up for being naughty as long as no one could possibly find out and my goody two shoes reputation wasn’t altered. My brother, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less. He was, for example, politely asked to leave his primary school. He worked out pretty early on it didn’t really make much difference if you were good or not. As long as you stayed within certain ramifications – what are they going to do? So you get a detention, your mum gets cross, who cares? It was fun right? I look back at my teenage years and wished I’d done a bit of that, well I did do a bit of that but I didn’t let anyone know about it and that’s not really that naughty is it? It’s the not caring that you truly have to admire. Now I look at J and I see a lot of my brother in her. You should see the thrill in her eyes when she goes to turn the washing machine on while I’m just out of reach.
“Don’t do that Joni, Joni JONI!
“Joni you’ve put the washing machine on for 2 hours with nothing in it – that’s not good”
“Never mind mummy,” she says while skipping off to smash something.
Really pissing mummy off is exhilarating for her. Although it is infuriating and can be at times really testing, I know this is what she’s meant to be doing. J is meant to be putting me and Eddy to the test and she does it in a way that I am a little in awe of. I think this feeling may fade when I find her as a teenager climbing out of her bedroom window using those earlier acquired dressing gown chord abseiling techniques.
Why do I try to admire this kind of testing behaviour? Well, how else can you look at it? I could think what am I doing wrong she doesn’t want to be good? Or I can think wow she’s so confident and love that she can really push and enjoy crossing the line once in a while. I’m just hoping she finds a suitable line, like a couple of detentions and the odd bunked off class, rather than news-at-10 bank robbery.
So, I am congratulating myself, and you can too. If you have raised a tearaway toddler and you think what’s going on? I give you my full permission to pat yourself on the back and think he or she is testing because they know they are loved and that it is safe to do so. You can be proud to say I have created a little person who is confident enough to be individual and not follow the crowd. And then if it gets really bad you’ve always got the 35 percent nurture 65 percent nature theory to fall back on.
And if your child isn’t testing those boundaries and listens well, and sits quietly and you’re thinking well what does that mean for me? Well, you already have a well-behaved child what more do you want?
Please refrain from reminding me of this blog when you see my daughter on crime watch.



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