My son’s first word was, “NO!” And when Margaux, his younger sister, started talking her first words were, “What he said.”
So you can imagine the conversation that occurred when Margaux emerged from getting herself dressed for school wearing leg warmers on her arms.
One could say she’s a trendsetter, the first toddler to wear fingerless gloves but she’s not. The child has leg warmers on her arms. She also has leg warmers on her legs with tights underneath. And I’d hate to leave out the dress, a turquoise sundress that falls off on one side making her look like actress Tara Reid that time she flashed one whole boob on the red carpet, but just stood there smiling for the cameras.
It’s also winter, which makes the sundress thing an issue. Though we do live in Los Angeles, so it’s only kind of an issue. Our winter is a crisp 68 degrees. But still, that feels cold for a summer tank dress with leg warmers as sleeves.
“My arms are warm!” Margaux says when I tell her to put on her coat.
This is toddler speak for no fucking way.
When I was a kid, it didn’t cross my mind to say no to my parents. That’s because they would have stoned me to death with the raise of an eyebrow. I learned to follow the rules and the rules were do whatever dad said or you’d face the eyebrow.
To say I’m a rule follower would be an understatement. Sure there’s that time I almost got Justin and I killed by screaming “Fuck you” into the rearview mirror of the car in front of us which happened to be driven by Suge Knight’s doppelganger. He had cut us off, or something, and I wanted to let him know that he broke the rules. My inflammatory mime caused Suge 2.0 to 1) chase my husband and I down for thirty minutes straight and 2) laugh his ass of when I screamed through my closed window, “My uncle’s a cop! I’ll call him as soon as I can find my phone so you better watch it!”
Otherwise, I’m a bit of a rule follower. I like to do things the way they were meant to be done. This ensures that people I’ve never met will like me. It’s important to make a good impression on people you will never see again.
Sure I speed, but not often. I stick to diets. I’ve never cheated on someone I’m in a relationship with. I don’t smoke. I’ve never done drugs. I have a potty mouth, but that doesn’t technically make me a rule breaker. It just makes me in appropriate and also very fun to drink with. But I’m not a rule breaker. Rule breaking gives me anxiety. And so do rule breakers.
Rule breakers don’t care what others think of them. My primary occupation is caring what others think of me so the thought of cheating on someone, or smoking in the non-smoking section, or using the carpool lane without anyone in my car would send me into a “what would other’s think of me” tailspin. And quite frankly, I just don’t have the time.
So I don’t break rules.
The same can not be said for everyone currently living in my home.
If you’ve raised children you’ve raised toddlers. And if you’ve raised a toddler you know the are slippery fucking creatures. They don’t just break rules, they enjoy breaking rules. They’ll break rules with a smile on their face knowing full well you’re thinking, “It’s lucky you’re so cute or I would have already sold you.”
Toddlers are like reality stars, any attention is good attention. So toddlers don’t really care that you’re pissed off at them for eating a marshmallow out of the garbage can or for turning on the TV when you already said no. The point is you’re talking to them, even if you’re screaming. You are using their name. You are attending to them, even angrily. They are getting your attention.
So I’m faced with a few conundrums regarding the leg warmers on the arms situation. The first problem is I don’t like my children to leave the house looking like hobos. I don’t mind if they return from school looking disheveled from painting and playing and thinking, but I like the them to leave the house in the morning looking like they are being raised by someone with eyesight. Leg warmers on arms make me look like I’m blind and I just can’t have that. I’d hate for a stranger to see my child and think I’m not doing a good job.
There’s also another issue . My 4-year-old gets herself dressed everyday. Head to toe, tights and all, she gets herself dressed. I can’t really then say, “Good job small person. You got yourself dressed. Now go get dressed in an outfit I like.” It feels contradictory to the whole “I’m trying to raise independent children” thing , which I was stupid enough to commit to.
But I’m determined to get her to wear a coat.
“Margaux, would you please put on your coat?” I say
“I wasn’t asking.” I say.
My 7-year-old chimes in from the other room, “No rhetorical questions. Daddy said…”
“Well Daddy’s not here,” I interrupt while wondering why my kid can’t remember where he left his homework, but he can remember a word like rhetorical.
Margaux puts on her backpack and marches to the door, standing there as if we’re about to leave. Suddenly she’s Ghandi and this is her protest. I immediately regret raising her with confidence.
Again, I tell her to put on her coat.
She turns her back to me, as if she can’t hear me.
I know this trick. I was a toddler once. And now I’m a wife. I’m well-versed in the game of Oops, My Ears Are Broken When You Talk.
I’ve been a mom long enough to know not to negotiate with my kids. And I’m also smart enough to know that when it comes to kids, you have to follow through. If I say, “Oh fine don’t wear a coat,” all hell will break loose. Suddenly there will be no bedtime. There will be candy for breakfast and the floor will become a toilet. For the sake of all order in my house, this child will wear that coat.
I try a few scare tactics like taking away desert to which she says, “I don’t care.” I can’t take away TV because she barely gets any. If she watches any less she’ll be Amish. So I take away the only thing that matters, the very thing she wants. I take away my attention.
While my little protester stands backpacked and ready at the door, I casually hang her jacket back up and say, “Good. I don’t want you to wear that coat anyway.” I walk away and go about my business leaving both kids confused.
I go upstairs to get my purse and when I return Margaux is wearing her coat.
She’s smiling a shit-eating grin and I can’t help but think she’s lucky she’s so cute.
She’ll leave the house looking like a hobo, but at least she won’t freeze. And strangers will still like me.
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