Sunday, June 28, 2009

My daughter… the button pusher

Skadi is more and more starting to remind me of one person in my life… my sister. I have been trying to figure out if this is simply because as an older sibling, the fact that she is a younger sibling lumps her in that category. Two aspects of her personality I think she has inherited from my sister... the first is her ability to push buttons, the mental buttons. And the second is her fashion sense.

We’ll tackle the second one first. It’s easier. When my sister was a little girl she would pile and pile on clothes of all types. She was a touch stubborn about what she wore and terribly opinionated about her clothes. My sister had this red dress that when she wore it made her look like she stepped out of the Heidi stories. It had a full skirt and lots of ric rac. I remember my mom peeling it off her while she slept to wash it. Skadi hasn’t approached that level of obsession just yet, though I can see it in her future. She far prefers clothes with cupcakes on them (pajamas too) and once on she announces, “it’s my birthday!”

Yes, it is STILL her birthday. Her brother’s upcoming birthday is going to be a stark realization. Or not. She may just believe (as my sister did) that everyone was celebrating HER birthday!

The first one I mentioned above I talked to my mom about the other day. The button pushing. My mom and I agreed that button pushing may just be one of those things that the youngest child is destined to lead the race on. When you think about it, this makes sense. The older child never had anyone with which to derive joy out of attempts to make them miserable.

Probably the single person in my life who knows how to push my buttons like no one’s business is my younger sister. It is made worse for me, now as an adult, because I feel paralyzed in the presence of this. As a child I was not allowed to respond to her because it might trigger an argument. And arguments didn’t happen in my house. My sister and I would start and would immediately be shushed by my mom who grew up in a family of bickering and therefore had more than her share.

Warning: NM’s Pop Psychiatry 101 (hey, I took high school psychology!)

Unfortunately how this manifested itself is that my sister and I have never learned how to argue with each other. And I think this combined with the fact that my sister and I are very different people, has lead to part of the reason we don’t communicate much anymore. We are cordial with each other, love each other’s kids to bits despite only seeing them once a year or so, and we do love each other. But our level of friendship doesn’t go much deeper than this I am sad to say. She occasionally reads my blog and may have a different take on all this… it may stem back to my making her drink spit, or telling her that the car wash scrubbers were retired Muppets, or from years of my mistaking my role as an older sister and trying to be a mom – when she already clearly had one. Her leg up on me, and still is, is that she can push my buttons.

Right now I feel my mom’s pain from 30 years ago. I don’t like hearing my kids argue. And at this stage it is all about the little things that will never get resolved because my kids don’t comprehend conflict management very well at this stage. Leif is learning at his Montessori school, Skadi will learn. But right now they both believe they are right 100%.

And usually neither of them is.

I make a point to step back. I try to listen to them to get a sense of what is going on so that when one of them comes running to me to complain about the other I have some idea. I try to avoid that easy statement that I heard so much as a kid, “just quit arguing, NOW!” When I was a kid my mom added onto the end of that statement about how she had three brothers and always wanted a sister she could be friends with, we should be best friends as sisters! I can’t tell you how many times as a kid (and I am sure my sister felt the same way) I wanted to tell my mom, “I’ll trade her for a brother!” Kind of like that whole “eat your food, there are children starving in Africa” theory whereby every child at some point has offered to mail their food to the unfortunate starving children. How realistic really, is this?

Skadi pushes Leif’s buttons. He does it back a little, but not nearly as much. His button pushing is limited to taking her things and refusing to return them, insisting he is using them and that they take turns. This usually results in much screaming. I am all for taking turns with things, but I am also on deck with the Montessori school philosophy that a child can have a toy and play with it, without being forced to surrender the toy because another child showed interest.
Skadi is more subtle.

“I love you mommy,” Leif will say.

“I love you mommy,” Skadi will say.

“Hey she copied me, stop copying me Skadi,” Leif will say.

“Stop copying me!” Skadi will say.

“Skadi, STOP copying me,” Leif will say.

“Stop copying me!” Skadi will say while giggling hilariously.

Yes, this is the point where I need to intervene to save my sanity from hearing “stop copying me” going back and forth 459 times and to minimize tears. Leif's tears. And it happens on all topics, Leif stating that he likes Scooby Doo – Skadi states this too and she is immediately fingered as “copying”. If they get to pick fruit snacks, Skadi waits to see which Leif will pick and then picks the same as him.

I have been trying to convince Leif that it may seem like copying, but it really is just admiration, she wants to be like him. Though in all honesty… I am not sure I can say this without wondering if it is really true or not. Or maybe that is my paranoia setting in from similar interactions with my sister? Or maybe it’s seeing that glint in my daughter’s eye that says, “THIS is what would upset my brother!”

There are instances that support this theory. Like when Skadi declares her favorite color to be yellow (in Leif's presence) and insists on the yellow cup, the yellow bowl, or the yellow crayon, etc. But if you ask her what her favorite color is without Leif in near proximity her response is purple or orange and yesterday she selected pink butterfly wings at the Renaissance Faire. Yet if Leif is around she immediately hones in on a yellow item that he may want. That same glint is in her eye during this routine too.

I suppose one area I can glean from this is my statistically insignificant assessment that I was wrong as a little girl when I thought that having a brother instead of a sister would make it all better. I am quite positive that there is equal amounts of bickering between opposite gender children and same gender children.

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