Maggie was in my room last night, clearing a pile of notes she had left on my bed. Apparently, they had been addressed to me, but I hadn’t noticed them.
“You don’t need to read these anymore, Mom.”
“Ok. What was it?” I dared to ask.
“Just some notes about how sad I was that you were making me clean up, but I am better now.”
“Ok.” At this point, I was reminding myself that rolling my eyes will only cause more trouble down the road, so I stifled the urge, even though it caused me great pain. “I’m glad you’re happy again.”
“It’s your job to keep me happy, Mom!” This was said in complete seriousness, with a big smile and the attitude of, “aren’t you so glad I’m making your job so easy right now, mother-dearest?”
I about died.
And then went on to explain that it was NOT my job to keep her happy. Her attitude was her own responsibility, and that her job was keeping her attitude positive- my job was basically making sure there was food and clothing and education. Happy was her own choice, and one she would make for the rest of her life.
Maggie had been very UNhappy an hour earlier. She had been creating with fuse-beads (you know those little plastic beads you put onto a peg board and then melt into the shape of animals, flowers, hearts, ect?) and had left a huge mess all over the dining room. I told her to clean up after herself, and she was not best pleased at the suggestion. There was a great deal of pouting and even some whining and manipulatively requesting that she would feel so much better about this if Jonas had to help her -aka do it for her. I did not relent. In fact, I upped the ante. No dinner until the beads are cleaned up. It was an hour until dinner.
It was, apparently, around this time that the notes were written and left.
We had dinner without her, standing around the counter since she still hadn’t cleared the table, and she ate about a half an hour later, once she realized that I was very serious about her pulling her own weight here. Maggie is very capable; she just doesn’t want to.
Apparently her first grade teacher has been dealing with the same attitude. A few weeks ago she asked Maggie, who had finished her work, to help another student. Maggie heaved a giant sigh, rolled her eyes (I wonder where she gets that?) and irritably said with a scowl, “well, I was hoping to finish my book.”
It would seem this was the first time her teacher had seen that attitude from a kid, and she meekly desisted, out of sheer shock. I can’t blame her. Maggie is good at catching people off guard. Now, it has become a major issue, as Maggie really doesn’t want to help anyone with anything in class. I can’t blame her, really. She worked hard, finished her work and wants to go on to the fun stuff, not be saddled with helping a struggling student catch up. Maggie is exceptionally bright, so she finds herself in this position a lot. That being said, it would be nice of her to at least pretend to be a kind person on some of these occasions, and stop meeting her teacher’s expectations with a glare and a pout.
I am torn between admiring my daughter for knowing what she wants and not feeling pressure to please everyone all of the time, and wishing she would place value on mercy and kindness.(I’m afflicted with a major need to be loved, so I see Maggie’s priority of her own will trumping all else as something quite empowering). Ultimately, it boils down to being a choice she will have to make, and a balance she will have to live with. She decides who she will be, and I am just here to provide opportunity for her to see the worth inherent in those choices so she can decide with informed consent and not be at the mercy of her own selfish folly.
“Hey Mom,” she said after dinner, “You know what would make me really happy? If you bought me that new Webkinz purple Emperor Dragon! It’s so beautiful!”
“It is beautiful, isn’t it? But Maggie, who decides if you’re happy?”
She just smiled and flitted away.