Thursday, August 14, 2014

Well Played, Barbie

The tears trickled down her face and her lip quivered as she looked up at me.

"But I wanted to wear the tights," Melina said. "I wanted to wear the thin tights."

I rolled my eyes and sighed. It has been almost two weeks since I've gone running. I've stopped in an attempt to let my body heal. In the process, though, my mind has suffered and my ability to keep my patience has waned. I had to walk away, or I'd likely yell at the sweet child before me.

I grabbed her hand and tugged it lightly, pulling her into my bedroom and toward the master bathroom. Once my feet hit the cool tile floor, I said, "Use the potty. And get dressed."

I won't lie, my sharp voice revealed my irritation, my exasperation. It held enough of both to cause Tim to notice. "What's wrong?" he said. And when I told him, I could have sworn that I heard his eyes roll.

This battle we wage sometimes with our fourth child is trivial. I know that. I realize that, as she grows up, we'll have deeper concerns with which to deal. That maybe I should give in from time to time on what she decides to wear, since it really is a simple battle. So I do. We've gone grocery shopping as Anna Wintour, Batman, Wonder Woman, and dinosaurs. We've headed to the doctor's office in pajamas and to church as a ballerina. I've even headed to local coffee shops with a girl who could only be described as a harlot, that's how disgustingly inappropriate her getup would have been on a woman. I get that I need to back off sometimes. Really. But I draw the line at one place: Melina must wear weather appropriate clothing.

And tights on a day in August when the thermometer might reach 78 degrees or higher? (And that's only because we're having a cooler than normal summer.) No way in hell will I put those tights on. Because it doesn't matter that Melina is six, she still struggles with putting her own tights on. (Crap, if I tried to put a pair of nylons on myself I might have trouble.) And I don't want to waste precious moments in the morning, losing them to a pair of nylon rubbery tights that will make Melina's legs warm, sweaty, and itchy before she even leaves for the bus stop. Plus, if by some miracle she didn't have warm legs before she headed to school, I can tell you that once she got to recess (or before) poor Mrs. W. would need to deal with a hot mess. This is because Melina runs hot ALL THE TIME. So why did she want the tights on?

I guess in my attempt to keep myself in check, I never asked her that question and I probably should have. She knows what she wants, usually because she has a grandiose scheme in her head. A shirt or sweater paired with the right skirt and tights must also then go along with the proper shoes and headband. It's how Melina's brain is built and I understand the underlying reason for that behavior. It's the same reason I like to have my house in order and everything put away. It's why I like the beds to be made and the shoes all lined up. It's what I want. It's what I like. It makes me content, and dare I say it, happy.

Did I shoot down my kid's dreams today? Did I cause a problem so severe to her psyche she'll need to crawl to a therapist someday? I doubt this episode will send her, but I can guarantee that something else I do might. In this instance, though, I actually think my solution passed muster.

After I'd calmed down a few notches, I spoke to her with gentleness and love in my voice. (Looking at a face like Melina's, it is easy to do.) I reminded her that she is ALWAYS hot and that she runs around here in her underwear most of the time (and nothing else). I then used the trick that we, as parents, do so often we don't always realize we're doing it. I diverted her attention. With Barbie shoes.

Yes, Barbie--the blond doll that I've given a bad rap to for ages--became my sidekick. She wasn't my sworn enemy any more and for a few moments, I hoped she would become my savior. For inside Melina's shoe bin (which I have to say, is messy...the shoes ARE NOT all lined up, like soldiers) a sparkle caught my eye. And I was reminded that back in the spring, we chose a pair of Barbie shoes with glittery sides and pink flowers on the toe. We hadn't seen them all summer, so maybe, just maybe, if we pulled them out today, it would be like new shoes. (And these shoes did not need to be worn with tights.)

Sometimes you wonder where you get brilliant ideas. Other times you think that you had a bad idea and it just happened to work. I don't know which of those is true for today. But Melina nodded her head with enthusiasm and pulled on her socks, then threw the shoes on, and ate breakfast without complaint. She smiled and blew kisses as she walked out the door and down to the bus stop. Then she pulled out her famous parting line: "All the goody bags in the world."

Melina says that at night when I put her to bed or when she's leaving me. She's gracing me with all the goodness that she can, and hoping that my day (or evening) will be as wonderful as hers. I realized then that the tights had been long forgotten. Everything in her world had made it through a minor disruption, a small blip that Barbie had somehow righted.

I guess I can't give all the credit to Barbie, but I'm a good enough person to acknowledge when I've had some help.

Well played, Barbie. Well played.

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