As per our usual routine; teeth are brushed, story is read, songs are sung, kisses are given, door is closed. I decide to use the facilities and when I emerge the hubs is standing in her doorway asking her what the problem is.
She’s sitting there with phony tears in her eyes and not saying anything.
I ask her to talk to me and tell me what she needs.
“Water,” she says.
“Ok, I’ll bring you a little sip of water and then you need to stop being silly and go to bed. Ok?”
She drinks her water and lies back on her pillow. Her expression is one of fierce determination to will tears to appear. She’s not talking. She’s focused on what I’m doing and how she will need to react. When I walk out of the room and close her door she emits a scream like that one would require should ones leg be caught in a bear trap.
I turn around, open the door and tell her to get up. Her little white, wooden chair is tucked neatly under her little white, table and so I pull it out and place it in the middle of the room.
“Sit down, you’re now in time out.”
She sits and now the tears are flowing freely – she’s upset that she’s not getting the reaction out of me that she had anticipated. I walk down the hall to the living room and listen to her. Her cries change from genuine to forced and I go back down the hall.
“That screaming was very bad behaviour. You know that right? Please say that you’re sorry to mommy.”
She looks at me and doesn’t say anything.
“Ok, stay here until you’re done crying. When you’re done and ready to say that you’re sorry I’ll come back. Back down the hall I go. The next time I go in, she’s willing to say that she’s sorry but she’s not willing to go to bed. She says she has more crying to do and that she wants to stay in time out. I tell her “Ok, but tomorrow, you cannot play any games on mommies iPhone.” I explain that when we do things that we know are wrong – fun things get taken away from us. She seems to agree that this is logical but wants to remain in time out. I head back down the hall.
I go back in a few minutes and ask her if she’s done yet. She says no, she wants to stay in time out. I tell her “Ok, but tomorrow, we are not playing with the play-doh. We repeat this one more time and I tell her that now it’s movies and TV shows that she’s lost.
She asks me “What can we do if we’re bad?” This astounds me and I realize the depths of intelligence that my dear, sweet three year old possesses. She’s weighing out the pros and cons of her actions and determining if staying up now, and engaging me in this battle of wits is worth losing her privileges over.
I tell her, “When we are bad, we don’t get to do fun things. Fun things are taken away from us.”
“But not my toys?” she asks.
“Yes, next time I come in and you want to stay in time out instead of going to bed, I’ll take your Jocelyn (doll).”
“But not my Nathan (doll) or Sweet Pea (doll)? Or that,” she says pointing to a little candy bag, “I need that for Halloween.”
“Yes,” I tell her, “I’ll have to take those things away too.” I head back down the hall. She’s getting restless now in her chair and it’s hard for her to sit. I go back in and ask her if she’s ready for bed yet. She says no and so I take the doll and remove it from her room. I go back down the hall.
I can see her now, she’s tapping her toes and waving her hands around. She’s engaging in some sort of imaginative play and is no longer crying or upset. I say “It’s time to get in bed now.”
“I’m so so sad now Mommy.”
“Because you took Jocelyn.” She climbs into bed. “Bring her back in my room please?”
“Are you going to sleep now?”
“Ok, I’ll get Jocelyn. But if you don’t go to sleep I’m taking her away again.”
She pulls her covers up under her chin and I give her kisses and her poor little red eyes look so sleepy. She looks happy, like she’s explored what she needed to explore and discovered what she needed to discover.
“Goodnight and sweet dreams,” I say,”I love you.”
“I love you too Mommy,” she says.
I close her door and listen to silence for the first time in hours and I laugh. Because there’s not much else you can do besides contemplating pharmaceuticals.