We've had a little, how shall I put it, issue with Birdie recently. Honestly, considering the large battles of the past, this one pares in comparison but still- an issue is an issue. She's eight. She thinks she's 28. If we were to visibly divide the family into two sections, one for grown ups and one for kids she would confidently categorize herself in the adults column. She thinks we're a triangular parenting group of me, Howie and her.
I'm sure we've contributed to this issue by encouraging her independence and giving her more responsibilities but we never saw this coming. Okay, so we did see it coming but from a distance it seemed like a vespa and we didn't consider it to be a threat. Now up close, we can see that it's a Mack truck and it's running over us every day.
We encourage things like getting herself dressed and combing her own hair. We've allowed her to help out Mamaw from time to time in order to earn a little extra cash and give her absolute authority in what she buys although we try to steer her in the spend a third, save a third and give a third direction. We sometimes let her sit in the passenger seat of the car, because lets face it, when she wears tennis shoes she's almost as tall as me. The point it, we've given her a little rope because she's pretty much earned it. She's proved that she can be responsible about certain things and we want to keep teaching her to take initiative in her life, within reason of course and with total supervision.
The problem is that this new found independence often manifests itself in her trying to boss around her siblings. The other night at the dinner table, Bubba asked for a cup of milk and even though Howie and I were sitting right there, she immediately (and sternly) responded, "only after you finish your chicken!" Howie and I both sat there, mouth agape. It's not just that, she tells them what to do, tries to discipline them and overall tries to run the show. Now they are old enough to balk at such oppression and basically tell her to take a hike and this sets off a chain reaction of fighting that could rival an ultimate fighting championship.
We've sat her down several times and explained that she has no responsibilities for her brother and sister. She is their big sister, not their parent. She can play with them and share with them the wisdom she's accrued over these past eight years but that's where it ends. We're right here. All she needs to do is come to us and we'll handle it. Period. She hears us but she doesn't listen. She's been warned and so today, I finally had to throw down the gauntlet.
She was supposed to go to a birthday party today. Not just any birthday party; a swimming party with pizza and ice cream and all of her best friends and saying that is really no different than saying that she was going to a party with magic and rainbows and unicorns because anything including swimming and pizza is a magical wonderland in her opinion. She's been looking forward to this for a full week. She picked out a card and a gift and a gift bag and was dressed in her bathing suit by 9am this morning in preparation for the 3:00 big bash.
But then a few hours later she caught Bear using her lip gloss and Bubba playing with her Pokemon cards and blew a gasket. Like I told her, she had every right to be angry. They were in her stuff and they've been told repeatedly that they need to ask permission before they play with anything that isn't theirs. But instead of telling me and letting me take care of it, she started reprimanding them, screaming at them, overall being all kinds of hateful. I was just in the other room and I heard immediate screaming and thought for sure this was the time she tore them limb from limb and that just on the other side of the wall, I would find my youngest children, mangled body parts strewn from wall to wall.
She didn't pass go, she didn't collect $100, she was immediately sent to her room. Hal and I spoke about it and decided that she was NOT going to that party after all. That sometimes in life it's our job to teach our children about obedience and sometimes those lessons are hard. It helped that the kids and I did a devotional this morning about obedience and how it's difficult but necessary to learn this when we are young so that we have an easier time when we are adults. I reminded her how we had read that even Adam and Eve paid a big price for their disobedience and that all choices have consequences. She cried. I have to say, those devotionals really do eliminate the "why" questions. "But WHY do I have to be kind? WHY do I have to tell the truth? WHY do I have to do what you say?" Thank you, devotionals, for subduing this irritating question and giving me something to say besides "BECAUSE I SAID SO!!"
We're giving her an opportunity to make up for it. If she can show that she can follow the rules about being kind to her brother and sister and coming to us with problems rather than dealing with it herself, vigilante style, then she can have her friend (the birthday girl) over for a sleep over where she can give her the present and card. Until then, she's on a short leash.