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The Other Side of the Coin

Dear Maddie:

We had a bit of a rough morning recently, didn’t we? School mornings are never easy, but this one seemed to start out pretty well and I had reasonably high hopes for getting you to school relatively incident-free.

Then it came time to brush your hair.

As I approached you with the brush, you raised your arms up and blocked me from your hair. And then I said, “Honey, you need to let me brush your hair – and not fight me – or you need to brush it yourself.”

I then lifted my arm up to brush again – and you pushed my arms away.

Which is when I gently set the brush next to you and said, “You will need to brush your own hair now.”

I know I don’t have to go into detail on what happened next: the crying, the begging, the screaming and jumping up and down. You promised many rash things (“I’ll never fight you again, I promise, just please brush my hair today!”) and tried everything you could think of to get me to change my mind.

But I stuck by my word, and when we left the house fifteen minutes later your eyes were red and swollen, you sadly hiccupping and trying to stem the runny nose. And in fact, you had a difficult time heading into class, clinging to me and sobbing again, desperate not to leave me as you haven’t been since kindergarten.

I tried to talk to you throughout the incident, and I can honestly say that I never got mean or yell-y or Scary-Face Mom on you. I stayed calm and loving, keeping myself out of this little battle you were having, and in the end you chose to go to school with unbrushed hair rather than brush it yourself.

I know, baby, that you were bewildered and upset and probably a little scared that I was abandoning you somehow – that Mommy doesn’t love you because I didn’t give in to your begging. And I’ll admit that in the past, I have on occasion relented and changed my mind on something when you’ve gotten to that point. My absolutism must have seemed arbitrary and mean, I know.

But here’s the flip side of that coin, baby: I want you to be able to trust me, to trust my word. And I need to be able to believe that my yes means ‘yes’ and my no means ‘no’. So I stick to my guns, which may not make me popular, but will eventually make me reliable.

I want you to be able to come to me with secrets, with fears, and trust that if I promise not to tell anyone else, you can count on that. I want you to grow up feeling the comfort of your boundaries around you, for better or for worse. If you can rely on those boundaries and know they’ll be there, perhaps you won’t need to test them quite so much.

Perhaps you’ll reach the point of simply trusting that they are there, and there to help you.

It was a bad morning, kiddo. But we got through it and you recovered and had a great afternoon. And hopefully now when you read this- years from now, truth be told – you’ll understand why I make those hard choices sometimes, why I come across so inflexible sometimes.

Even on such a trivial issue as brushing your hair.

I love you, baby.



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