Adventures With Brattiness

I told Pippa that she was a brat this weekend. It was not my finest parenting moment.

I was making the kids a snack on Saturday. Pippa wanted an apple. She has been eating a lot of apples lately and has strong opinions on whether she wants a pink or red one at any given time. Rather than hazard a guess as to what she wants, it’s best to just ask her.

So I did. I asked her what apple she wanted. She got out two magnet tiles, one red and one green, and told me that she was going to hold up red for red apple and green for pink apple. (We have no pink magnetic tiles.) So she went through this elaborate dance, moving the tiles around, and I smiled and waited and waited and waited and finally, she held the red tile high up in the air. Red apple! Okay!

I selected a red apple. Pippa watched.

I got out the cutting board. Pippa watched.

I got out a knife. Pippa watched.

I sliced off the first piece of red apple. Pippa cried out, “No, I want pink! I changed my mind, I want pink!”

And I cracked. She is a picky eater, and this is fair, because I was a picky eater, subsisting off a very narrow range of bland foods for most of my childhood. Now I eat just about anything, so I accept that Pippa is entitled to be a picky eater.

But Friday night, she had been extra difficult. We were across town at my parents’ house (and remember, by “town” I mean “the other side of Los Angeles County”). She mentioned in the early afternoon that she wanted spaghetti for dinner but we had no spaghetti. I just wanted to feed the kids before driving back home to Pasadena so they could fall asleep and not be hungry horrors, so I ordered pizza. Pizza that Pippa has eaten before and loves. When the pizza arrived, she was outraged. I found leftover spaghetti in the fridge, the remains from her cousin’s dinner the night before, and I gently washed away all the meat and tomato sauce because when my daughter wants spaghetti, she literally only wants the spaghetti. I prepared the spaghetti for Pippa, she took one bite, and declared it tastes weird. I ended up leaving the room so that my parents, sister, brother and sister-in-law could trick Pippa into eating a few calories for dinner.

Back to the apple. Friday night had used up all my sympathy for picky eaters. I told Pippa that she had to eat the red apple, end of discussion.

She protested. Shouted. Stamped her feet. Whined. I argued with her (always a mistake) and after going back and forth several times, I raised my voice and told her she was being a BRAT.

I did not like that. It felt wrong. Was she being difficult? Yes. Fussy? Yes. But a brat? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s a fair word to use with a child. (To their face. Behind their back is a different story.) After all, Pippa is a child, an she’s just doing her best to navigate the world. The girl has opinions, and I don’t want to beat them out of her. She also has very little control over her life, but she can control the food that she puts into her mouth, chews, and swallows. Maybe she was just having a moment where she needed to feel like she was in charge of her body.

But she pushed my buttons and I lashed out and called her a B-R-A-T BRAT.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. I took the kids to an indoor playground at the mall. Julian kicked his shoes off in the car and was less than cooperative as I tried to put them back on. Since we were going to a Socks Only establishment, I just left his Crocs in the car and carried him.

As we walked, Pippa said, “Julian is being a brat.”

I winced. Oh, it never feels good when Pippa repeats my lesser moments.

I said, “Let’s not use that word. It’s not very nice.”

“But mama,” Pippa said, “I learned this word from you. If you don’t want me to say it, you shouldn’t teach me how to use it.”

Well. Shit.

The universe really knew what it was doing when it decided Pippa should be my daughter. The girl will not let me sit back and half-ass motherhood. She is forcing me to think and write and consider my mistakes and grow into a better person.

And so, here’s to another day of motherhood! I have two goals for today. First, I want to be as patient as possible with my children, even when they are pushing my buttons. And second, I want to be gracious with myself when I feel impatient. I have a lot to learn in order to be the person I want to be, and I’m going to have to make a lot more mistakes to learn it.

Thought it would be nice if I could find a way to remove all my buttons and become a model of transcendent serenity.