Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beef Stew and The Power of Our Wills

Beef stew. That's what almost put me over the edge tonight. Beef stew.

But let me explain. This was not just some canned, mushy, bland glop titled "Beef Stew." No, this was large pieces of tender beef that would fall apart in your mouth because they were simmering all day long in pinot noir. Simmering with velvety potato, sweet carrot, onion, and garlic. This beef stew had homemade herb dumplings floating on the surface. This beef stew would make grandma proud.

And yet, this beef stew, just like practically everything else lately, created a battle between my four year old son, Joshua, and I.  Setting the bowl before him, I could tell Joshua was not open to trying this.His brow was furrowed, his mind was set and it was not set on this. I know that I am not alone as a parent in the wars of dinnertime and toddlerhood. But that doesn't really comfort me the way it probably should.

Here is the savory, scrumptious dish I prepared.

Here is  Joshua's bowl after he's massacred his dinner.

Sunday morning we drove out of the Church parking lot to leave for the pumpkin patch, and Joshua began whining.

"Are we going to have to get onto I-5?"

"Yes, we are. Are you excited to pick out your pumpkin?" I asked cheerfully.

"I don't want to go on I-Fiiiiiiive," Joshua whined with such conviction, such determination that my best friend, Jenny, has recently titled Joshua the best whiner she knows. And she's right. He's talented. My son knows how to whine silently. How many children can you say that about? His body convulses as he staggers about, whining while he makes not a sound but a shuffling of his feet on the floor and the jerking and flailing of his limbs all about.

Joshua definitely has the stronger will of my two sons, which someday may be a wonderful gift for him. As his mother, I sincerely hope I am able to help guide him to that place. But in the world of time-outs, sibling rivalry, whining and tantrums, a strong will does not seem like such a gift. Joshua just does not want to be told what to do. He does not want to ride along I-5 simply because I've said we are going to. When venting about this predicament to a group of women, one responded very simply, "Well, I don't like being told what to do either. Who does?"

At the time, I was slightly annoyed by her lack of understanding. But after a few weeks of stewing over it, it seems like she was able to describe the essence of the problem in that short statement. Because I can imagine up a thousand different creative ways to get my son to go to the bathroom, brush his teeth, clean up his toys or stop hitting his brother. But in the end, he still won't want to listen to me. He will continually resist with every little cell in his body.

Don't we all?

When told that we need to get up at 6:00 am, drink eight glasses of water a day, pay the rising heating bill, floss each morning and each night, make healthy choices about what we eat, buy the right shade of denim jeans that are neither too loose nor too tight, take our vitamins, save for retirement, buy every damn type of insurance, mop the floor, get a flu shot, rotate our tires, flip our mattresses, water our organic, pesticide-free vegetable gardens, buy energy efficient light bulbs and dishwashers, oh and just one last, little thing . . . be good people.

Don't we all cringe at the long list of items we are told to do each day? Just like four year olds? Are we not all governed by nature to be immature, selfish beings?

But then, are we not also, as parents, called to teach our children to try to resist this part of themselves?

And can someone please tell me exactly how we are supposed to do that?


1 comment:

  1. For the record, Joshua may be an awe-inspiring whiner but my kid's totally got him beat on the whole I'll-cry-for-no-real-reason-over-the-littlest-most-insignificant-minute-detail-that-is-totally-and-completely-ruining-my-life-right-now-and-forever-always gig.


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