You’re Not the Boss of Me. You’re Not the “Teller of Me What to Do”!!
Because the snow is a bit deep today, Buttercup’s preschool was a bit light on the staff, so I volunteered to come in and help if they needed it. Buttercup’s teacher Miss M. asked me if I’d come about 1/2 an hour before school let out because some of the subs were having to leave early… and I readily agreed.
When I did show up, things were pretty much under control, so I had the chance to kind of spend the last 30 minutes helping and observing in her classroom.
Buttercup has a best friend – let’s call her Trixie (and I just put her in the Cast of Characters – because she’ll definitely come up again!) – who goes to preschool with her. When they were just babies, Trixie’s mom and I were both in the same “Mommy & Me” playgroup for a few months. Then she ended up popping up at the annual picnic for Buttercup’s first school (PDO & Preschool) and it turned out they went to the same place but different classes. Since year two, they’ve been in the same class – and when we moved Buttercup to school #2 (the present one) Trixie’s folks decided to move her there too. After having moved only a mile south of us over the Summer. This was fortuitous in our eyes, and we really like Trixie’s parents and her. Buttercup adores Trixie with all the power of her little heart. She’s got a little girl crush on her best friend and wishes they were sisters, or even twins if it were possible.
Unfortunately for Buttercup, Trixie is a more laid-back sort of child. She’s kind of a take-you or leave-you girl – and therefore, the most popular child in their class. Everyone wants to be Trixie’s friend, boys and girls alike. Trixie is fine with that, as long as it doesn’t require terrible amounts of emotional attachment on her part. She has a 1 year old brother and another sibling on the way late next Summer. She’s not suffering from only child syndrome as does my darling Buttercup. She’s everyone’s ‘best friend’ but I wouldn’t say that Trixie sees anyone as her ‘best friend’ – unless you count both Buttercup and another ex-classmate of theirs who used to vie with B for T’s attention.
Now, at least 4 out of 5 days, I give Trixie a ride home from preschool. They get out in the middle of her brother’s usual naptime, and with Mom pregnant and exhausted, it just works out well for me to grab her and drop her off before we head home. So I get to see a lot of interaction between the two of them.
But today I saw this horrid new little development in their interaction during that last 30 minutes of class. My daughter was trying to boss Trixie around… and when T wouldn’t do what she wanted, she was trying to tattle on her to the teacher.
Okay, I know it’s totally normal for a 5 year old to try and exercise her authority over others. She’s trying to test the boundaries and see what she does and doesn’t have control over. She does it at every opportunity at home. But with parents? There’s just an admonition and the reality that she doesn’t control the universe – or even our household. She might be a Princess, but that makes me Queen.
The thing is, when you do that to other kids your age, they just get passive-aggressive and start ostracizing you. They don’t say “excuse me, but I hate it when you try to order me about.” They just ignore you, or call you bossy, or start being mean in retaliation. I know this because if she gets this trait from anywhere – she gets it from me. Life as a would-be child tyrant was not a bowl of cherries when I was growing up.
So I had this little chat with her on the way home… about how asking someone to do something nicely tends to get better results than ordering them to do something. And how no one really likes being bossed around – especially not by their friends. And how GeekMommy knows this as she had the same problem as a little girl – just ask her Uncle J, who will confirm that GeekMommy tried very hard to order her older brother about as children and it never worked and only made him angry.
So far, despite many attempts to get this point across nicely, it seems to be falling on deaf ears. At first, she apologized to me. I said “no, I don’t want an apology, I’m just trying to save you a world of heartache sweetheart… I just want you to be happy and liked and have fun with your friends…” Then she told me that she liked being bossy, it was good. Argh.
I think I finally got through to her best when I said “Listen, Buttercup, there are only 3 beings in the world you are presently the boss of: you, the dog, and the kitten we just got you – although those last two won’t necessarily do what you want them to do either.” She asked me, “but what about the other cat Mommy?” and I told her no one is the boss of the other cat… that’s just how cats are.
Still, how do I head this one off at the pass?
I don’t want to quash her little spirit – but I already know the heartache that this path has in store for her. The tighter you cling to some illusion of control over other children, the more they wriggle away in annoyance. My own mom never did anything to help me change this behavior in myself – heck, I don’t think I even started to change that really until I met GeekDaddy – so I have no idea how one parents this issue.
Help? Thoughts, suggestions, and prayers welcome!