By CL Bledsoe

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I had a classic parent experience yesterday. I made my daughter help me make French fries. She had to peel the potatoes. Well, she had to scruff ’em up real good while making sure I was aware of child labor laws.

Before, during, and after she was, of course, telling me she wasn’t going to eat any, therefore there was no reason to make her endure this senseless tragedy. She finally conceded that she would grudgingly take 2 out of pity for me. Why 2? Who can say.

After the peeling, she had to get her plate ready. So, she filled up her ketchup bowl (It’s…well, I can’t win every battle, okay? The ketchup bowl is just…it’s a small bowl, like for dips…let’s focus on the French fries, okay?) and I think she got to thinking about the situation. I was making burgers and fries and the smell was alluring.

We sat down to eat. She was just eating her apples, which I expected. I didn’t say anything. A little while later, while I was carefully not watching, she surreptitiously ate all the fries I gave her (I just couldn’t seem to tell the difference between 2 and 20 and gave her too many). I asked, “Hey, do you want some crisper ones? The second batch was crisper.” Not like this barbaric garbage I’d been trying to pawn off on her! So I got her a bunch more (spoiler: they were pretty much exactly the same as the first batch.), and she ate all those, too.

Or started to, until I ripped them from her hands and said, NO YOU SAID ONLY TWO!!! I WIN!!!! I”M THE WINNER!!!! YOU LOOOOOOOOOOOOOSE!!!!!

Or, maybe I just smiled to myself.

My daughter is willful. I can’t imagine where she gets that from…She’s also insightful and thinks about things rather than accepting them blindly, which is a package deal, I tell myself. And if you’re about to tell me that your kids are insightful and question without being willful I shall glare in your general direction and maybe cry. But I give her some leeway. I let her make decisions I wasn’t allowed to make at her age, like about what she eats or what horses I’m going to blow her college fund on (putting the “fun” back in college fund) (I’m kidding! Horses aren’t even what I bet on).

I worry that I will crush her spirit, or end up with her hating me. But I do expect her to be respectful. What I really want is for her to have empathy. I want her to understand why people do the things they do — including herself. I try to explain why I do and say the things that I say to her. I always have. And I apologize when I’m in the wrong. I’m modeling this behavior for her, which I’ve also explained to her. I think, if any of this was done for me when I was growing up, I would’ve understood the world so much better.

I think this is part of why she’s willful and has a burgeoning sense of self. I’ve never treated her like a kid, except that I do really want her to have fun and enjoy things rather than worry or feel responsible for me or her mom in any way. But I respect her opinions and desires as much as I can.

All of this means I’m trying to teach her that she’s important to me and should be important to the people who love her, and vice versa, that her actions and words matter and affect other people, and to always put it all on black (kidding. That’s a total sucker move).

But she still has to help with dinner. And do chores. And get me that thing from the kitchen pretty please.

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