I was leaning on the car looking at my phone while I waited. My grandson was strapped in his car seat, refusing to get out of the car. He was tired and so was I. I felt very tired.
It has already been a busy day. I had agreed to hang out with my 5 ½ year old grandson during the day because it was Spring Break and both his parents were working. I enjoyed doing it. Today was a busier day than usual as my eldest son’s 40th birthday was coming up and his partner had planned a surprise birthday party tonight, which I agreed to host.
I picked up my grandson at 10:30 am and on the way to the tennis club I stopped to pick up the Tiramisu cake my daughter-in-law asked me to pick up. My grandson and I went into the bakery. He spotted some cookies that he like the look of and asked for one. No problem. He asked to buy one for his little friend who was going to join us for lunch with his grandmother. He picked out one for him.
However, I couldn’t pick up the cake because they said they don’t make Tiramisu cake. After texting my daughter-in-law, she remembered that it was at a different store. We didn’t have time to get it then, so off we went to the tennis club.
I usually have a tennis lesson on Fridays from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. So this Friday I shared it with my grandson. He did very well for half an hour even though he got a blister. I had the other half hour. After the lesson we went down to the children’s area and played ping-pong while waiting for our friends. Unfortunately they didn’t come. My friend texted me to say that her grandson had gotten over-tired, had a meltdown and was napping. So my grandson and I had lunch, played some more ping-pong and then headed to my home.
I still needed to pick up the cake. On the way I pulled over and parked in front of the store. My grandson refused to get out of the car. I was tired and I knew he was tired, but I could not leave him in the car. I told him I understood that he did not want to go into the store. I told him I didn’t feel like going either, but I needed to get the cake. The birthday party was tonight and if I didn’t get the cake now, I would not be able to get it. He emphatically refused.
I did not want to fight with him. I knew if I started to pressure him, he would resist more and things would go from bad to worse. I didn’t want to go there. I was in a bind.
I decided I would wait outside the car. So here I am leaning against the car starting to look at emails on my cell phone. I couldn’t help but think of all I had done for my grandson that day already, yet he was acting up. I knew thinking that way would not lead to a good place for him or for me. It didn’t take long before he cracked open the car door. Relieved, I thought he was ready to co-operate. I open the door more. No such luck. He still continued to say he was not going to go. I told him (all this time I kept my voice in a reasonable straightforward tone) again that I needed to get the cake. He continued to resist. I thought about bribing him with a treat. He’d already had a cookie earlier at the other bakery. It was at this point I thought – this is why grandparents spoil their grandchildren – they don’t want to fight with them. I certainly did not want to fight with him. While I think there are times that bribing children is warranted, I did not want to bribe him either. I love him too much to do that to him.
So, since I felt so tired, without telling him what I was going to do, I decided I would sit in the driver’s seat and wait. I closed his door and got into the driver’s seat. As soon as I got into the car, he said to me in a calm voice, “Nana, I will go.” I said, “Great! Let’s get it over with so we can both get to my place.”
We happily went into the store. I found the cake and got into the line up. I remembered that I needed bananas so I asked him if he would go get me some. He willingly did this, going by himself, picking out a bunch of bananas and joining me at the checkout. Soon we were home at my place. We were good with each other.
I felt good about how I handled the situation. I did not yell at him, coerce him, call him names, complain about his behavior, bribe him, threaten him or fight with him. I did not give in to him. If I had, I knew I would feel resentful and that would not be good for our relationship. The time it took to wait (less than a minute) was much shorter and easier than if I’d gotten into a battle with him. It also strengthened our regard for each other.
The focus of the situation remained -I needed to do a task. It did not evolve into an issue of who was boss and who had bratty behavior.
When children and adults are tired, behavior can often dissolve into power struggles. Waiting calmly sometimes can avoid these struggles and take shorter time and less energy than fighting. Relationships are enhanced rather than damaged.
With care and concern,
Dr. Bea Mackay
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