Last night my three year-old granddaughter Anna was being a little mischievous. She was antsy at dinner and didn’t want to eat anything (except dessert of course). After much cajoling she finally ate enough to qualify for some ice cream. Once that milestone had been met she promptly bounded out of her chair and dashed to the refrigerator. And then she threw both the refrigerator and freezer doors open. When I reminded her that she wasn’t supposed to open the refrigerator she protested that “she had eaten her dinner”.
Now usually I’m pretty accommodating when it comes to the grandkids (some would say I’m a sucker) but this particular time I decided to hold my ground. In a battle with an impetuous three year-old you have to be pretty wily. So I decided to show her who was boss. I told her that I would gladly get her some ice cream from the downstairs freezer after she picked up the Legos that were strewn on the laundry room floor. Did I mention that I was using my big loud “I’M IN CHARGE” voice? Anna is not accustomed to hearing me speak to her that way and with that came the tears. Not just tears – sobs!
Her mother had previously threatened her with a dreaded “time out” and Anna was undaunted. But Pawpaw raising his voice and telling her NO? That was too much! And she cried. And cried! And cried!
When her Nana tried to intervene by asking her why she was crying so hard, she responded: “Because Pawpaw was mean to me!” Ouch! That stung. I had merely wanted her to mind me, not to emotionally scar her for life. What had I done? What kind of beast had I become? Now I was the one fighting back the tears. But instead of giving in (my first impulse), I decided to reason with her. Reasoning with a three year-old is like trying to put socks on an octopus. But I gave it a try because I think that Anna is more reasonable than most three year-olds (at least in my experience – remember I raised her mother).
I held her and wiped her tears and explained that my old refrigerator couldn’t handle being opened and closed too often and that the doors don’t always close all the way without the special push that Nana and Pawpaw give them. Because three year-olds anamorphize most things, in her mind that poor refrigerator became a living thing which must be treated with some compassion. Additionally I told her that I would help her pick up the Legos and we could count them to see how many we each could pick up. She smiled because she counted: “one, two, three, four, five, one hundred”. And then declared herself the winner! By then most of the tears were gone although her little face was still red and tear-stained.
When I returned to the table with the promised ice cream she seemed to have forgiven me but I’ll never know for sure. And of course Deb (Nana) and Bess (Mommy) were now crying, too.
Making Anna cry is not what I had intended to do. But I suppose that all grandfathers find themselves in tough spots sometimes. I could have ignored her naughtiness, and maybe I should have, but something made me risk her adoration by standing firm. I hope that she will understand how much I love her and that even the best granddaughters need to be told “no” every once in a while. But for now I’ve sworn off disciplining my grandkids, I much prefer being the big softie.
I don’t plan on making Anna cry any time soon. Honestly, it’s really more than I can take. So yes Anna; whatever it is you want, the answer is yes!