Why aren’t you getting dressed today?

Ah, parenting. When what worked yesterday probably won’t work today, but might work tomorrow. Maybe.

I knew I was tempting fate when I wrote about how Everything is Awesome. Our seven-year-old has had a crazy schedule this week preparing for her small, but important, role as a Who in Holton Elementary’s production of Seussical. The show runs Friday, May 9th and Saturday, May 10th at 7:00 PM (doors at 6:30 PM) at Holton Elementary.1 You can attend for the low, low price of $6.2

Our easy-go-lucky morning routine has been compromised by our kid being justifiably exhausted. As a kid, all she knows is that she’s tired and grumpy, and doesn’t want to get dressed. As a grown-up, I see the contrast between the bad days and the good days. I think “She had no problem with this yesterday. I know she is capable of doing this without a fuss”. And, thinking that, I use up the very reserves of patience that would help make the morning more tolerable for all of us.

It’s the sudden contrasts that are the hardest to deal with. Whether brought on by later bedtimes or by the “it’s time for me to be a crazy person for no reason” bit getting flipped in the middle of the night, it’s really hard when what worked (and was actually pleasant) yesterday is such a struggle today.

A horrible, horrible cliché happened this week. I was trying to put the dishes away or make breakfast or something, and I told my oldest daughter for the 90th time to go get dressed. She petulantly said “No!” and stamped her foot. Losing my temper, I yelled “Why do you always stamp your foot and say ‘No!’?”… while stamping my foot.3

The most reliable way to get through the unavoidable delays of life with our daughters is to have a rotating arsenal of games and tricks.

“I am a dragon who eats underpants on the floor!”
“I want you to Fake Promise that you’ll still be in pajamas when I get back.”
“Will you use to toilet if I pretend to be a horse?”

A “trick” works for a few days then loses its power. Then you switch to a different one, and then another, until the first one is novel again. For the most part this can keep me sane. But, on my worst days, I resent having to make a game out of everything. Can you at least try to urinate without arguing about it? Can’t I just tell you to put your pants on and have you put your pants on?

The answer is, that on that day: no, I can’t. No amount of yelling will get the girls dressed. They actually need me to shift gears, but in the moment, I forget the really good days where I wake up and the girls have gotten dressed of their own accord. I forget the days when I actually do just say “Time to get dressed!” and it magically happens.

I’m fortunate that I’m not doing this alone. My wife, Kat, is pretty astute at taking over if I’m having one of my worst days. I don’t yell often, but I definitely get into ruts. Kat notices4 and comes to the rescue. I’m fairly slow to anger, but when I’m at my worst, the girls and I get into an escalation that’s hard to come down from. Kat is much better at keeping the girls moving when they are already in a frenzy. It’s not always pretty, but she ensures that stuff gets done.

I’m imperfect. I’m not always able to give the girls what they need. Sometimes the best parent I can be is a not very mindful one. What the girls mostly need is my undivided attention and for me to give it to them without a trace of a sigh. Like anything, there is an ebb and flow to the harder and easier times, and I need to get more comfortable with the constant change.

Photo by: mdanys

  1. 1600 W Laburnum Avenue 
  2. Thus endeth the Shameless Plug 
  3. I learned it by watching YOU! 
  4. How could she not? I yell LOUD. 
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Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the father of two daughters (ages five and eight) who lives in Northside Richmond. He and his wife Kat are trying their best to not raise sociopaths.

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