I was sitting with my son assisting him with a Mario Brothers video game when it occurred to me that parenting has some similarities. Parenting is full of pitfalls, obstacles, and opposition. At the same time, it’s fun and adventurous. In this parenting game there are no instructions. Sometimes you arbitrarily get “leveled up”, possibly without even feeling like you passed the last level. There’s no rhyme or reason; all I know is that every time I think I have the game figured out, I get leveled up. My current level: 3 year old!
My 3 year old daughter is insistent when she wants something. That something is usually a cookie.
Recently, my little Flower bounced around the corner of the kitchen, her eyes bright and hopeful.
“Cookie, cookie, cookie, cookie…”
My mind was reeling. I couldn’t formulate a coherent thought except for “cookie.” I absently walked to the cupboard and found one.
“Cookie, cookie, cookie, cookie…” she continued, a bit too eagerly.
“Wait…didn’t I already give you a cookie?”
Or maybe…maybe she’s had a few cookies….
I was stirring the skillet of dinner thoughtfully. Yep! It was all too clear now. My little opportunist had eaten three cookies already.
“No more cookies today,” I said gently.
Her little eyes welled up and tears started pouring out and she began to wail.
Suddenly, I knew I was standing before a 3 year old boss in this parenting game. I crossed my arms and looked at her unsympathetically. Defeat boss became a pounding rhetoric in my head. I must beat the boss and stop those tears. And of course, there isn’t any reasoning with a 3 year old so other tactics are necessary.
In this game, there are no actual rules. You may “level up” at unexpected times, but you’re just as likely to get stuck on the same level, repeating it over and over again with no sense of why you can’t overcome the current obstacle. Sometimes you try something different just because and shoot aimless arrows into the sky hoping something will change.
Level 3 year old is both fun and frustrating. My daughter’s persistence and inability to deal with disappointment can be overwhelming. At the same time she is funny, sassy, independent, and confident. Traits I love about her. Something I realized is that she responds best to love and compassion and…sympathy. Even when she doesn’t get what she wants because what she really wants is to be heard.
Parenting at every age presents its own challenges and difficulties. I won’t always do things perfectly and some of my kid’s tactics and manipulations work now and then. Some “levels” I can barely survive. The thing is, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Parenting is an adventure full of puzzles, twists and turns, and laughter and love. And also…learning!
So, the next time that adorable little face attempts to manipulate me into four cookies before dinner…I’ll be ready!
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1: 5
“The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9
Author: Jacqi Kambish