It was Thursday morning and Lillie was getting ready for theater camp. Lillie was going to camp all week and Ella was a Junior Counselor at the same camp. All was going smoothly so far. You know how busy mornings can be. Ella came over to me and asked me, “Doesn’t Lillie have dress rehearsal today?” Oh boy!

Lillie doesn’t like to be rushed and Ella likes to be early for things. That is not a fabulous combination. The lessons I have learned from this are to wake Lillie up early enough to give her enough time and to make sure everything is laid out and ready for her in the morning. Things come up and don’t always make us feel very organized. Organization and time are the keys to the mornings going smoothly with Lillie.

I started to run through a list of everything Lillie would need for her dress rehearsal: hair half up (Lillie is very particular about her hair), make up (she is also very particular about her make up) and a black leotard with black shorts. Sounds easy right? Not so much.

Lillie ran upstairs to find her leotard as I finished making their lunches. She couldn’t find her black leotard and she had a fit that Ella’s was too big. Thank you to Ella for stepping in and looking for a leotard for Lillie. You would think she would just wear it, but that would be too easy.

I rush upstairs to help and look through Lillie’s leotard drawer. No black leotard. Where could it be? We look all over her room and give up. I tell her that she also has the option to wear a tank top and shorts and she gives in and does that instead of wearing Ella’s leotard that was a little too big on her. I have learned that I really truly have to CHOOSE MY BATTLES with this kid. I am also so relieved that I got her to be okay with a tank top and shorts.

I do her make up to the best of my abilities to make her happy and she finishes it just how she likes. My 8 year old knows exactly how she likes her make up. It is absolutely ridiculous. She knows what she likes, and she wants to do as much as she can ALL BY HERSELF. She told me she is independent and likes to do things herself. I put her hair half up and run downstairs. I can feel the tension building. I see what time it is, and my heart is starting to race. Right there at this moment is where I needed to STOP and TAKE SOME DEEP BREATHS AND GET SOME SPACE FROM LILLIE. Instead of proceeding forward and trying to rush her out the door. I needed to realize my heart was racing and that was my sign to slow down and breathe. We have to know our cues.

I know Ella likes to be early and I feel terrible that I forgot about dress rehearsal and am making her late. I’m feeling really bad as Lillie comes down the stairs taking her hair out. I know what you are thinking right now. Why on earth is she taking her hair out? She is taking her half up pony tail out because she doesn’t like it and it’s too tight. She complains often of headaches from a hairdo and frequently takes out French braids that I spend a long time working on. My husband Seth says I need to stop doing her hair. He’s a very smart man.

We are now in the tiny downstairs bathroom, and I am trying to do two little braids for her to put her hair half up in a way that she likes and so that it isn’t too tight. I really don’t want her to get a headache and I understand. She is taking it out and I am about to lose my mind. It’s very late and she’s in her difficult mood. My tension is building.

I tell Lillie that we need to leave, and she tells me not to rush her. I really dislike when she says that. I let it push my buttons. I know that she doesn’t like to be rushed and I know Ella doesn’t like to be late. Do you see how this doesn’t go together well?

I explain that I need her to rush because we need to leave. She acts like it’s no big deal and is inconsiderate of her sister needing to go. Emotions are building and we are together in a small bathroom. At this point I needed to GET SPACE. When Lillie and I escalate we have to separate. If we don’t separate things get hotter. I ask her to leave the bathroom and she says no. My mind is coaching me. I will tell you that the therapist that lives in my head pretty much always knows the right step to take. The therapist is telling me to calm down and take deep breaths. The therapist is telling me that I don’t need to be in charge right now. That is not what is most important. My mind is telling me all the right things.

Guess what? I didn’t listen. The mom in me felt like Lillie needed to listen and that I needed to be in charge. Why on earth did I get stuck there? Why would I pick any battles right now when we need to leave? It’s because I was seeing red. I was angry and I wanted Lillie to be respectful and listen to me. Getting stuck on this made it all go worse. I felt this need to get her to comply that was not necessary.

I asked Lillie to leave the bathroom and she didn’t move. My rational self who went over this sequence in my head later wondered why I didn’t just leave. I think I felt cornered the way she was standing. I could have gently moved her and left. I moved her out of the bathroom after yelling and she threw herself on the floor crying. We were already upset, and her emotions were flying. It just kept escalating. Poor Ella was watching all of this. All she wanted to do was leave for camp.

After Ella hugged Lillie and tried calming her down, we finally made our way to the car and left. I am understandably upset and so are the girls. She was stubborn, dramatic and difficult and I couldn’t believe how inconsiderate she was to Ella and to me.

I drive her to theater as safely as I can taking deep breaths. I was rear ended not too long ago and am driving a rental car. I don’t like to drive when I’m upset. It’s not a safe state to be in. I continue to take deep breaths as I drive, and Ella tells me that I need to learn to let things go. From the mouths of babes. She watched that whole thing go down and that was her advice to me. I picked a battle with Lillie. I picked the battle that she would listen and comply, and that I would be in charge. Achieving that did not make me feel good. It made me feel worse. I did not need to “break her” and get her to listen. I got completely stuck on wanting to be in charge. I was 100% going to learn from this because that was not fun.

We arrive at theater and Ella runs in as fast as she can because she is late for counselor duty. She was concerned about getting in trouble and I made it clear to her to blame me if it was an issue. Then I look over and see Lillie crying. I have a daughter upset that she is late, and I have a daughter upset that we fought. What a great morning. We hugged and talked, and I calmed her down. There were a lot of lessons for both of us in there.

For Lillie:

  • Lillie really needs to learn about flexible thinking. She gets very rigid about how she wants her hair, make up and clothes to look. I need to practice this with her with things like writing stories, encouraging creative thinking and role playing.
  • I need to help Lillie be more aware of the clock and knowing what time we need to leave. I think warnings help with this. She is more concerned with things being how she likes than with being on time. If it didn’t impact her siblings, I would just let her be late and deal with the consequences to this.
  • Continued practice on her coping skills. Neither of us did very well this morning.
  • Looking back at sequences with me and going over what she could have done differently.
  • Knowing what is expected of her in the morning and working on making mornings easier for all of us. I don’t miss school mornings at all.

For Me:

  • Work with Lillie on having everything laid out the night before and even starting to discuss how she is going to wear her hair.
  • Having very clear rules and expectations for the morning so she knows what to expect.
  • Giving time warnings.
  • Keeping myself organized and calm. Focusing on my state.
  • Getting away from Lillie and putting myself in time out when I feel myself starting to get angry.
  • Listening to the therapist in my head.
  • Pick my battles with Lillie.

No one is ever going to be perfect. We are all imperfect beings. We will screw up over and over again. I will fall again. If I expect myself or Lillie to be perfect, I will be setting myself up for a lot of disappointments. We have to have realistic expectations for ourselves and for others. What matters most is that we go over these sequences with our children. We teach them to apologize and repair. When they see us have remorse and work on repairing the damage that we did then they are also learning to do this. I don’t like how I acted, and I wanted Ella and Lillie to know that. I will learn from this, and I hope Lillie did too. The most important thing for myself is to keep myself calm. Rushing against the clock tends to be a button so I need to start early and do my best to be ready early. Let us all never give up. Let us pick ourselves up and try again. Please don’t expect yourself to be perfect and please don’t expect your spouse or kids to be perfect. One day at a time and one step at a time we can practice, and we can improve for the next time.

Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R


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