I just got done with a little blow up at Bunny. As usual, on paper, it will seem silly.
She was painting - loves to paint - and had finished. Then she was ready to start playing. I asked her if she had cleaned up, which prompted a mini-meltdown. "Oh! Why do I have to do everything? I don't even know what to do!"
That is a typical response when I ask her to do a chore but she's ready to play. (It never grows old, I assure you.) My patience level immediately ticked down a couple of notches. And, yes, with the fifteen or twenty finished canvases around the house, she has had plenty of practice cleaning up after painting.
We go through the ususal, Whose paints are they? Who did the painting? Do you want to do the laundry, cook all of the meals? Oh, then you can just clean up after yourself. Sure, I could have done the empathy thing, I know you are ready to play and cleaning doesn't sound like much fun, does it? But if you do it really quickly, you'll be playing before you know it! Here, I'll time you! 1, 2, 3... Of course, this wasn't that day.
So she got used to the idea. I briefly went through the procedure. Then I realized that I was in the laundry room (in the basement) with the laundry sink, the ideal place to dump the water and wash the brushes.
"Bunny, please go get the brushes and water or the pallette and bring them down and take two trips. Do not try to bring them down at the same time. Make two trips."
"Okay, Dad." And she ran upstairs. And when she reappeared a minute later?
Holding the pallette and the brushes in the dirty water. Holy fucking shit. (Please excuse my language, but I'm just trying to bring you into my mind at that moment.)
To her credit, she had done so successfully, i.e. without spilling. That was not the point and I let her know about it at a high volume in a low register.
Here's the thing. I assure you, I'm not a dictator. The kids get plenty of choices. However, there are many times where there are no choices. There are no choices for wearing a seat belt. There are no choices for crossing a street in obedience of a traffic signal. And when I give specific instructions - when I give orders - they need to be followed as instructed.
There are times when there is no time to argue or explain. Emergency situations. There is no time to let a child know they are crossing a street blindly and a car is coming. The parent may not be close enough for a physical intervention. You only have enough time to yell, "STOP!" In the event of a fire, there is only time for action and obedience.
The point is, situations happen and kids have to be able to - have to have practice at - following orders. Now that I'm calm, I'm going to talk the the kids about the difference between times where there are choices and times when they must follow orders. Wish me luck.