Scene: Yesterday morning. I’m driving the car, the children are strapped in their car seats.
Background: Benjamin, 4, is holding a Transformer and a combination keychain/flashlight/photo frame that contains a picture of himself with The Daddy and Thomas the Tank Engine. Ellie, 2, is holding her doll and a pink metal princess purse. They are poster children for gender stereotypes.
(Yes, I did say metal princess purse – you read that right. Someone decided it would be a great idea to make metal purses with pretty beaded handles. The cacophony created by 5 crayons and a block in a metal purse really makes your brains curdle. Way to go, Disney Princess purse designers.)
Crisis: Ellie, suddenly realizing that Benjamin is holding the Forbidden Keychain of Mystery, decides she wants it RIGHTTHISINSTANT.
“Benjamin, I can hold the keythain?”
“No, Ellie! It’s MINE!”
“Mama, Benjamin not share wiff me!”
*repeat* *repeat* *repeat*
I’ve been trying to let them fight their own battles more often, watching from the sidelines like a frustrated referee. I drove along silently for some time, but as usual, the whining eventually got to me. I’m not proud to say that I tried a little guilt on Benjamin to see if he would let her look at it, however briefly.
“Ellie, I guess it’s as good a time as any to realize that sometimes people just won’t share things with their little sister, even when it’s the nicest, kindest thing to do.”
Benjamin replied, “Yeah, mama, that’s right – people like ME!”
Benjamin: I feel validated. Mama really understands me and is okay with my possessive behavior.
Ellie: Benjamin is selfish, and Mama is ineffective. I should just pout some more.
Me: The four-year-old has outsmarted me once again. Passive aggressive discipline doesn’t work, at least on the boy. Do I have time to stop for coffee?