taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Thursday, February 10, 2005

My daughter is an expert in the art of passive resistance. Like Ghandi or a martial arts master, she is mystically able to make herself leaden and limp, unmovable.

She used this technique tonight at bedtime, laying down on my office floor and going absolutely still. "Come on!" I cajoled, "Time for bed!" I saw where this whole thing was going but maintained the note of false good cheer in my voice.

She's no fool. She knew I was at the end of my rope and used it for all it was worth.

Silence. Complete silence. A little, three-ton seven-year-old on the floor of my office, and all I wanted was to write a story I'd been thinking about all day. Inside, I'm thinking "GOD! JUST GO TO BED! IT'S NINE!" Instead I tickled her feet. No reaction.

She had honed this technique to a razor's edge by the time she was two. When she wanted uppies, she would lift up her little arms and she was light as a feather. But in a mall, during a temper tantrum, when she was kicking on the floor of a store? She weighed seven hundred pounds. We even tested her on it: "OK," I'd say, "make yourself heavy." It was a fun game, and she could do it instantly. I'd try and pick her up and fail. "OK, make yourslef light." And she wouldn't change in appearance or anything, but suddenly she'd weigh nothing. I could pick her up and swing her around, no problem.

Tonight I was done, fed up, on my last nerve. I said screw it, and picked her up, using every muscle in my body, and dragged her up the stairs. She wailed. The baby woke up and wailed. Everyone was wailing except me--I was wailing on the inside. I could only get her halfway up the stairs and then I said, "All right, I'm getting your father." That sent her into a state, but she did run up and get in bed. I'm not sure why I have no authority and he has so much, but whatever works.

Twenty minutes later, we had a tearful reconciliation. She had had a terrible day, it turned out (fight with best friend, playing capture the flag, she had to be a guard, she didn't know where the flag was, couldn't do her job--sounds like my life). I said, just tell me when you've had a bad day! I can help! I don't want to be your adversary!

But then, none of us ever really know what's wrong til it's too late, do we? We just react. We react and then we regret it. And the way she reacted was to turn into a 1960s style protester, and I, in turn, became the riot police, infuriated and ready to haul her off to the paddy wagon.

I keep trying to remind myself that it is her job to resist me, and my job to resist her resisting. It's all perfectly natural and it will get worse before it gets better. Small comfort, though, isn't it?


At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Rob said...

A wanderer in from XLT but anyway, for some reason as of late, just yelling out 'last one up is a rotten egg' has gotten both my kids (6 and 3) up stairs for bed faster than anything we've ever tried before.


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