Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Every Day is Groundhog Day

Lately I've been living my own little version of Groundhog Day, the epic Bill Murray movie wherein he relives the same day over and over and over again. Except I'm reliving specific moments of the day over and over and over again. This is due to Violet's newly discovered independence. She must do everything by herself and if I slip up and get the milk out of the fridge or put her potty seat over the toilet on my own, God help everyone, including the dogs who have bore the brunt of her resulting rage on more than a few unfortunate occasions. After her rage subsides we must redo the task until it meets with her very stingy approval.

Most recently I had the unmitigated gall to pour her a cup of milk and serve it to her at the table. How dare I? In response? A milk boycott of epic proportions. She couldn't be near the tainted cup of milk, couldn't even have it in her eyesight, so ruined was this cup of milk that mom had the nerve to procure without Violet's careful instruction and subsequent assistance. Her highness has ruled the milk disgusting, UNDRINKABLE, therefore it must be sent into exile. And I am the worst mother ever what with all my willy-nilly, permissionless milk-pouring.

The aforementioned milk boycott manifested in Violet leaving the dinner table in tears and placing the small cup of milk on the floor of the living room, like some sort of shrine or offering to the Milk Gods, where she wouldn't have to see it and where Max would immediately gulp it down without regard for the Milk Gods. And then, AND THEN, 30 seconds later she calmly requested "Cold milk, please." in a no nonsense tone that implied No more shit from you, lady, or there'll be hell to pay. As if the whole thing never even happened. Cool as a cucumber she got the milk out of the fridge and assisted in the pouring and returned to the table to drink it down, lickety-split.

This kind of thing happens all day long. If I dare pour milk (or attempt to accomplish any other similar task involving Violet) without express permission and assistance from her highness the milk is tainted, immediately rendered undrinkable and we must painstakingly repeat the milk-pouring routine to Violet's satisfaction. Same goes for snacks. Hand her a cookie from the container and it's no good, asshole. She must choose which cookie from the package on her own. Therefore, the offensive cookie mom grabbed from the package is put directly back and then she must wave some kind of magic wand in her brain to erase what just happened because she then proceeds to pick a cookie as if one wasn't just given to her. Sometimes the cookie she chooses is the very same one I just handed her and sometimes the cookie choosing process involves up to five minutes of handling seven to ten cookies before her little fingers settle on just the right one. As if the fate of the planet rests in this one decision. Violet is Ben Affleck and the cookie is a giant asteroid headed straight for Earth. Minutes tick by, months tick by, Jessica Simpson gets pregnant for forever again and gives birth in the time it takes Violet to pick a cookie. It's like she's mentally communicating with the cookies, determining whose time is up. Back and forth between this cookie and that. Back and forth, this one or that one?

Finally, after what feels like three hours, when my insides are begging for mercy, screaming for the kid to just CHOOSE A FUCKING COOKIE ALREADY she plucks one from the pack and utters the sweetest "Thanks, mama!" you ever heard and, like the Grinch, my heart immediately grows three sizes. Of course, it immediately shrinks like a dick in cold water ten minutes later when she tries to kick Henry down the stairs, but, well, you gotta take these small mom victories where you can get 'em.

She's also turned into a big ol' know-it-all. But she's twisted. For example, if we're driving through the woods I'll say, "Look Violet, we're in the woods." Her immediate disgruntled response is "That's not woods, it's a forest!" The fact that I'm an ignorant asshole is implicitly implied. Okay, all right, I'll go with your forest, kid. The difference is negligible. But recently she's just started fucking with me. "Look, chickens!" I'll say in feigned Mom Excitement as we pass a bunch of scraggily chickens meandering down a country road. "That's not chickens, that's cows!" She'll yell at me as if she finds my stupidity astounding on levels that I couldn't even possibly understand. That's when some inner need to prove to a 3-year-old that I'm not an asshole takes over and i respond "No, those aren't cows, they're chickens, silly."

Big mistake. Huge.

"NO, NO, NO! Cows! COWS! Not chickens!" I mean, she's just messing with me like some tom cat batting around a defenseless little mouse, isn't she? We're both looking at an assload of chickens, clear as day. She knows these are chickens, dammit. If I'm feeling feisty (suicidal) I'll try one more time. "No, look, chickens. What does the chicken say? Bawk, bawk, bawk!" My confidence is faltering and the forced joviality backfires. The kid smells fear like a cadaver dog closing in on remains.

NO NO NO NO NO. That's not chickens, IT'S COWS. COWS! COOOOWS! Then she checkmates me with the waterworks. There we are, arguing over chickens and cows and Henry's gawking at her like, Oh for Chrissakes, what kind of shenanigans are you trying to pull here? Even I know the difference between a bunch of chickens and cows. But it doesn't matter, people. Those chickens are cows now as far as this family is concerned.

"Okay, all right. They're cows!" I'll say.

The tears stop immediately and I swear to God I see her smirk and then, as if nothing untoward just occurred, in the sweetest, kindest voice you ever heard she says "Ice cream?"

Mom - 0, Violet - WINNING

You can read Serge's version of the same scenario here: Conversations With A 3-Year-Old Part II

Reader Comments (17)

This is one of THE funniest things I've read this century, Monica. Not only are you and family without question THE NEW SIMPSONS, but you are also making me miss Mr John Hughes in a most heartfelt way... because what other director could ever do justice to this story in the medium of film? And the whole thing should be a major motion picture. Directed by John Hughes. You guys make my day every time I take a look through the Bielanko-shaped window...

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Murff

"The fact that I'm an ignorant asshole is implicitly implied." I loved that line. I don't know how many times my kids have said something to me in exactly that tone of voice. Even better when they get you and they know it.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKendra

Welcome to the beautiful age of 3 1/2. You described the shenanigans perfectly. I think the best advice I received for parenting this age has been to get get a sitter as much as possible. Good luck!

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Never argue with a 3 year old. They're always right! lol

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarb

I just spit my coffee out because I was laughing so hard! It's that constant push/pull between killing them and smothering them with kisses that seems to happen every 5 minutes. THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing put into words what I am dealing with every day! My son didn't go through this stage as much as my daughter is right now! Holy cow (or should I saw chicken!) :)

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTammie

Oi vey. Mine is just turning 4 and yes, that's exactly what our last year and a half has been like. I get glimpses we are rounding the corner to more rational behavior. Brief beautiful glimpses.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Dude, that was hilarious. Thanks for the laugh!

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLK

Oh god yes. That is my life! If I say he sky is blue, it's purple. If I say I like a dress, she picks another. If I say we don't do tht....of course we do. Around her we call ours the opposite bunny. And for the love of god, please let's not talk about potty training. It sucks! We're a couple months from 4, and I too have seen those brief, tiny glimpses that it might get better....please....I thought we didn't get into some of this behavior until the teenage years.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

cleaverly written but I wouldn't put up with that controlling behavior for one minute. Enjoy waiting on her & good luck making her every whim come true. Kindergarten is going to be rough when she finds out she's not always right.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterK

children are precious, aren't they?
in stories like the chickens incident, have you tried a third approach? when you neither insist they are chickens nor "give in" they are cows, but simply state that they are actually pigs. or dragons...
this methods has worked well with my daughter... granted, she has become a very silly 4 year-old... :-)

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

It's lovely when they start to find their independence, until they tell you what to do.

If you want, you could always swap with me, I have a 17yr old daughter who is in the middle of taking her A Level exams (we live in the UK) and is stressing out big style.
All hell broke loose today because I didn't ask with in the first 2 seconds of walking through the door, how her exams had gone today. I wouldn't of minded but I had two bags of shopping in each hand, and my mouth was occupied; I was holding the car keys with my teeth!!! :(

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

OMG yes! So freaking funny and so what I've been going through with my now 6 year old for the last three years.

Good Goddess... that picture at the end captures it all. Hang in there, Bill Murray!

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Amazing grace... how sweet the sound and it takes it takes a certain degree of grace and patience and love to hold out while those little fingers handle the cookies...I would have been seething, " Take the first one you touch or NONE AT ALL! Got it?" Nasty mother I woulda been. There is no love lost in waiting for a child to choose a cookie, allowing her to pour her own milk, or in acquiescing to calling chickens cows; no willful disobedience in insisting on one's own way when soon enough the tides will turn, and there will rules, boundaries, consequences, self- consciousness and the pull to conformity. Ain't childhood grand?! Have another cookie, kid.

May 15, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

OH MY. So this only happens with girls, right? RIGHT? I don't know if I am ready for this. I'm going to order my meds now and stock up. My friend's daughter pulled rank like this too, even criticizing my friend's driving. I'm a big fan of horror films, but this is the stuff that is close to frightening to me. Hope you survive!

May 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

Oh, thank goodness! I thought it was just my kid. This is literally EXACTLY my life these days. God forbid I offer my three-year-old son some kind of "broken" food -- half a cookie, a cracker with a missing corner, etc. You don't want to know what kind of terrorism he will unleash. Thanks for a great laugh and reassuring me my preschooler isn't actually psychotic (at least not long-term).

May 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterverdemama

Just wait until she's 16 (like mine). You will question your sanity whenever you comment on anything,... because you will always be WRONG.

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKay

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