It is a war, my friends, a war. Each of us must be prepared. Do not let their big eyes and wide smiles fool you. All we can do is pray that we come out of it alive and with some of our sanity still intact…
It all began when my husband and I foolishly decided we were going to drive to New Jersey from Atlanta with our then 5-year-old daughter. It was a fourteen-hour ride. I was armed for battle, however. I came prepared with an arsenal full of new toys and activities that would keep Brielle entertained for the entire trip. You name it, I had it. I was a portable Toys R Us filled with arts and crafts, a tabletop, various solo activities, water reveal pads, stickers, and pre-prepared meals, snacks, and drinks. I was feeling pretty confident.
As I mentioned in Parenting a Child with ADHD Part 2, screen-time was not good for my daughter, and handing her an iPad seemed like a terrible idea. Sure, it would entertain her, but was it what was best for her? As her mom, it was my job to look out for her best interest. I refused to listen to my husband’s protests that it was a big mistake. After all, I was a parenting veteran.
My first glimpse of ambush was when my daughter climbed into her car and looked at all the new toys and activities I had packed for her. With a knowing and smug smile on her face, she looked at me and calmly stated, “I don’t want to do any of this.” WTF?! How was that possible? She loved arts and crafts, she loved coloring, and she loved stickers. How could she veto everything while still pulling out of the driveway?
I tried to convince her to give one of the activities a try. Surely there must be something she would want to use. With a huge sigh she pointed to one of the activities. I leaned back relieved.
Exactly 120 seconds later, I felt a thump as my daughter threw her selection on the floor. She then looked at me and whined, “Are we there yet?” ARE WE THERE YET? We had only been driving for three minutes!
I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was the parent. I was mature, and it was my duty to not surrender. She could take her best shot, but I wasn’t going to crack.
Fast forward four hours later, 1000 whines asking how much longer it was going to be, and me actually considering jumping headfirst into the moving highway on multiple occasions.
Brielle refused to sleep, claiming the lampposts were keeping her up. I had taken a sleeping pill to try to sleep through the torture I was enduring. Unfortunately, her endless complaining enveloped the car, and everyone in it.
At one point I had put pajamas on her (hoping sleeping attire would translate into a sleeping child), and she decided that at that moment she needed to pee. I had to carry her into the gas station bathroom because she was wearing pajama booties and had thrown her shoes somewhere that even the sharpest of sleuths would not be able to find. Once I got her inside (muttering under my breath) and put her on the toilet, she looked up, eyes gleaming with victory, and told me she no longer needed to use the bathroom.
People throughout the gas station (and neighboring counties) heard the scream that erupted from me. This tiny five-year old was pushing all my buttons, and she was doing it well.
I knew I had to concede the battle, but there was still hope of me winning the war. I had made it this far, and I wasn’t going to give up.
I kept my promise to myself. I showed up at my in-laws’ house without my daughter using her iPad at all. The cost of war? A cranky child, an exhausted husband, and a mom who had lost at least ten years of her life and eaten a large amount of crow. I was exhausted, emotionally and mentally drained, and the sanity I lost during these 14 hours would never return.
The rest of the visit went smoothly, but I learned an important lesson during that drive. What is the one thing that is worse than allowing your child to use something that isn’t in her best interest generally? Losing your mind. My sanity and well-being are more important than my my child using an electronic device.
That was when I realized that sometimes, depending on the circumstances, all we can do is try to survive. With the stress of COVID-19 and the chaos surrounding our world, it is crucial to do whatever it takes to make it through the day.
There are times when it is necessary to pull out the iPads, sit your kids in front of the TV, and/or let them eat the food that you would normally refuse. Sometimes all we can do is take a deep breath and realize that winning the war isn’t always worth it.
On the return ride home, I immediately handed my daughter her iPad, leaned my seat back, and smiled.