Lessons from a Six Year Old

In case y’all haven’t figured this out yet, I over-analyze everything.  Or maybe I just analyze everything.  I’m not really sure if there is an overage.  The past few days I have been seriously contemplating the psyche of this six year old girl I babysit pretty frequently.  I was telling my boyfriend that if she didn’t figure something out, she was going to lead one miserable life…not that I’m giving up on anyone at six, you know.  She’s a great kid – smart, funny, all that stuff.  Her problem is that no matter what is going on, what game we’re playing or how many people are around, she tries to control everything.  Rules, rules, rules…she is constantly making up rules that everyone else is supposed to follow…things like which side of the yard boys are allowed on and who is supposed to play with whom and when it is time to move onto the next game.  But those are the big rules.  Just trust me when I say that she has serious micro-management issues.  And she always gets upset, because the world (other people) just don’t always follow her rules.  The other day it was slightly chaotic as there were cousins visiting.  Four cousins, to be precise.  Add this to my standard two and we get six, yes, six kids.  So, as you could easily surmise, this was a recipe for disappointment for my six year old girl.  Getting her sensitive, introspective four year old brother to be her puppet seems to be a specialty.  However, trying to use the same treatment on said 4 cousins was simply a hopeless case.  Nobody would EVER play what she wanted to play, and definitely not the way she had envisioned it being played.  I always try to talk to her when she gets upset by situations like this, hoping that some of it will sink in at some point.  I say things like, “You can’t expect everybody to follow your rules all of the time, especially when there are this many people.  You just have to kind of go with the flow and try to have fun.”  Response: “But I don’t WAAANNNT to go with the flow,” with much sobbing.  Me again, “Well, everybody doesn’t want to play the same thing you want to.  They get to choose what they play, and you get to choose what you play, but you don’t get to choose for them.”  Her response, “Why is it always about what they want?!”  I’m not sure how to get across that it could be about what she wants, too, if she let it be, but controlling her own destiny is not enough for her.  “I want to play with _______ (insert name),” she says.  The problem is she doesn’t care if they want to play back as long as they do.  She really does want little puppet playmates who will sit where she wants them to sit and play with the things she tells them to play with (and nothing else, mind you) and do it exactly the way she imagined.  The other kids around are usually quite content as long as they get to choose for themselves what they do at a given moment.  She is not happy unless everyone is following her command.  That is what she wants to do, so unless there is a subject to control, she is not getting to do what she wants to do, even if she has chosen her own action.  Are you following me here?  I have a point, really I do, but it’s even sort of lost in my own head right now, so I’m sure you guys have probably all stopped reading by now.  I can see how, given that what she wants to do is tell everyone else what to do, it could seem to her that she never gets to do what she wants to do.  I sort of feel bad for her in that I’m not sure how to make her see that if that person does not want to play what she wants to play, then she really does not want to play with that person. 

I have actually sort of taken this in a different direction than I meant to, although I have thought these things.  But it’s taken me away from my point(s).  My point is that I have been looking at myself and realizing how much I follow in this pattern of thinking.  I want everyone to behave the way I think they ought to (as mentioned in my Recipro-City post), and I get really grouchy when they do not.  I do not exactly expect to be able to control them, but I do always think that they must not be trying hard enough to listen to the voice of reason.  I do, actually, often think it is my duty to show them what they are doing wrong and what they should do to fix it.  So, in a way, I do try to control because then I am frustrated if they do not change. 

You may have gathered from a few of my other posts that I have been a little frustrated with jobs and things, which translates into something akin to depression as jobs take up a lot of time, you know, and so when jobs are what’s buggin’ you, well, it’s hard to get away from it. 

But tonight, I took a lesson on what NOT to do from a six year old.  I always wish that I could make her see that her position is not so bad…that at this moment, she gets to choose her activity.  I am not making her do anything unpleasant.  She is surrounded by fun things to do in the great American home of toys and more toys and yards and swing sets and sprinklers and puzzles and books and crayons…all of which she enjoys.  All this to choose from, yet she is choosing to be miserable instead. 

I have been doing this myself…coming home from work and choosing to allow the frustration to follow me around like a shadow into everything else I do.  When I am not at work, the moments are mine (well, really God’s if I let them be, but you know what I mean).  They are mine, but I had been relinquishing them to the power that I had given to my frustration.  All moments were held captive by what I was not allowed to do or by what I was forced to do.  Tonight I looked at my evening and remembered that it was mine.  I got to choose what I did with it.  I have not been choosing very wisely here lately…turning to things that keep my mind thoughtlessly occupied, and in this only adding to the feeling that I was not doing anything worthwhile. 

There are a lot of points that I have not made, although I alluded to them.  Here are two of the main things I am trying to teach myself through this:

1) Even if my rules are the best rules and the game I made up would be the best game if everyone would pay attention (which is all highly unlikely), I can only force the rules upon myself.  Trying to force other people into my mold will always make me miserable.

2) When I am allowed to choose what I do with my own time, I should choose wisely and let it be enough, because THAT moment is my own.  The bad should not be allowed to creep into the good.  (By the way, I think this is sort of a lazy-man’s fix.  The real fix is to figure out how to get the good to creep into the bad.)

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5 Comments

  1. zephaniah317 said,

    August 14, 2007 at 8:25 am

    I posted recently that it’s simple. Love God. Love people. But what if people don’t want to be loved? It can be so draining to keep pouring into them, when they respond with either neediness (which just continues sucking you dry) or rejection (which is still draining because you’re hitting a wall day after day). That’s where God’s power has to come in and keep us nourished. I don’t have this applied to my life yet, but I’d like to think I’m getting there: loving regardless of response. If I love only based on the response I get, then it’s all about me, ain’t it? 🙂

    Hang in there. Good post.

  2. Kim said,

    August 14, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Dont’ forget…the momemts when you’re at work are God’s too…if you let them be. Thanks for being such a great teacher and a great sister. Love you!

  3. August 15, 2007 at 11:44 am

    […] I read a post on Taste the Sea’s blog the other morning, and commented on it.  Basically had to do with […]

  4. Family Man in the City said,

    August 15, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    You are describing fairly typical behavior for that age. Kids have lots of things to learn about the world, maybe too much. Everything seems chaotic and unpredictable. Home becomes a bit of a refuge from the chaos, an imaginary rhelm of peace and total predictability: mommy ALWAYS feeds me dinner, daddy ALWAYS puts me to bed.

    Games with rules are an extension of this wish. Last night daddy fed me dinner because mommy was at the store: my imagined security has fallen apart here, but at least I know what you CAN and CANNOT do in freeze tag.

    Children are inherenty sensitive to changes to expected routines. Lose the favored blankie and the child might not sleep that night. Someone else’s spaghetti sauce tastes “yuckie” (because it isn’t the way daddy makes it). Kids love watching the same TV show over and over and over again while eating the same food just as often when a week’s worth for most adults would have them wanting to swear off “A Bug’s Life” and peanut butter and jelly for life.

    Not only isn’t all hope lost for this kid, she sounds right on track.

  5. Mary said,

    August 21, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    I”m not sure about all of this being fairly typical for a 6 year old. Can she empathize with another? That’s what I would wonder about this kid. “how do you think that makes him feel when you….”

    We all need to work on this stuff at our appropriate developmental stages for good spiritual and emotional health. interesting reading, thanks for sharing these struggles.


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