First of all, I want to thank everyone for the feedback on my post from earlier today, here on the blog and on Facebook and in private messages.
My cousin, Colleen, made an interesting point that " [T]he internet is ruining parenting. Everyone seems to be doing it better. Everyone has an opinion on how you should be doing this. No stranger emailed our mothers and told them when they were doing something wrong, or failing us. They sorted it out."
She's right, but it's also right that I feel better for having reached out and heard from so many people that I'm NOT doing it wrong, that parents ALL have these issues. I didn't find an answer, but I found support, and that's better. Well, kinda.
All of the feedback made me realize something, though, and it's that I didn't really ask the right question. I know that I have to stand my ground, that I can't let the 4 year old win, that Adrian and I as parents have to make him understand that we are in charge and he is not. The question of whether this particular battlefield, the one where Milo continues attending preschool or not, is one that we will choose to fight and die on remains to be seen, and the answer will be particular and right for us, as a family.
The question I *should* have asked is, HOW. How do I manipulate, because let's be real, manipulation is what we're talking about here, how do I manipulate this child into doing what I want him to do, while making him think it's what HE chooses to do? He does not respond to reward systems like sticker charts; conversely, he does not care if you take away belongings or privileges. Bribes, threats, kisses and cuddles....everything rolls off this child. He is peculiar. Is he peculiar? I don't know, I've only got the one other kid, and he is pretty peculiar too. Just not in the same ways.
Forget the school aspect. Pick a scenario from your life, a battle you fought or do fight with your kids. HOW do you do it? Because what I'm doing is not working. All that's happening is that I'm spending a lot of time angry with myself. Every morning I resolve anew to cheerlead the kid out of bed, into clothes, through breakfast, and into the car without losing my cool or my temper, and every morning that I actually DO manage to get him dropped off at school successfully, I drive home filled with self-loathing that I bullied and harassed him into doing what I wanted. And every morning that I DON'T manage to get him to school, I am pissed at myself all day for giving in.
There's no answer, right? That's why I haven't found it? The answer is.....you just muddle through until whatever the thing you're fighting about is over? Until school is out for the summer, until he decides he likes it, until he grows out of whatever phase he's in where he needs to try to control this aspect of his life, until I grow a thicker skin and just don't care how many times he can tell me he hates me each morning? The answer is....parenting is HARD and sometimes you're the bad guy and sometimes you're the good guy, and your kids love you even when they say they don't, so make them do what you know is good for them and they'll thank you for it later? The answer is....suck it up and deal, Jen, and stop whining about your cranky 4 year old?
I don't like that answer. But I will stop whining. Maybe. I accept that I'm not failing, I can learn to accept that I'm not excelling, either.