What our five-year-old daughter wore to school each day had become a battle – so much so, that every morning we’d have another screaming match.
“You will, I won’t … I will, you won’t”.
Every morning at least one of us would end up in tears, and often one of us would end up with a spanked bottom.
One day an experienced grandma advised me to ”choose your battles.” Her wise words encouraged me to take a step back to see what was really happening.
A look from a different perspective enabled me to see that my daughter was trying to assert her independence as a part of growing up. But I was afraid that she was leaving me, so I tried to control her, in every aspect of her life.
Sure, I needed to have my daughter’s respect, but I also needed to show respect to my daughter and allow her to grow up and take on more responsibility and choices as she grew.
We soon solved the “clothes war”.
We went for our first ever “date” –which became a family custom and we continued with all of our children, individually.
Over an ice-cream, we made a mutual decision: My daughter could choose what to wear from Monday to Saturday. But I had final say on Sunday mornings and special occasions, and I chose the clothes to weddings.
Grandma’s words helped me to realise that if I were to continue to fuss over every aspect of my daughter’s life, there would come a time when I would really need to “make a point”. Then how would my daughter distinguish between what I believed was really important and what was “just a fuss”?
Ultimately, fussing over little things did not gain my daughter’s respect – just her resentment.
The difference between life and death
Little things like whether her shirt matched her shorts, or how she wore her hair did not really matter in a world where decisions about drugs, alcohol, sex and fast cars can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Saving my “fussing” for those issues that were important helped my daughter learn how to make wise choices. And as she entered the pre-teens, equipped her to face the “grey issues”. As she grew older, the grey issues became still greyer, but she became more confident in her decision making, having had years of experience.
Twenty-plus years after the “clothes war” we still talk about the big and little issues with great respect and much love for each other. We still have different tastes in clothes, and ice-cream is still our favourite date.
First published in The Lutheran