"Mama, I need a new dress." She looked at me expectantly, knowing I wouldn't go down without a fight. She braced herself and put her hands on her hips.
"What's wrong with that one?" I asked her. "It's perfectly fine." She was wearing an adorable fuchsia dress with matching shoes.
"But it doesn't . . . TWIRL!"
We have variations of this debate almost daily. She knows I don't really want her changing her dress unless there is something wrong with the one she's wearing, so oftentimes she'll spill water on herself and then announce that she can't possible wear a wet dress. "I'll dry it with the hair dryer!" I tell her helpfully, which causes her to erupt into an apoplectic rage.
During the most recent episode of the dress-changing debate, I did finally give in and tell her that she could change her dress. Fine, whatever. I love extra laundry. Her list of requirements when it comes to dresses is growing ever longer. She has not worn pants for over a year. First off, the dress has to be a soft cotton knit. If it's denim or corduroy, she won't wear it. "No hard dresses," she tells me. (My mom thinks it would be funny to walk into The Children's Place and ask, "Excuse me, where do you keep your hard dresses?") Second, it can't have any external pockets. Third, it has to be relatively long. And fourth, it has to twirl. I don't think this is going to end until we get to the point where she heads out of the house each day in some voluminous square dancing frock.
But, a girl never knows when she might have the need to twirl. I get that (or at least try my best to play along). So off she went to pull a new dress out of her closet. A few minutes later I was buttoning and tying the back of a flowing sundress. "Where did you put the other dress?" I asked her.
Without hesitation, my daughter looked me in the eyes and said, "I put it down the laundry chute." If by "down the laundry chute" she meant, "left it in a crumpled heap on my bedroom floor," then her statement would be accurate. The situation was fairly cut and dried: she lied. I set the kitchen timer for four minutes and escorted Miss Twirly to the time-out corner, where she burst into tears and screamed as though I'd made her wear overalls or something.
The evening got better, though. We have a rule that you don't have to eat your entire dinner but you do have to try at least one bite of everything. Just one. That same evening, I made a rather innocuous cheese and vegetable casserole. I insisted that the kid try a bite. It didn't even have to be a bite of a green thing, even a potato would do. I gave her several chances. She refused, so I put her to bed early. She put on her Daisy Duck nightgown and climbed into bed without questioning the penalty too much. As the hours ticked by, I felt guilty that she was in her bed flipping through books while the sun shone through a blue sky outside. Despite the guilt, giving an inch just seemed like a bad idea.
Still, I don't know if she really got it. "Do you know why I put you to bed early?" I asked.
She looked up from the copy of Everyone Poops that she was reading. "Because it's bedtime?"
Did I make the right parenting decision? I guess I'll never know. The good news is that the nightgown she was wearing . . . it twirls.