Whatever! Pretty much the last thing I ever expected my daughter to tell me at only 4 years old. Not only did Lia tell me “whatever”, but she stormed off after using the phrase followed by the appropriate walk off. It was as if time stood still for me to actually analyze what just happened. Now, I have to note that “whatever” is the adolescent version of F**K you and is not tolerated by most parents, including this one. I had to go back to the conversation in my head to replay it and it went a little something like this:
Lia: “Daddy, do you know where that little baby is with the backpack”
Me: “I don’t know Lia did you check your room? I think I remember seeing you have it in your room last night”
Lia: “Daddy, I can’t find it (getting a little flustered) and I want you to come help me find it”
Me: “Lia, I can’t right now, I am getting ready so we can go see Paw Paw”
Lia: (In her pre-cry voice) “But Daddy I want you to come help me find her, I can’t find her.”
Me: Lia, I will help you find her in a minute, but can you please clean up your room before we go and maybe you will find her”
Lia: Whatever! (storms off into her room)
Yeah, that just happened, and maybe like 8 years too soon I would say. I figured my first whatever would come in the preteen years, instead it came in the preschool years, much to my dismay. I think once I got over the initial shock, I knew I had to nip that nonsense in the bud and let her know really quick that “whatever” doesn’t work in this household, nor will it be tolerated. That didn’t sit to well with her as she was still distraught over not finding her baby but made it perfectly clear that “whatever” is not how we handle problem solving and communication when things are not going her way. I’m not where she picked it up, but hope that is the last I hear of it for a while…and things have been quiet on the range since so we will see.
I’m not sure where Lia has picked up the art of negotiation, but it’s been running rampant from how many pieces of food she eats, too how many minutes she stays up to finish watching a show or helping pick up after she makes a mess. I know I am dealing with some sort of Jedi in training as I have often found myself trying to negotiate, but when she “thinks” she is negotiating, I am 2 moves ahead in getting her something to do that I really didn’t plan for her to do, which is win win for both of us. For example, Lia will say “Daddy, I will eat 2 more pieces of chicken then can I be excused”. I quickly follow with “How about 4 more pieces of chicken, and 6 green beans then you can have a cookie and then help clean up your play area?”. 3 out of 4 times she is game, but that one time she will throw up some heavy negotiating not budging on her end. It started out to be cute at first, but noticed that she was using this tactic every time she would eat and had to quickly move into “how about let’s go to bed now” mode which meant negotiations were then cut off and fun time was over. As she grows older I see the intelligence in her little mind grow each time I am with her, but little does she know I am on to her game and deep undercover knowing all the tricks I played when I was her age. I have to give her credit, because in her tactics, she can make us laugh but have to hold back the smile at times to let her know we mean business. Even in the most difficult times in dealing with her I have to admit it’s been a wonderful process and she redeems herself by learning from each situation and how to avoid repeat meltdowns because after all, she is the only one upset while we remain calm, cool and collective. When the storm has passed and she is calm enough to talk, we explain what just happened and why they did, she apologizes, hugs and honestly feels like she learns from each event. I can honestly say this because tantrum duration and frequencies are down, which I hope, is an indication that she is progressing away from the “terrible twos and threes”. Next stop, Independence and the age of accountability. Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, buckle your seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.