It seems that most of the time lately, there is no winning in parenting this precious, sweet and fierce six-year-old youngest child. But what a joy it is to keep trying.
According to every parameter I can think of, our recent move to live closer to family has been a massive win for our family. Grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins are now on hand. We fit in the house in which we now live. School is a short bike-ride away, and all downhill on the way there. Newly working-from-home Dad is around for family meals and to race alongside on the aforementioned bike ride. Kids have settled into a genuinely warm and friendly school and community. So many wins...according to everyone except our youngest.
Having told me recently that she didn't feel at home in this new house, I spent an afternoon hanging cork boards from our previous home, updating them with the latest childrens' masterpieces, and ensuring a good 70% were hers. "Does this make you feel more at home?", I asked, my face bright with anticipation. "Not so much", came the reply. Back to the drawing board.
The news of sharing a bedroom had not filled her with great excitement, and as such, an effort was made to appease both parties involved. For the elder, the promise of a bigger bed - a bottom bunk - with a privacy curtain matching the refurbished luxury, fur-lined tent. For herself, a cool little canopy in pink on the top bunk bed. Telling it now, it seems to run in the favour of the elder, but surely top bunk status trumps all else in a shared bedroom situation? We thought so. The bottom-bunk-dweller thought so. Not so much the youngest, who cried in exasperation when waking in the night, "...And now you can't even sleep with me because you put me in this terrible bed!". She was further outraged when she was told a few days later that her siblings were getting to stay up later now, as they were older and should get some privileges along with the responsibilities. "And exactly what are the privileges of being the youngest?", she asked. "You know it's hard being the youngest and I just need more help from you guys once in a while." I guess the problem with being so competent is sometimes your parents can forget that.
On a school evening recently, I was unpacking her school bag to find several contraband toys in the side pockets. I removed them, reminded her that these were not allowed at school and asked her to replace them in her bedroom. Surprisingly, there was little pushback and we carried on with our evening...for an hour or so. At this point, seemingly out of nowhere, she declared that she wasn't going to school the next day. "I've got no friends at this school, they were all back at the old school." We talked about the many girls she plays with each day and on the weekend on her soccer team. I quietly remembered the struggles she had at her previous school when her best friend moved away a few months before us. But no, these superfluous facts could not sway her from her point, which was expressed loudly and repeatedly with much drama. The next morning she declared that despite the fact she was miserable, she would go to school so long as she could take her favourite teeny tiny toys. And I found myself feeling...a teeny bit of admiration, if I'm to be honest.
So, we decide to blow the kids' tiny little minds with something to let them know we appreciate things have been different, and sometimes difficult. Having lived in a shoebox for all their lives, what we have lined up is something unheard of. To delighted cries such as, "This is the greatest day in my whole life!", the epic brand new LEGO sets are presented and an afternoon of uninterrupted building time ensues. For the subsequent three afternoons, she works through the instruction booklet to create her masterpiece. And she's nearly there. How do I know this? Because tonight, when I called it was time for her to go to bed, she replied: "Seriously, Mum! I'm just about to build the last seat on the ferris wheel in the second last bag and you tell me I have to leave it and go to bed? I just can't get over how unfair you are!".
I appreciate moving is hard for everyone. We are amazed at the gumption our kids have shown in making this new town their own, and we're very aware of the ways in which challenging feelings can show themselves. Thankfully we have challenging little people to remind us sometimes. I guess that in itself is winning.