Battling "Bossy Teacher"

The wonderful thing about four year olds, and children in general, is that they are always changing. Babies learn to do thrilling things like smile and coo and hold their head up and eventually to walk and talk. Preschoolers draw butterflies that actually look like butterflies, do gymnastics tricks, learn to read. Every day Maya becomes more and more like Maya. She picks her own clothes. She wants to wear headbands. She has shows she likes to watch and food she won't eat. She has favorites. She has a best friend. They both change constantly.

In general I love all of the little quirks that make her Maya. I love the way she says "agai-yen" (again) with a slight country accent when she wants more tickles. I love the fact that she prefers to poop naked. (Fast forward to sixteen year old Maya: "Mom, you put that in your BLOG??? I hate you!!)  Even the personality traits that cause fights (like her annoying refusal to wear sneakers and the fact that she bursts into tears when she doesn't like her outfit) are things I find endearing after she has gone to bed. All but one: The Voice.

Maya has a special tone she reserves for when she is particularly displeased with me. It is "that" voice, the one that used to make me feel sorry for moms in stores. (Or, in my naive youth, judge them for their inability to discipline their child.) The voice is like that of a disgruntled teenager, part whine, part snap, all obnoxious. It goes something like this:

Me: Please hold still so I can braid your hair.
Maya: OWWWW! Mama you are HURTING me! STOP hurting me or I will be angry!


Maya: Mommy can I have ice cream?
Me: Not right now.
Maya: Pleeeeeease!
Me: Maybe later.
Maya: (mean face, foot stomp) Hrmm.

Before we go any further I want to point out that 99% of the time Maya is quite pleasant and agreeable.   Usually when I ask her to help she does. And usually when I say no she deals with the disappointment far better than most kids her age. I know I have it good.

The problem is that sometimes she turns from sweet Maya into a persona I call "Bossy Teacher." Bossy Teacher lines all her markers up on the floor and tells them to take a nap. When they don't comply she says helpful things like "I SAID, head down, Mary!" Bossy Teacher sits in a chair and reads a book to the living room, making sure everyone raises their hands before speaking. Bossy Teacher orders and insists and does everything but corporal punishment to get her "students" to fall in line.

I have seen Maya's real teachers in action. They are nurturing and friendly and approachable. But I am sure they can also be demanding and dare I say, bossy, especially when the classroom gets out of control. (I was a preschool teacher, I know how it goes.) It seems it is this part of the job that appeals most to Maya's imagination.

Bossy Teacher is the reason I refuse to "play school" with Maya anymore. I do not like her. I do not like her class. If she were my real teacher I would transfer. And when Maya does not like my answer to "Can I have chocolate for breakfast?" it is Bossy Teacher who I have to deal with.

I have spent a lot of time and energy battling this voice. It is my thing. (All parents have one, their biggest pet peeve. For some it is the socks under the bed. For me, it is the snotty retort.) Sometimes I am patient, calmly explaining to Maya that if she speaks to me like that again it will be the time out chair. Other times it is an epic battle between Bossy Teacher and Bitchy Mama. Here is a secret for you: There is no winning a fight with a four year old. Either you give in (you lose) or you don't give in and she throws a screaming tantrum (you lose). I am consistent though. She never gets what she wants until she asks for it nicely. And sometimes, not even then.

But is it worth it?

Maya is always nice to her friends. She is polite and well behaved on playdates. She does everything her teachers ask of her, instantly, without any struggle. She says please and thank you. She cleans up after herself. (Usually) She hugs you when you are sad. The people she orders around are the ones she loves the most, Matthew and I, her grandparents, the dog. Why am I spending so much time trying to correct a behavior that she only does with us?

The honest truth is that my dislike of Bossy Teacher has nothing to do with Maya and everything to do with me. I just don't like being snapped at. It makes me angry. Even worse, it hurts my feelings. If I spend the entire day at a street fair buying little paper tickets so Maya can jump in a bouncy castle and make yet another sand art bottle, I expect happiness and overwhelming gratitude, not scowling. I bought you a cupcake! We danced to an awful cover band. I am the best mommy ever! Why can't you just love me??

I am so mature.

Kids do not think like this. They are self absorbed by nature. The truth is, it is my job to be Maya's mommy, and like any other job, my boss does not always say thank you. In fact, sometimes she is demanding and bitchy and sometimes I slave all day over a hot stove and she asks for PB & J for dinner. Other times I get hugs and kisses and a clean room without asking. And some days Bitchy Mama wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and it has nothing to do with Maya at all.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that when you snap at people it makes them feel bad. No matter the reason.

Maybe I'll lay off of Bossy Teacher for awhile, let her breathe, or even better, take the high road and just ignore her. Maybe I'll see it as a sign of her feisty personality, her creativity, her spunk. Maybe I'll even learn to like her.

Then again, maybe not.
After all, no mama is perfect.


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