They have to be mornings, mind you, because by the afternoon everyone's that much more frazzled and less willing to give and take; the demands are less reasonable, and my temper is certainly shorter. And realistically, it only happens with one child at a time. But still, I'll take what I can get.
Mabel doesn't have school on Thursdays, and we had no particular playdate or appointment planned for today. I thought we might take a look in Old Navy to plug some of the gaps in her summer wardrobe, and pick up a few things at Safeway, but we were in no great rush. After I'd walked Dash to school - leaving Mabel at home with B - I asked her if she wanted to choose something to wear today. She happily came upstairs, chose a pair of underpants, picked out a skirt and her butterfly t-shirt, and put them all on. No drama. No chasing. Just a perfectly reasonable child. Sunshine and flowers all the way.
She watched a little TV while I hung the washing on the line, we got a few things together, and left the house. She added a fluffy bunny and a small doll to my bag of stuff, as well as deciding to bring her scooter in the car, but these were easily accommodated. See, it's not just that she was being reasonable, but also that I was. There's no need to deny her small requests that don't make my life any more difficult, but sometimes, when I'm feeling pissy, I suppose, I just feel that the Good Parenting approach is to say no at all times. Because if you do what they want, they start thinking they can have everything.
That's not really true. If you do what they want, when you can, they're more likely to listen to your explanation when you really can't.
When we got to Old Navy, Mabel spent the first five minutes ecstatically greeting her friends the mannequin family at the entrance, hugging the girl who is just her size, adjusting her cardigan and shades, and patting the mannequin dog. Sometimes I have to hustle her away, but today I just let her enjoy herself for a little while. When it was time to move on down the store to where the clothes I wanted to look at were, she was content to come along. She tried on some sandals while I riffled through the clearance racks, and was generally easy to manage and a delight to have on the trip.
As I paid, she looked at the toys near the checkouts, and united a teeny tiny giraffe key-chain with its larger "Mummy giraffe". (She hates to see a family split up.) Before we left, she showed me a little doll and said, so nicely, "Maybe I could have that for my birthday or Christmas." "Maybe," I agreed.
Then we skipped Safeway and just went to meet some friends at the playground, because the weather's too nice for shopping, and who needs dinner anyway? You're just going to need it again tomorrow.
As low-key, simple, do-nothing mornings go, it was a really nice one. I know that well-rested and a.m. have a lot to do with Mabel's behaviour - and my own, probably - but again I'm reminded of what Anne Shirley once observed about people - they have two handles, a hard one and an easy one. If you can figure out the way to pick them up with the easy one, everything comes out so much better. I need to work on finding my kids' easy handles more often.