The vacation had not started well. Josh wanted to be on the road by 9 and they did not get started until 10:30. Instead of lovely family time driving in the car singing along to the radio they were both stewing silently while Zara slept in her car seat, tears still drying on her cheeks.
The purple sippy cup. That's what had started it. Well, that wasn't exactly true. The purple sippy cup hadn't started it, but it was what set them off today.
When Grace was doing the last minute check of what they had packed she had noticed Josh had packed the red cup and the green one but not the purple. "Where is the purple sippy cup?"
"I couldn't find it, so I just grabbed those two, no big deal."
"Sure, if you only want Zara to drink grape juice and water the whole trip. She won't drink milk out of anything other than the purple sippy cup."
"She can drink milk out of any of the cups."
"She could. But she won't."
"That's ridiculous. They are all the same!"
"Just help me find the purple sippy cup and we can leave."
"No, I am ready to go now, we need to leave now. It's just a damn cup."
And that's where Grace had lost it. It was Josh's fault that Zara would only drink out of purple. He had read an article that parents needed to let their children make their own decisions. That it was this generation of helicopter parents who were always making everything perfect for their kids that was ruining them. They grew up not knowing how to make decisions at all. Their parents had picked out their clothes, their books, their schools, their sports, planned their play dates and even did their homework for them. What needed to happen was to let kids direct themselves.What they wore. What they ate. What activities they wanted to do. This was the perfect parenting method! And so Zara was presented with choices, "What do you want to wear? Where would you like to go?" She would be perfectly prepared to take on the world.
Grace's mother had laughed at her when she found out. "You are going to let her make all of her own choices? She's two."
"The experts say that at 2 she is perfectly capable of understanding what she does and does not like."
"The experts do, do they? Well let me tell you my not so expert opinion, you give a two year old all the decision making power and you will be living with a tiny tyrant. Toddlers are dictators by nature."
What did her mother know? She hadn't read a single parenting book her entire life and had admitted when her first grandchild was born and her brother asked for advice that she had made it all up as she went along. Her mother had no clue.
That's what Grace thought then. After the first time Zara changed her mind on what to wear four times before they could leave for daycare she started to wonder if maybe they had made a mistake. Josh was still buying in to the whole program, but it was much easier for him. Grace worked part time and did most of the heavy lifting in the parenting department. He swooped in a bed time and let Zara pick a book and how many times he would read it, tucked her in and was done. For him it was all smooth sailing and he couldn't understand that a half hour of "We are all out of carrots. Would you like peas or broccoli?" had worn Grace out before dinner even started.
And then this morning, he really thought that it would be fine to leave without the purple sippy cup.
It took her a half hour of looking to find it. Then it needed washed. Then Zara saw it and decided she really wanted some milk. Josh had explained to her that they needed to get on the road for vacation and she could have milk when they stopped for lunch, but not now. And then the melt down happened. She wanted milk NOW not at lunch, NOW. So Josh decided that fine, she could have milk now but to try and prove a point to Grace he had put the milk in the orange sippy cup.
"Orange is for apple juice." Zara put her tiny hands on her hips.
"It's a cup, sweetie, anything can go in any cup. See? Isn't that neat?"
"Orange is for apple juice."
And they went on like that for another half an hour. Finally Josh relented and put the milk in the purple cup. And then Zara wanted apple juice.
That's when Josh had yelled. Zara burst out in to tears. Josh went pale. He had never raised his voice at his daughter before. Ever. He had never been the cause of his daughter's unhappiness. Ever. To know that he had done both was too much. So he turned on Grace. "She's gotten spoiled!" He hissed so Zara wouldn't be able to hear him over her wails. "What have you done?"
"What have I done? You are the one who wanted to give her all of the choices." Grace whisper shouted back, "This is what happened! Welcome to my life, Josh, what did you think I had been complaining about?"
And with that the sippy cups were rinsed out and repacked. Zara was given some apple juice for the car ride and packed in to her car seat where she fell asleep 5 minutes after pulling out of the driveway. Sippy cup full of apple juice falling from her hand leaving a trail of sticky drips every where it rolled.
"Maybe we give her fewer choices?
Grace looked at Josh, "You think?"
"This is hard, you know? What are we doing here?"
"I think we are making it up as we go along. Like all the real experts..."