Monday, January 9, 2012

For Argument's Sake

"Because I said so!"

For the record ladies and gentlemen, I never planned to be a "Because I said so!" kinda mom. I always imagined that my child and I would have rational dialogues. That we would reach a win-win consensus. That we would see eye-to-eye more often than not. That we would, after a thoughtful and civilized discussion, agree about what was best for her own well-being.

That was then. This is now: LMAO!

These days, I wish it was as easy as saying, "Because I said so!" You see, there's no point in becoming that authoritarian cliché because guess what?!? Whether I say those dreaded words or not doesn't matter one single solitary iota. The argument ain't over until my daughter says it's over.

And, unless I capitulate, she never says it's over.

I can't tell you how many times I have left a room while she's still making her point — making it for the eighth or ninth or seventy-third time. She is tireless. She is persistent. She is indefatigable. (Sometimes I wonder if she is hearing-impaired.) In her hormone-addled mind, "Yes," means "Yes." "No," means continue the debate until "No" means "Yes." It bothers me to exit in the middle of her sentences, so I fire lame verbal warning shots: "I'm leaving. I mean it. I'm going away now. Really. This is me, walking out the door." If I do manage to escape, she lets go with a loud, guttural wail of frustration.

But, I've learned not to react or even feel particularly sorry for her. Because, no matter how pissed she is when I declare a cease-fire (oh, and she can be quite pissed, believe me), in her book it's only a temporary setback. The argument will resume, with nary a beat missed, at dinner, in the car, or before school the next morning.

My daughter wants to major in equine studies and make a career in the equestrian industry — either running a riding school, as an equine photographer or as an equine affairs lobbyist in Washington. She has it all planned out. But, I worry that she is missing her true calling. She should go to law school, directly to law school, do not pass go, do not collect $200. She has a keen litigious mind, a sound sense of logic, and an unrelenting passion to see that justice is done! Justice, in this case, meaning that the result she gets is the result she wants. The verdict is in and the court finds for the plaintiff. Case dismissed.

Until this past weekend, my daughter's utter inability to accept my authority or comply with my wishes was a source of bewilderment (and even a little shame) for me. I mean really. I'm a good mother. I work hard. I make things pleasant and easy and nice for her. Is it so much to ask that I get a little respect?

Uh ... don't answer that.

Then, I read about a study recently published by the University of Virginia in the journal Child Development. This study, conducted over the course of three years, found that adolescents who argued with their mothers were less likely to succumb to peer pressure about drugs and alcohol than those who simply backed down and did what their mothers said.

In other words, the skills my tween is developing in our never-ending mother-daughter debates may actually serve her well in high-risk high school moments of truth.


Will this new information make my day-to-day life any easier? I doubt it. Will the family feuds still make me want to pull out my hair? For sure. But, maybe I can adjust my thinking a little bit. Maybe my daughter isn't trying to get the upper hand as much as she's trying to assert her own independence. Maybe it isn't that she thinks I'm wrong; maybe it's that she's trying to define for herself what's right.

Or, maybe she really does think I'm a moron, that life is unfair, and that no one else has ever had to suffer like she does when it comes to (insert grievance here: cell phone limits, an early bedtime, cleaning her room, eating her vegetables). Don't get me started. Better yet, don't get her started! Any of these (or a thousand other) perceived injuries can launch a deposition the length of War and Peace.

She may never be a lawyer, but if holding her own in an argument is somehow an indicator of her ability to hold her own when confronted with bad behavior or a dangerous situation, then I can breathe a sigh of relief.

I pity the peer who tries to talk her into doing something she doesn't want to do.

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