Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Cross-posted at Blogher (here).

My 4 year old daughter is stubborn. Ada is charming, polite, disarmingly verbal and funny, but she is also incredibly stubborn.This stubbornness shows itself in various ways (including her continuing refusal to use the toilet). While her (non) potty-training is annoying, it is only one example of her stubbornness. Despite loving to dance and twirl in our living room, at the park and the grocery store, every time she's faced with participatig in a dance class, she balks. No, she says, I don't want to. So we sit on the side and watch.

The next week she declares her desire to go to dance class, but once there it is the same scene. This has gone on for two years. I don't push her, knowing it won't do any good. I wait a couple of months, and when she once again starts mentioning wanting to go to dance class we go back, only to have the scene repeat. She does not allow herself to be drawn in by the teacher, by her twirling, jumping friends, or by anything else. She would rather sit by and watch than jump in and jump around.

Potty training has also succumbed to her stubbornness. A capable 4 year old, Ada now cleans herself up and discards soiled pull ups when she pees or has a bowel movement. She even goes so far as to sit on the toilet while wearing a pull up. But to sit with a bare bottom, to allow her waste to enter the toilet? That crosses some line she's drawn in the sand, and she's holding firm.

Given all this, I knew swim lessons were iffy. Ada does not like water in her ears and has never enjoyed getting sprayed with water. But she loves to go to the pool and was thrilled when I suggested lessons. For two weeks she's talked about the lessons, asked when we were going, and generally expressed enthusiasm for the idea. Yesterday she started the day similarly excited by the prospect. By 3pm, however, she'd decided she did not want to go to the pool. I told her she did not have to participate, but that we should go and check it out. We got there a bit early, to watch some lessons. Ada's class had two other kids in it, but she would not join them on the side of the pool. The teacher tried to encourage her, to no avail. She just sat with me, watching the other girls jump and play in the water. She dug in and that was that. I cried while driving her home, both sad that she was too afraid or stubborn to do something fun (again) and angry that her obstinancy was keeping her on the margins (again).

Chris escorted Ada to the next day's lesson. She told him "I don't want to go, let's go home, let's go..." but he got her poolside once again. In fact, he did eventually get her to sit by the edge of the pool with her feet in the water while the other girls joined the teacher in the pool. Who knows, by the end of the two weeks of daily lessons maybe she'll go in up to her waist.

(I'm not holding my breath.)


  1. Builder BOy is much like this,b ut his stems from fear, I think. Last year, at 4, our swim lessons were much the same. This year? Swimming under water, but it was a long road to get there and it had nothing to do with us-we did what you are doing: we let him take his time and get there himself. It makes me sad, too, since I was the same way and my fear kept me from so many experiences-good and bad. Boy this parenting thing is hard!!!!

  2. Crap, I was hoping to see the stubborness fade by 4 years. No such luck I guess.

  3. I have never cared for water in my ears, and still don't put my head underwater if it can be avoided. I was invited to join the Diving team in high school but refused because it involved repeatedly dunking myself.

    But I did learn to swim. How? Partly swimming lessons, and partly my mother forbidding me to go in our pool by myself. Whenever she wasn't around, in I went. (I was 10, not 4. 4 definitely wouldn't be safe, esp. for a kid who doesn't swim at all!)

    Sometimes part of a kid's stubbornness is doing what the parent says not to. It could be worked to your advantage perhaps...

  4. How do you keep from losing it all together? You must have the patience of a saint.

  5. Oh Nora, I'm sorry, and I understand. Milo will now hold his own toothbrush, and he might even put it in his mouth, but he will not let us brush. And the food thing? Yeah, no progress.

    I think 16 months is too early to start the reverse psychology, but I'm thinking about it anyway.

    Hang in there.

  6. Oh man. Excruciating.

    I'd'a cried too.

    (I also didn't want to put my head in the water until I was, um, about 27? but I got real good at doggie paddle)