Monday, December 14, 2009

Hairbrush Hustle

It is cold, but not as cold as the previous few days. The temperatures should be in the high 20's at some point. They are not there as of yet, but they have broken into the high teens. I am watching the clock carefully. To make the trip work, we must be out of the house by 11am. We are good on time right now. 10:40am. So far, the children have been fed a heavy breakfast of diced potatoes, eggs, peppers, tomatoes, spices, and bacon. A pseudo skillet of sorts. They have brushed their teeth and I am armed with Super Blue, a small blue squirt bottle named for it's color and snarl fighting powers, and a hairbrush.

Xander rounds the corner first. Seeing Super Blue in my hand sends him careening back around the corner. "Xander! Come back please." I urge. "We need to brush your hair so we can go. We are running out of time!" It is all to no avail. I walk through the living room and down the hall, first peeking in the bathroom for his little frame, and then his room. He is laying on the bed, cover over his head. "Come on, honey." I am purring, rubbing his back, trying to entice my mouse out of the covers. "I want to get our Christmas Tree. Pretty soon it will be too late to go and then I don't know when we will be able to get one."

My hand passes lightly over the exposed skin of his belly. I feel his muscles clench and see the blanket tighten in his hands. He lets out a giggle. I smile. The mouse is cornered. "Are you excited too?" I brush the tips of my fingers across his belly again and he wiggles, trying to slide away. I do it again, my fingers following him as he tries to slide out of reach, forgetting about holding his blanket. He bumps against the wall. I start tickling him in earnest. Xander laughs with force and releases the last of his light grip on the blanket, choosing instead to grab his shirt and pull it down protectively over his belly.

I set Super Blue on the bed next to me and use my freed hand to pull the blanket off his face and hair. "There you are!" I hold firmly onto the blanket as he tries to pull it from my hand. My other hand slides under his shirt and begins to tickle again. He immediately retreats from the blanket and goes to protect his belly again.

"No! Stop!" he yells, already low on breath, but with just enough to power a small giggle.

"Okay. I'll stop. But you have to sit up so I can brush your hair." My face communicates a dare, knowing that if I am too serious I will lose the little bit of ground I gained. He hesitates and my hand moves to rest on top of his shirt. "Do we have a deal Little mouse?"

I can tell he wants to say know. His body holds tension. His eyes are averted to my hand. A small smile plays on his face. I move my fingers, getting them ready for the next tickle attack. He inhales sharply and then blurts out, "Wait! I am thinking about it!" The smile has disappeared. A battle is waging inside. He doesn't want his hair brushed, but he doesn't want on-going tickling either. I've known him all of his nearly five years of life. He is working a way around his predicament. Quickly trying to find an option other than the one presented.

"I'm waiting, but my fingers are restless. I can't be responsible if they get bored." I wiggle one and he pushes his body further into the wall. I am standing firm on this, but would rather this battle over an onerous contest of wills. They end in tears and screaming, which I hate to see.

"Okay, okay. Just a second! Ummm...." He is still stalling for time. There is very little time left. This thought makes me want to push a little harder for a decision. A couple of fingers start to wiggle.

"Bad fingers!" I scold as he grabs onto them and contracts his stomach muscles out of my reach. He laughs a different laugh. A laugh born out of silly humor and not involuntary physical reaction. "Bad fingers!" I say again as they begin to wiggle in his hand. "I don't think I can make them stop for much longer.... maybe only three seconds! 1..... Oh, no! Oh, no..... 2....... What are you going to do?" My eyes are wide, feigning fear for his ultimate tickling demise. My fingers are wiggling madly; tossing and turning, swishing and swirling at their bid for freedom.

"Move your fingers away. I'm getting up! I'm getting up!" He is pushing them away. I let go of the blanket and use my hand to grab the other wrist, tugging the other hand back into line and to Super Blue. I pretend to tickle it.

His belly muscles now tightening to push air through his esophagus in a deep laughter. I pick up Super Blue. "Phew! That was a close one." I tell him. He lets me brush his hair with ease. I bend over, kiss his forehead. "Go get your socks and shoes on. I'll come help after I tackle Eva-Bug's hair." I slide of his bed and start a new search for a much less compliant little girl. Xander leaps past me and heads in the general direction of the closet.

I find Eva by the closet, already dressed. Her hair is a mess. It is always that way. Sometimes I wonder why I bother to wrestle her into brushing it. She sees me walking toward her and turns to run in the other direction. I am much faster and catch up to her in five steps, wrapping my arm over her shoulder and under the opposite arm. I pull her into me. "And where do you think you are going Miss Thang?" I ask playfully.

It doesn't seem to register. She is already screaming, "No, no, no, no!" and batting at the hairbrush and Super Blue based on which one is closest.

I look at the time. It is 10:48am. "Here's the deal Miss Thang. If you don't want to use Super Blue, that's fine. But you have to stand up nicely so I can brush your hair." She continues to swat at the hair brushing instruments. I can hear real tears have begun to fall. I never understand why this is so torturous for her. Her hair is so thin and fine there is rarely a snarl in it. It takes about 10 seconds to brush thoroughly and 5 minutes to get to the point of brushing. The fight seems silly, all things considered. Certainly she knows this is a lost battle already. Her hair will be brushed.

I keep my arm firmly around her, pulling her closer to me as I begin to take a few steps backwards to the couch. She is squished like a sardine in a can. She can't go anywhere. That doesn't mean I am as secure. I want to sit down so I don't end up hurting both of us if I loose my balance, toppling on top of her two-and-a-half-year-old self. I sit down as gracefully as possible, dropping Super Blue on the floor and cautiously raising the hairbrush above her head and out of her reach.

The second phase in the battle begins as soon as the brush touches her head and begins its downward stroke. Her free arm moves up and covers her head, moving her hair all around. It is useless to try and brush with through this action. She knows this well and I am forced to stop momentarily. I stand her on her feet so she has to support all of her own weight. "Eva. Stop. I am going to brush your hair or you and I will stay home while Daddy and Xander gets the tree by themselves."

My voice is firm and the threat invokes even more tears. Her head hangs low and she slides to the floor. "I want you to don't brush my hair!" she yells.

"Okay. Then you want to stay home? Am I understanding you correctly." I know she wants to go, but I want to make sure she understands that brushing her hair is an expectation which must be met before she can walk out the door and climb in the car.

"I want you to don't brush my hair." she states again, although a little less adamantly. I put the hairbrush down and reach for the box of kleenex, keeping one hand planted firmly on her shoulder. She'll run again if I let go.

"Okay. Let's take your coat and snowpants, and gloves, and hat, and boots off. We can put them away and tell Daddy that you want to stay home. No brushing your hair." I emphasize the ands. It's poor grammar, but really helps drive home the point. Eva cries a little harder. I wipe her tears and then her nose. "Are you ready to take everything off?"

It feels mean. Callous really. I know that I have to drive the nail through the oak density of her stubbornness. She is still crying. "I want to go for the Christmas Tree!" Her eyes plead to let the rules slide just this once. There is never just once with this child. Every action sets a hard to overturn precedent with her.

"Then you need to brush your hair." I am pleading too. I hate having this fight with her every day. I would much rather have a tickle fight. Those do nothing to delay the inevitable fight. Besides, her clothing is too thick. The attempt would be futile.... and batted away.

"I want you to don't brush my hair and I want to go for the Christmas Tree." Her tears have slowed down. She is inspired by the idea of putting both thoughts into one sentence.

"I'm sorry. That is not an option. You can choose hair or tree. Not both." At least we are nearing an end. Xander was always a child who chose only from the options we gave him. Or a child who will think of a creative solution, still within the realm of the options. Eva has always looked at the options and completely disregarded them, preferring instead to provide her own choices.

She holds out her hand. "I will do it. I want you to don't touch the hairbrush."

Ughh. I knew it was coming and I would like to reject the choice. More so, I want her to be part of this family expedition. What she does can't be called brushing. It's more of pushing her hair around to make it look generally worse. At the same time, it does leave her more open to some help. The level of some is ever changing. "Okay, but I will help when you are done. I'll use just my hand. No hairbrush." At least I can try and push her hair back into it's original chaotic shape.

She accepts, taking the hairbrush and performing the action as expected. I use my fingers and rake them through her hair. The end result is still a mess. She pops her hat on top and walks to the door her brother and daddy have already gone out. Quickly, I slip my winter gear on and follow them out of the house, turning off lights and closing doors as I go. As I turn to make sure we have everything taken care of, I see Super Blue and the laying haphazardly on the floor.


  1. I like this. I will refrain from parenting tips regarding hair brushing. This does illustrate the machinations that we as parent have to go through to simply get out the door.

    I laughed as I had just read you family blog post and it started the same.

    welcome back and this makes three...Hmm I should post a prompt.

  2. Actually, this started out as the post on my family blog. It came apparent that it may be a tad too long and perhaps, this blog would be a more appropriate place.

  3. First of all, I'd run away from anything called Super Blue, too.

    Secondly, this piece provides even more proof that our firstborns are similar and our secondborns are also similar. SHEESH!

    Thirdly, well, this isn't a list, but I just want to say, This is quite painfully humorous. It hits a sweetly soar spot in my heart. I've lived these you-need-to-choose-from-these-two-and-only-these-two-options-battle-that-shouldn't-ever-be-a-battle-but-our-ever-so-stubborn-child(mostly seondborn) makes it excruciatingly painful for US PARENTS to choose between "giving in" (thus, getting out the door on time) or "keeping our foot down" (thus, preventing them from even thinking that they can get their way again).

    LOVE this piece. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. My kids named the bottle! Not my fault!