I think its important to let kids make some decisions. My mom was big into that too. She would talk about how people used to give her funny looks in the grocery store when she would hold up two items and let a kid who could barely speak choose between them (not to mention the looks she got on the cereal aisle when she let us pick out our own sugary, evil cereal). As a tiny kid with so little say in what goes on, its nice to get to feel like you’ve got some control sometimes.
But last week I let this go a little too far.
Chris and I were in the middle of a normal evening – playing with Ally and making dinner. Then his phone rang and he ended up having to rush out the door and go to work (I know, working in a theatre doesn’t seem like it should come with emergency phone calls). Ally and I were left with a half-made dinner of fish tacos. A meal I knew she wouldn’t eat. So I needed a new dinner plan. After a quick assessment, I determined we could either have sloppy joes or leftover pork. So, I asked Ally which she wanted. She took one look at the tortillas I was putting away and replied “quesadilla.” Normally, this would have been okay, but I was holding off on quesadillas for fish taco night.
I asked her again: Sloppy Joe or pork?
Again she said: Kay-a-dee-ah
So I said: We’re going to have that tomorrow. Tonight, do you want a sloppy joe or pork like we had on your birthday?
This time she replied: ONE soppy joe!
But before I could celebrate her decision, she added: TWO soppy joe!
Huh? So, I asked: You want two sloppy joes?
She replied: ONE soppy joe!
For some reason, I pressed on: So you want sloppy joes for dinner?
And, of course, she said: Kay-a-dee-ah!
This went on for 20 minutes. Ally was trying to give her stuffed animals check ups and I was asking her over and over again what she wanted and getting different kooky responses each time. But, because I had clearly lost my mind, I kept asking. Finally I began to realize that I was depending on a two-year-old to make a decision that she was never going to make. She didn’t care and she didn’t know. This was obviously not the kind of situation my mom intended for me to leave in the hands of a toddler.
The evening-of-bad-decisions was complete when Ally wandered off while we were eating quesadillas at her little art table (she had refused to come sit at the dinner table, which I totally understood) leaving me to eat a not-so-good dinner sitting in a tiny chair at a tiny table all by myself.
Lesson learned. Let kids choose what cereal they want or pick a vegetable to have with dinner but don’t put them in control of making dinner plans when all they really want to do is play.