Yesterday, I attended my daughter’s preschool monthly parent ed class.

The topic was Unplugging Power Struggles. You know, those delightful little scenarios that have you pulling your hair out on a daily basis? Jan Faull, the speaker, was both enlightening and entertaining, a potent combination that makes all SAHMs glad we chose this career path – if only for one evening.

As usual, I came away feeling rejuvenated and so full of knowledge and information and hope that I was all ready to go forth into the world and become the most emotionally there mother in the universe. I was, in my mind, springing lightly from foot to foot, fists up and rolling, going OKAY WE CAN DO THIS! BRING ON THOSE POWER BATTLES! I’M READY! COOOOOMMME OOOONNNN BITCHES!

You can always predict what happens with this sort of enthusiasm.

After a relatively good night’s sleep (I’d spent an hour training jewelcrafting and mining and cooking. Those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about don’t need to), I woke up this morning still determined and motivated to apply all that I’d learnt. In fact, I was all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed for a challenge, but nothing interesting happened. Rae chose to eat cereal and she chose to wear her jacket and she chose to put on her warm socks. Hmm. C’mon power struggle, wheeerrre aaaare youuuu?

We had a make-up gymnastics class to go to and Rae looooves her gymnastics. Loves it. So she was all singing and humming and talking in the car all the way there, and we get there, we get her into her gear and she goes into the gym thing and they start doing their warm-ups, and I go outside to make coffee as I always do, when not even a minute later, a parent calls out to me.

Oh, m’am? We got some tears here.

I look over and there Rae was, having a Complete. Meltdown.

She is sobbing as though I’d abandoned her, and through her heart-wrenching sobs, are words only her own mother can discern.

Mohhohommmmyyy! IHH-HH-HHT’S NOOOHOHOHOT THE SAAHHAHAME TEEEAAACHHEERRR!?

Raeven, remember? Mommy told you this was a different class and it’s just for one day. Remember?

I DOOOHOHONNN’T L-L-LLIIIIKKEEE HI-HI-HIIIIMMM!

I look over and there was this young man covered in tattooes with metal things sticking out of his nose and ears. Okay, that’s definitely not Coach Christina.

Okay, what do I do? 

Raeven, listen. I can see you’re upset that he’s not Miss Christina but this is only for today. It’s a special day today, and we’ll have Miss Christina again okay? This is just for today?

BUU-HHU-HHUT I DON’T WANNNNNAAA!

I feel a stirring of frustration. Gee-whiz, my daughter is a teacher snob. What is with her? Sheesh. Okay, focus. I take a deep breath, bite back all the threats I want to issue, and look at her squarely in the eye.

Do you want to stay here at gym, or go home?

Tearfully, she looks at me, and looks over at her teacher and a bunch of four-year old strangers.

Do you want to go home?

No…

Do you want to stay?

But I don’t know this…person, she sniffs pitifully.

It’s just for today, sweetie. We’ll get Miss Christina back after today.

More furtive glances at Scary Pierced Teacher Man.

Okay…

And with that, my little girl walked slowly back to her class, and proceeded to sit out almost half the session, shaking her head at Mr Tattooed Man once in a while, saying words I could not hear that made Mr Bitchin’ Body Art leave her alone.

For 40 minutes, I stood, watching, drinking my coffee. The whole time, half of me wanted to yell, “C’MON! YOU’RE WASTING DADDY’S HARD-EARNED MONEY BY SITTING ON YOUR ARSE, YOUNG LADY. STOP BEING A WUSS AND GET TO IT!”

The other half was proud that I’d actually maintained my cool, and gave her those choices as much as I’d hated to drive all the way home again. And that in the end, she’d actually chosen to stay.

And whaddya know, in the last 15 minutes, Rae finally decided to join her class on the trampoline and the back flips and rolls, or whatever else you call the scary-looking maneouvres gymnasts do.

This whole thing with power struggles and letting our kids build their self esteem by gaining some control through choices they can make safely, has not so much to do with the child, as it has to do with you as a parent.

I find it hardest to defer the beliefs and system of values I was brought up on, to what may be more important for my child today, such as her self esteem and her development as a little person.

To reconcile the values of my childhood (eg. not waste money by sitting around during a gym class) and what should be the values of my child’s upbringing (like empathising with her discomfort and obvious fear of new faces) is possibly the biggest hurdle that I, as a visitor here in the US, am facing.

And this makes me wonder: What kind of a parent would I be today if I was still in Malaysia?