Slippery as her nickname, Little Fish squirms around just outside my grasp. I take hold, and we make contact, and she realises that I really do mean it. And she submits, and eats her breakfast without complaining, or gets her clothes on without screaming, or settles for the night without calling me back into her room a dozen times. And it's great, and I think she's finally learning that I might just actually be in charge, at least some of the time, and I start to relax a little.
And then I notice that she's still slipping away. That I ask her to eat her breakfast at the table, and she agrees, and doesn't scream, but flips her legs around so she's sitting sideways on to the table, leaving a lovely Marmite or Cheerio trail across the floor and her clean clothes. She gets her clothes on, but her pyjamas are stuffed down the side of the bench and left in a puddle of stagnant water from the shower. She settles for the night, but only if I leave the door open.
Compromise? Or control? She's still in control, still deciding how much she'll allow me to have things my way. I don't mind compromise; I'm all for negotiation and thinking problems through and mutual decisions. But I'm not sure I'm supposed to be the puppet on her strings.
So I take hold of her, and draw her in close, and she squirms one little bit of her out from my arms, and suddenly the whole of her is somewhere else entirely, and I'm left holding her shed skin. And there's a still small voice at my shoulder saying "Sound familiar? Don't you do this to Me all the time? The appearance of obedience, a semblance of submission, and I go my own way again even as I say "Yes" to whatever it is I ought to be doing. But, like Little Fish, I like to think I'm doing the right thing; I'm doing most of it, aren't I? I can do it and do that other thing at the same time, can't I?
Maybe I can. But can I do it and expect to teach my daughter what it means to be wholehearted at the same time? I'm not so sure about that.