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Power struggle

We ended the swim season today. It was the first time we’d joined a swim team… and I want them to continue. But wow. It was hard to stick with it. There are a handful of reasons:

1) Jordan hates being cold. When she’s cold, she’s cranky. When she’s cranky, she doesn’t want to listen. When she doesn’t listen, she ignores the people in charge. When she ignores people in charge, it makes me really unhappy. I really don’t like it when my kids don’t listen.
2) Both kids aren’t strong swimmers yet. I’m personally okay with that… I love seeing them push themselves. I’m proud that they keep getting better. But it’s hard work for Mom. I know it’s hard work for the kids as well.
3) Everything is a test. Jordan is pushing every limit. Every bit of patience. Every bit of structure and control. She wants to be in control at all times. But she’s six. She doesn’t have a job. She doesn’t pay the bills. But wow, she wants to be in charge. Sometimes it’s a whiny power struggle. Sometimes it’s loud. Sometimes it’s obstinate. It gives me a headache from time to time.
4) Tonight’s swim meet… When Jordan walked away from her one assigned race. She stood there before they blew the whistle and cried. She cried and a coach escorted her away from the race.

Quit isn’t something we do. Once you sign up for an activity, you don’t quit.

Actually. If you quit, you have to pay Mom and Dad back for the activity. In Jordan’s case, she doesn’t have an allowance yet. So paying us back requires special house or yard work. Neither child has chosen the pay Mom and Dad route. She and her brother both had to pay us money earlier this summer when both of them decided to sit out of a swim team practice on a day when their parents weren’t attending swim practice. Jordan paid $2 and Cameron paid $4.

Tonight, I was standing across the pool waiting for Jordan’s race to start. That’s when she started crying. It made me so. Very. Sad.

Jordan is going through a very normal phase of the six-year-old world. She’s testing every angle of her world. She’s seeing where she can get an upper hand. She’s constantly trying to make sure everything is “fair.” Unfortunately, not everything is fair. And some day she’ll understand that.

Tonight, when she quit the race. I wasn’t okay with it. She cried and begged for forgiveness and all I could do was ask her to sit on her towel while I watch her brother race. I wasn’t going to tell her it was okay to quit because for me, it isn’t okay. I realize this is an issue where some parents will disagree. But I told both kids this swim season that I didn’t expect them to win, just finish. And Jordan did not finish her one assigned race. She didn’t finish. I wasn’t going to tell her everything is okay and fair.

She cried. A lot. Enough that I went to an assistant coach and asked if they would consider letting Jordan have one more chance to race.

And they did.

They let her slip into a back stroke race but let her swim freestyle.

And she finished.

Every coach cheered for her. The crowd was so supportive. It was similar to the support she got during a race right before we left for vacation. Jordan didn’t quit. She stopped a couple of times to catch her breath. But she didn’t quit. I hope she remembers that. Because we don’t quit. We do whatever it takes to finish. Even if you’re going to test your parents’ patience along the way.


  1. Michelle on July 3, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Good for you and good for her! Neither one of you quit. We need more parents who stick by their word. WTG Jordan and Mom!

  2. Ryan Haack on July 3, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Oh, man. That’s SO hard. My Anna (will be 7 in Sept) is so strong-willed and has really been pushing the limits lately. Tonight at bedtime she goes, “Just so you know, I’m not going to listen to you.” What the heck do you say to that?? lol

    Parent to parent, I wish you luck. 🙂 And great job getting her back in the pool!

    • Jen Lee Reeves on July 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      Thanks Ryan. And I stand with you in solidarity as parents of strong six-year-olds. (Jordan turns seven in December.)

  3. Kim on July 3, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I’m so glad she finished a final race, albeit in her own way. I love that you make your kids pay for things because we do the same thing. We’re happy to pay for music lessons and classes and teams, but don’t want to waste our money when our kids get lazy. My kids are older and I’ve found that sometimes it’s great to pull through and other times it’s okay to walk away, but not when emotions are running high and certainly not in the middle of a performance or meet!

  4. Yaly on July 4, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Thanks for the post! It is always a pleasure to see an inspirational story come to life. I wish you all the best of luck with your future endeavors. Take care and have a great Summer!! ^_^

  5. Meghan Donohue on July 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Good for you Jen! Staying strong as a parent is so hard. What I love most about this post is that there is no mention of her little arm anywhere. My husband and I are determined that our daughter’s little arm is not a get out of jail free card. You don’t get special treatment because of your limb difference. It is not an excuse to not do your best, or not follow through on a commitment. It is our job to raise our children in a way that makes them happy, strong, productive members of society, and you are doing a great job!

    • Jen Lee Reeves on July 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks Meghan… There isn’t a single reason for Jordan to ever say “I can’t.” I want her to say “I’ll try.” 🙂

  6. Lisa on July 6, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I’ve got that stubborn 8 year old! However, she hasn’t quit any of the activities she’s signed up for, so I’ve been lucky in that regard.

  7. Melissa on July 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

    What a great post! Ella just turned 6 this week and we have been struggling through the same control issues for a little while now. This age is tough but if we all stay strong we will get through it with strong, independent, loving, polite young ladies in the end. Keep up the great work Jen!!

  8. Jessica McRackan on July 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    That’s a strong stance to take – paying you back for quitting an activity – and I respect you for it. Rosie’s just past 2 now, and we are working as parents to teach her to try. We laud her for trying more than for the success that (may or may not) come as a result. Sometimes it bites us back, like when I am trying to do something for her that she truly cannot do herself, and she says, “Rosie try. Rosie try!”

  9. tracey on July 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Ugh… I hate it when they pull that. And they all do it. And it doesn’t make it any easier for us parents to handle. That said, I definitely have moments where I want to quit on a lot of things. It’s almost harder to be in control of my every move without a parent telling me that I have no choice, you know? They get to blame US for their discomfort or change of heart.

    I’m glad they let her race anyway. It showed her that she COULD do it.

  10. Tiaras & Tantrums on July 7, 2012 at 9:37 am

    loved this! I try to teach my kiddos they can’t quit either – just gives them ammunition to quit everything for the rest of their lives

    • Jen Lee Reeves on July 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Exactly. My kids are too dang young to think they can quit. I still won’t quit and I’m kinda old (at least in their eyes)!

  11. Jasmine Rustemeyer on July 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Love this kid! Tell Jordan hi from Miss Rustemeyer and that I am so proud of her for finishing and not giving up. 🙂

    • Jen Lee Reeves on July 22, 2012 at 12:28 am

      Thanks Jasmine!! She’s a tricky one to raise at times… But I am also SO SO glad she finished her race in the end.

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