When I started to get taller than my parents, I realised something. I had power. I could say, "you can't make me."
My children already have that kind of power - and they have said that to me since they were sufficiently articulate. This is my body and I choose what to do with it. You can't make me. Of course, I *could* - there are many things I could force them to do, if I were willing to get into a battle of wills over whatever it is that they disagree with me on. I *want* to give them that power - I want them to have those words - and when they use their power to refuse me... Well then I just have to get creative.
Now I'm not talking about trying to force them to, say, eat peas. Or put their coat on. For the former I have, "pretending I don't notice what they eat and don't eat so that I don't stress about it" and for the latter I have "stuffing a pac-a-mac in the bag so that there is something for if they get cold later". These are small cases, in which letting them own their own bodies is important, and the consequences are ones we will all survive, and not saying "I told you so" is the lesson in parental self-control that reminds me how much growing up I still have to do. ;)
Then, every now and again, a bigger test comes along.
Last week Rowan decided she didn't want her car seat any more, and we had a trip planned. I briefly fantasized about just putting her in the seat against her will, fighting her in with the justification that I was keeping her safe. I was stuck in "two option" mode. I win, or she wins. What happens next?
I started brainstorming at random. Would she like the red seat out of the attic instead? Nope. Would she sit in the seat if we moved it to another place in the car? No way! Well, did she want to miss the trip? Tears of distress, but NO give on the car seat. Was it uncomfortable? No, just "for babies", and no amount of pictures of much bigger kids in five point harnesses was having any impact. What about if we got pretty new covers for her car seat - BIG girl covers? No. (But she sounded interested.)
Then I hit on the genius idea that fixed it for Rowan. Would she like me to embroider hedgehogs on her seat? Now, she was quite set on not ever going in a car seat again, but the thought of having hedgehogs embroidered on it... Who could pass up hedgehogs? Not my three year old, anyway. She picked out pink and purple felt, and went to bed happy, telling me she was looking forwards to riding in her seat in the morning.
Sometimes it's that easy for everyone to win.