When dealing with my children, I learnt long ago to pick my battles. Sometimes it's worth letting bedtime slide by five minutes in order to avoid twenty minutes of tantrums and screaming. On the other hand, when it's time for school, it's time for school - anyone dawdling is going to get an earful.
I'm sure this comes across as inconsistent and capricious on occasion but in general it makes life more pleasant. The kids get to feel they have some control over their own lives despite the fact that, when it really matters, they don't. They win minor victories but we get where we need to be without too much of a fight. We all stay sane. Hooray!
What I didn't realise until examining Marie's fingernails the other day is that my inconsistency runs deeper than I thought. It turns out that I pick different battles with different children.
When Fraser was younger, he used to pick at his fingernails. When I went to clip them, I'd discover half of them ragged and maybe even bleeding. I was constantly having a go at him to leave them alone. It took months for me to achieve success and finally get him to stop. It was a slog.
In contrast, I haven't clipped any of Marie's nails in more than a year and a half. I assume they're still growing but I don't know what happens to them and I don't ask. Every so often, I remind her not to pick at them, she mutters to herself and we leave it at that.
Why? Why did I make a fuss with Fraser but not with her?
I suppose, for starters, she's a better DIY manicurist than he was. She hardly ever makes a hash of things and makes herself sore. On top of that, I guess I'm more tired than I was when Fraser was small. There's less fight in me, so I need to choose my conflicts even more carefully.
Most of all, though, I know I'd lose. Since neat fingernails are a relatively inconsequential issue in the grand scheme of things, that's really as good a reason as any to leave things be.
I'm saving my energy for when she's a teenager and wants a tongue stud.
Yours in a woman's world,