The Agony of Defeat

“MY kids will never drink juice! MY kids will never play video games! MY daughter will never play with Barbies!” I said, b.c. (before children). After children was a different story.

Battles: You win some, you lose some. Before children, I looked down upon those mothers who gave their kids juice all the time. Don’t they know juice is just sugar? I’d wonder. So until she was two years old, Rose didn’t drink juice. Once when she was sick, we gave her apple juice. She promptly threw up. No more apple juice, we thought. It’s just as well, because we’re against juice in the first place.

Then she went to babysitting and all the kids had juice except Rose. Still, I said no juice and it was easy. We didn’t have any in the house. Rose asked why and I told her that too much juice isn’t good for little girls. The babysitter solved the problem by giving the kids Kool-Aid with Splenda. Because it’s just flavored water without sugar, I did not object.

Then Rose went to preschool. Every morning I made her a lunch and I poured milk into her sippy cup. Every afternoon I picked her up and her sippy had leaked all over her lunch bag. I hate making lunches to begin with, and not only was the sippy not working, but pouring it was another step in the process. I broke down and bought juice boxes. I must admit, throwing one of those into her bag is much easier than pouring milk into a leaky cup. I lost the juice battle but I consoled myself by noting that her juice boxes contain only 10 percent juice and less sugar than the other ones out there. But nevertheless, I lost.

I lost the video game battle right out of the gate. My husband Matt loves video games. We have an X-Box, a Wii and an old-fashioned Atari joystick with built in games, as well as lots of old cartridges for antiquated video pastimes. Matt could not wait to play video games with Rose, and the Wii facilitated her introduction quite nicely. She bowls, plays skeeball and sings with “Guitar Hero” now, but at least she’s playing with Matt and not by herself. It could be worse. My in-laws started their son on “Grand Theft Auto” when he was 11. I hope Matt will refrain from teaching her “HALO” until she’s 30.

Barbie was a different story. Because of her unrealistic body image, I swore Rose would not be allowed to play with Barbies. Ever. But my dear friend, who helped us when Christian was born, loves Barbies and indoctrinated Rose into the Barbie world by buying her first doll. I couldn’t refuse such a heartfelt gift, and Rose fell in love with Barbie. That was seven months ago and Barbie’s no loner in our house now. She’s got at least eight friends.

One thing I didn’t count on when I spouted my righteous plans was outside influences. As a parent, I learned that I am not the only influence my daughter has. Between babysitting and preschool and media and our friends, she’s got influences all over the place. And I have learned to accept these influences.

The secret is to separate the winnable battles from the unwinnable ones, and to understand that unwinnable battles are not failures, they’re just a part of life. I have to weigh each battle in my head too. How important are juice, video games and Barbies? To me, they were huge priorities, but now that I’ve lost those battles I know that I have to limit her juice, video games and teach her to accept her body despite those influences. And I’ve got to accept that I will, most definitely, continue to feel the agony of defeat.