Princess Leia is sitting on my kitchen cupboard, next to the pomegranate tea and the English muffins. She’s all dressed up in her white hooded gown, blaster rifle in hand, ready to fight the bad guys.

But she won’t be fighting today. She is still in the plastic packaging, being held prisoner by the ultimate bad guy.


She’s my captive because Angie lost her privilege to play with this new toy just moments after receiving it. We took a dozen or so steps out of the toy store when she yelled at me on the sidewalk.

I had stopped her from walking in front of a moving car, which frustrated my 4-year-old to the point of screaming — the kind of screaming that makes people stare and wonder what awful thing I’m doing to her.

So she lost her Star Wars toy for the day. It’s a shame, really. I mean, is there anything more exciting to a child than getting a new toy, busting it out of the plastic casing and playing an imaginary game of good versus evil?

Leia is not alone up there on the kitchen cabinet. She has Darth Vader to keep her company, since Angie lost that toy, too. There they sit, a dark overlord and a warrior princess: two unlikely companions waiting for their young owner to learn a lesson about yelling at her mother.

It is not the first time Angie has lost something because of her misbehavior.

Earlier this week, she yelled at me in the grocery store, so I took away the gummy worms she so desperately wanted me to buy. In the past, I have taken away her bicycle, video game and television privileges. The only punishment that seems to resonate with my daughter is taking away her bedtime books, a tactic reserved for her most egregious acts of defiance.

When I was a kid, losing certain privileges always worked. I was a second-grader when my mother took away my beloved Barbie dolls for being sassy.

“You were just impossible,” my mom said recently. “I told you that when you could talk to me better, then you could have them back. You said you were sorry and you got them back the next day.”

That may not work on Angie, though. She is brazen and stubborn, and will shrug off the loss of her new toy and simply play with something else just to spite me.

I hate taking away her toys, so her punishment is my punishment too. I wanted to see her happy, see her playing with something that gave me so much pleasure when I was a kid. My little brother and I were Star Wars fanatics, and we got along best when we were playing together with those toys.

He and I pretended to be Stormtroopers in the backyard, made lightsabers out of cardboard rolls from wrapping paper and squealed when Darth Vader removed his mask in “Return of the Jedi,” revealing his doughy white head.

I know how my mother must have felt when she took away my Barbie dolls. I’m sure she had occasion to take the Star Wars toys away from my brother, too. It must have been difficult for her to take the things we loved so much, the things that made us feel such joy.

It’s never fun to be the bad guy, but it is especially difficult as a single parent. I am busy and exhausted, and it’s hard to find the time and energy to take a stand against Angie’s misconduct. Sometimes guilt and self-doubt speak louder than responsibility, and I would rather please my daughter than discipline her. Sometimes it feels like that would be easier.

But I know that letting her bad behavior slide would be a mistake. Showing her that I love her enough to set boundaries and enforce consequences is one of my most important jobs, no matter how busy or tired I am.

I still want Angie to be happy. I want her to have her toys, have fun and lose herself in her own imaginative play, just like my brother and I used to do.

Right now, though, it’s more important that she learn how to talk respectfully to her mother.

Wendy Fontaine’s “Party of Two” column appears the first and third Sundays of the month. Her e-mail address is: [email protected] Follow Party of Two on Facebook and read her blog at

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