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In which I connect the Spanish Armada and Hannah’s Move to a Big Girl Bed

I just spent the morning recording and pushing out a new podcast episode on the summer of 1588 when England successfully defended her borders from the Spanish Armada, intent on invading and overthrowing Protestant Elizabeth.  At the same time, my babygirl is transitioning from her crib into a big girl bed.  These two things are related.  Both remind me that sometimes it’s important to teach people that it’s ok to break rules.

One of the many reasons the Spanish Armada failed was down to poor planning, and a micromanaging King (Phillip II) who dictated a plan and then expected people to follow it to the letter.  His head Admiral, the Duke of Medina Sedonia had zero naval experience and intended to follow the instructions as given, not deviating at all.  Below him was an incredibly capable Captain, Juan Martinez de Recalde, who had more experience and the gut instincts that repeatedly save sailors’ lives.

At one point in the voyage Recalde saw an opportunity to strike the English navy in Plymouth.  He argued for it ceaselessly.  Medina Sedonia refused to give at all.  That wasn’t part of the plan.  Those weren’t the orders.  Never mind that it could have perhaps saved the Armada and ensured that we all speak Spanish today.  The plan was to sail on, meet up with the Duke of Parma, and attack via Dover.  That was the plan.  Nothing involved Plymouth in the plan.  Move on.  Done.  End of discussion.  Fin.

Last night my daughter was avoiding sleep.  This is the fifth night she’s been in her big girl bed, and she’s obviously able to get out of it herself.  We heard her giggling and my husband went in and saw that she had moved her pillow and blanket into the closet where she was sitting happily having a pretend tea party with her stuffed animals.  He told her that she needed to get back into bed, and if she got out of bed it would show us that she needed to be back in her crib.  In she scrambled and covered herself up with her blanket, as fast as her chubby little legs would move.

About an hour later I heard her crying and went in to check on her.  She was sitting on the edge of the bed, with her blanket wrapped around her, bawling her eyes out.  She had some sort of nightmare apparently, and she was afraid to get up and come in to see me because of the order that had been given to her earlier: get out of bed and you go back in your crib.  Poor thing broke my heart.  I held her, and she sobbed on me.  Hubby came in and hugged her too, and we assured her that there are times when it’s ok to break the rule that mom and dad give you.  If you’ve had a nightmare and you want to come in and get a hug from mommy, it’s perfectly acceptable – in fact, encouraged – to violate the Don’t Get Out of Bed Rule.

There are times when it’s perfectly acceptable, and in fact encouraged, to break rules.

Like when you see an opportunity to destroy the English navy and take over the country you’re meant to be invading.
Or when you’ve had a nightmare and you really want your mommy.

It takes a high level of logic, and a willingness to take risks to violate the rules.  Maybe Recalde would have attacked and lost all the ships and would have gone down in history as being the cause of Spain’s failure.  But maybe he would have succeeded, and become the next Regent or a high ranking Duke in England.  It takes a thought process to work through those options.  

For Hannah, it takes thinking through what she has been told to do, weighing the risk that she’ll be in trouble vs the strong desire to have a hug from mom.  That’s a lot for a 2 year old brain to process.

We had a talk with Hannah today about how there are times when it’s fine to not listen to us.  She needs to start to be able to think those times through.  I want a daughter who is logical enough to know when it’s an ok time to break the rules, and has the strength of will to follow it through.  I want a daughter who doesn’t just sit there in anguish because she’s been told to stay in bed.
Someone should have had that talk with the Duke of Medina Sedonia.  Violating the written instructions from his King, days away in Spain when there was an opportunity right in front of him, perhaps cost the Spanish a huge victory.  Maybe Recalde should have just been a maverick and attacked on his own – he wound up dying from sickness he caught during the Armada’s retreat.  A lot of Spanish pain could have been saved if someone would have broken a rule and acted on the instincts that soldiers are trained to develop.

It’s funny how these lessons from history can come back to guide me in parenting.