There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I am struggling with something. I have always thought of myself as someone who has a good handle on her stress level when it comes to being a mom- a roll with the punches kind of parent if you will. I strive to be very laid back with my parenting style.
But lately, my four year old is driving me crazy with her mood swings. We are smack dab in the middle of what is the mother of all phases (I hope it’s just a phase. It’s a phase, right??) Before I continue with this rant, let me tell you, I am extremely fortunate to have such a loving, polite, sweet, funny little princess. I’m not sure where THAT particular child is living right now though. The Terrible Twos? They were a breeze. The Troublesome Threes? No problem! Now we’re deep in the throes of the What the F*%k Fours and it’s been a challenge, to say the least.
Her most used methods of communication these days, especially when asked to do something she doesn’t want to do, like put her shoes on or brush her teeth, is to growl at us or screech in this angry, high pitched scream. I keep telling myself to breathe, use those parenting tips you know so well, the ones in all those fancy books. You know–those tricks that used to work. I’ve tried giving her choices; she growls at me. I’ve tried time outs; she screams at me and kicks me. I’ve tried setting expectations and having her choose rules in certain situations (Thank you Bill Corbett). Nothing gets through lately. The look in her eyes is reminiscent of a wild animal, backed into a corner. Come on! It’s just a tooth brush!
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “She’s four! How bad can it possibly be?” Well, it wouldn’t be as bad if she acted like this all the time. But she doesn’t. She is very well behaved for the most part. And even when she’s not, I can usually get her to snap out of it and pull it together with a diversion, a tickle or a goofy face. It is like someone took my sweet baby girl in the middle of the night and replaced her with a moody brat who likes to hit me.
My husband likes to remind me that she’s acting this way because she wants or needs our love and attention. Well, duh, of course. But she usually acts like a mad woman at the most inconvenient time, like bedtime or when we’re preparing our house for 40 Thanksgiving guests…
My head tells me I’ve got this. I know all the rules. I have to let her have her tantrum or at least try to redirect her. When she’s calm, we can talk consequences and feelings. But then there’s my body trying to flee the scene before I scream back. (Seems logical, right? A preschooler screams at you, you scream back. Ok, so that’s not the right answer.) I really want to be the sensible, calm mom I know I can be at this point, but the rationale just doesn’t make it from my brain to my mouth and it turns into a shouting match. Just what we need: two screaming banshees in the house. Already. Did I mention that she’s only four? It usually ends up with both of us in tears-her first- blubbering “Sorry” to each other while hugging.
So what’s a wannabe Zen mommy to do? Later, maybe I’ll re-read the parenting books, and take some deep breaths. For now I just hug my little monster, tell her I love her, and hope for a better outcome next time.