Lately my (just turned) five year old has been less than grateful and kind of a sour puss. Her default attitude seems to be pissed off. She can very easily turn to an absolute sweetheart telling you she loves you more than the biggest piece of chocolate cake, but it breaks my heart that her default mood seems to be unhappy. I really hope this is a phase and this discontent does not follow her through life. I see so much of myself in her: stubborn with a tendency to keep score.

On the Saturday of her fifth birthday party she woke up happy and ready to get going. She dressed herself quickly. When it was finally time to leave, she refused to get up off of the floor and put her shoes on. We couldn’t believe she was giving us crap about getting ready to go to her own birthday party.

This week she told her grandma if her magic wand was really real, she’d wish for more alone time with the adults (my mom and I). She’s not crazy about having to share us with her sister. I should say that the physical violence toward her sister and the hurtful words have decreased and the amount of love I see them sharing has increased greatly – I have hope and my bucket is full! But I think she sees how everyone dotes on her adorable, sweet younger sister and she’s jealous.

But it’s a catch 22. We dote on the younger one because she’s a pure joy to be around and the older one can be crabby. Well after having a little heart to heart with my mom one afternoon, I decided to come home from work with a new attitude. Don’t tiptoe around her. Don’t expect her to be crabby. Stop labeling her with those words. And the evening was absolutely amazing. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I treated her as if I expected her to be the wonderful, loving daughter and sister that she so often is. I didn’t nag her. And you know what? She did everything she needed to do very agreeably and without me hardly having to ask. I tried to steal even little moments for just her and I. And I tried to give her a little more one-on-one attention. I took time with her. I was loving, instead of annoyed, every time I approached her or spoke to her.

At the end of dinner I said, “wow, life is good,” and she added, “and unfair.” And we all laughed, even her. Easy for her to say, she got the bigger half of the cookie. Point being, she’s going to go through these ups and downs, these highs and lows. That’s life. I’d like to be able to protect her and have her be happy all the time, but things are going to happen that are outside of her control that are going to make her unhappy. It’s my job to help her figure out how to handle her emotions when those times come. I don’t have control over her emotions, but I do have control over mine.