Before I had kids, I was not fond of the baby stage. I didn’t like the idea of caring for a being who could not communicate with me and tell me what s/he was thinking. I was desperate for Ben to start talking when he was a baby. Desperate for him to walk. I wanted him to have that autonomy and the ability to tell me what he’s thinking, what he wants. But you know what? This shit is HARD.
Now, part of this is likely that the genetic soup that Ben comes from contains P’s volatile temper, my volatile temper, my father’s volatile temper, and P’s father’s volatile temper. And yes, I typed that four times because, let’s consider this for a second, that’s a hell of a lot of temper for one small child, and Ben has ALL OF IT.
He has what can only be called “perfect storm” style tantrums when things aren’t going the way that he wants. If I were a seriously old-school Catholic, I might consider the possibility of demonic possession because, man, he is tough when he gets going. He starts with screaming. Since one of our less than admirable parenting tactics has been to yell, he seems to have concluded that he who yells the loudest, wins. Yeah, we’re working on that.
Once it’s clear that the yelling/crying/screaming isn’t working, he moves to grabbing hold of something and holding on with all his might. He’s four. It’s not a lot of might, but he tries. And, he’s getting bigger, which means the might is getting bigger, too. All the while, he’s screaming at the top of his lungs.
When I reach my breaking point for yelling, I pick him up and take him where I want him to be. I usually get kicked or hit in the process. This is part of four, I think. It’s not a great part, but it’s a part and we’re learning to deal with it.
Once he’s where he’s supposed to be there’s more yelling, more crying. If I can, I’ll sit and hold him until he calms down, but this isn’t always a workable solution. Alternatives are not pretty. We instituted a thing where he has to tell us why he got into trouble in the first place, but usually by the time all the crying and ranting have subsided, he doesn’t remember. More frustration. We’re working on this. I swear. I can’t deal with the yelling, the screaming, the kicking (all him), or the loss of control (at different times, all of us).
He has weird food quirks that I can’t explain. He used to love chili, now he hates it. He’ll eat cheese on a tortilla today, but gag at the thought tomorrow. He wants to eat ALL THE TIME, but then doesn’t actually eat what he’s given (even when it’s the thing he asked for).
And the whine. Oh my god, the whine. Also known as the “whyne.” When he’s asked to do something, he asks “why” and he will follow up that why with another why and another one and another one. Really? Torture experts should videotape him. They’d break the will of anyone with that “why.” I swear they would.
But see, just when you’re at that point where giving him away starts to make sense, he does something so sweet that it breaks your heart. I was working really, really hard a couple of days ago. He danced into the room where I was working, slipped up to me, gave me a hug, and danced back out. We tell him that his godfather isn’t feeling well, and he draws pictures to make him feel better. He spends hours and hours making cards for all the people he cares about because he “doesn’t like” the store ones. He saves his most special sticker, the one I’ve told him he can keep for his very own, and, instead he puts it on a card for me.
*** Post interrupted for clean up on aisle 4. Broken milk glass and contents all over the floor. Half an hour later glass and milk cleaned up & I’m reminded how insanely dirtly most of my floors are ***
Ben and I were just talking about what makes him super-special. He said it was pretending to be a pirate and liking dinosaurs. I disagree. What makes him super-special is his imagination and his kind heart. For all the tantrums (and man, they suck), he has a huge heart and always wants to help people and make them feel better.
This is a hard age to navigate. I can never figure out what is truly age appropriate and what is outside the bounds of acceptability. We have Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful and it does help. I have to remind P that the value of this book, and the ones like it isn’t the discipline information but the generalizations about ages and stages. What is “normal” for four and what is cause for concern?
I’m convinced that Ben is a normal, active four year old. I’m also convinced that his parents are works in progress who have a way to go with their parenting in order not accidentally extinguish his energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity.
Some days are better than others.