Monday, June 23, 2008

The Formidable Fours

The Formidable Four's...they're the new Terrible Two's. Fasten your seatbelt, Mama. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Grace went through the classic Terrible Two's phase from about sixteen months until age three--she had two to three major tantrums per day, sometimes more. These were the tantrums that you read about in books--kicking, screaming, inconsolable crying tantrums that couldn't be dealt with effectively no matter how hard I tried. She tested me in every way that she possibly could for almost a year and a half, then suddenly one day, right around her third birthday, she turned into a preschooler, ready to potty train and displaying a completely new attitude. She had a much larger vocabulary, so she was able to express herself easier, she was more independent, and the tantrums were a thing of the past. Hallelujah.

Mwaaahhh haaaahhh haaaahh...(twisting evil pencil mustache). Or so I thought.

Recently, I've noticed a troubling pattern forming in my child and tantrums are back, with a new twist--sassiness. Perhaps it's because the teachers in Grace's room at day care have stopped making the kids take naps. Frankly, I've never heard of such a stupid idea...why wouldn't the day care teachers want a two-hour break in the afternoon and why are they risking having a bunch of overtired kids come 4:00pm?? In the interest of preparing the kids for K4 in the fall, they have stopped letting the kids take naps during the day, and Grace is definitely showing the effects of it.

Or, maybe Grace is sensing the stress and sadness that I have felt over the past month or so since learning of the miscarriage. Lord knows I haven't always been Miss Sunshine and I wonder if Grace is reacting to me. I have tried to hide things as best as I could from her, but sometimes some of the feelings snuck out...I'm only human. Maybe it's the nap thing and the emotional roller coaster that we've all been on. Maybe it's neither and she's just going through a developmental phase. Either way, I'm bracing myself for what's to come.

Here's an example of what has happened lately. Yesterday at church, we were excited because the theme of the service was "All Music Sunday" and since Gracie loves listening to music, we figured she'd be totally into the service and we'd be able to enjoy it as a family. (Is it called a service when it's a Unitarian church? Actually, it's not called "church". It's a "society". I have no clue--I'm new to this Unitarian thing, but so far, so good.) About five minutes into the "gathering", Grace decided that she was totally not down with the whole music thing and took out some colors that I had packed and I offered to give her my paper fan that the "society" furnished for her to color on. She sat on the floor in a huff and demanded her OWN fan--mine was obviously flawed in some way, making it unsuitable for her artistic renderings. After telling her that no, I was not getting up in the middle of the "gathering" to get her a new fan, she pouted for a few minutes but then decided that a used, flawed fan was better than no fan, so she commenced coloring. A few serene moments passed, and then she got bored with coloring, so she took to paging through the hymnals for entertainment, but apparently she was turning the pages too loudly, because soon her paging was drawing gawks and sighs and stares from the clearly uptight old bag sitting in front of us. I asked Grace to turn the pages quietly, and she had a meltdown. She slipped snakelike down to the floor, sobbing silently in her folded arms and when I attempted to pick her up, her body went limp and jello-like and I broke a sweat trying to get her onto my lap. After wiping her tears, I held her for a few minutes when she took the hymnal out AGAIN and started paging through, loudly enough to elicit more stares and sighing (seriously, get over yourself, lady) and I took the book away from her once and for all and offered to color quietly with her, but Grace wasn't having it. She slid back down to the floor, started crying much louder this time, and when I tried to pick her up to take her out of church, she grabbed the underside of the pew so tightly that I couldn't pry her fingers off. She remained there for the rest of the "gathering", weeping just loud enough for those right around us to hear and get extremely annoyed with us.

Finally, mercifully, the "gathering" ended and we decided to cut our losses, skip the church tour that we were wanting to participate in, and head home. On the way out of church, Grace grabbed a Welcome Packet (the same packet we snagged on the way out of church a few weeks ago) and insisted on taking it home. After telling Grace no, we don't need ANOTHER envelope full of Unitarian brochures, she broke down AGAIN, melting to the floor in a heap of sobbing child. I was determined just to get her the hell out of the building, but again, she went totally limp and made it impossible for me to pick her up, so Aaron picked her up, put her over his shoulder, and carried her out of the building.

So, here we were, on a beautiful Sunday morning, hauling a SCREAMING four-year-old down the street. First, when Aaron was holding her, Grace was yelling for me, and when I held her, she was screaming that she wanted to get down. When I put her down, she stood in the middle of the sidewalk and refused to move. So, we started over again, with Aaron carrying her, then me, then the sidewalk standoff. Ten minutes later, we had managed to transport her the two blocks from the church to the car, and we were on our way home.

It was like that ALL DAY yesterday. I cried after Grace went to bed last night.

I was hoping today would be better, but I was wrong. Tonight, the sassiness kicked in with full force. Here is an example of a conversation that we had tonight, but the same type of thing has occurred several times over the past couple of weeks:

Me: It's time for bed now.

Grace: Well, I'm not going to bed.

Me: Yes you are. It's bed time. Let's go.

Grace: I'm not coming. I'm staying right here (on the couch). You can't make me. You're being sassy.

Me: (Silence...anger and frustration building) Let's go. It's bedtime.

Grace: (With gravitas) You're not my friend anymore. I'm not going to play with you. I won't follow you to bed. You're sassy. You have to go to bed now. (Storms off...fade to black)

OMG!!! What happened to my baby who loved to snuggle with me at bedtime and read stories and quietly drift off to sleep? How do I react to this? Where did this sassiness come from? I think that I am a good parent who has taught Grace boundaries and I have taught her what is acceptable behavior and what isn't...who is this child??

Please tell me that this is just a blip on the radar. Please tell me this ISN'T a full-blown phase. Last night, Aaron and I took Grace out for dinner and ice cream, and as she was having a meltdown because there wasn't enough ketchup on her plate, I looked over at a younger couple with a newborn and thought, "Savor the days when they can't talk yet..."


Carrie said...

Nutmeg has been so sassy too. It makes my blood boil, but I WILL give a time out for sassy talk or -- her favorite lately -- sticking out her tongue.

One thing I've laerned is that sleep has a BIG impact on Nutmeg's behavior. Even half an hour late to bed is noticeable the next day. since Grace isn't getting a nap anymore, you may need to move her bedtime up. That ain't easy in summer, but it may be necessary.

Angie said...

i would have paid money to see you trying to pry her fingers off of that pew. :) ahhh...motherhood....can't wait!

Bert said...

Hi sweetie. Sounds tough! It sounds like you have some good hypotheses about why she's so sassy. Not being a mom myself, I can add only a child therapist's perspective.

I agree with Carrie. She's likely really tired. Also, I agree with you in that she probably picked up on your distress these last weeks. Kids are really perceptive, and because they're kids and naturally self-centered, they tend to internalize everything. Did you talk to her about why you were sad? It might ease her mind if she's blaming herself, as young kids often do.

She might not understand the complexities of your feelings about the miscarriage, but it might help her to know that you aren't reacting to her.

Also, there's a lot going on with a brand new marriage on top of your recent distress. Who knows what that kid is thinking?

I hope that's not unsolicited therapizing of your lovely daughter.