Thursday, March 29, 2012

Life Stages

The preschool stage is not an easy one in this house.

Big A challenged us from the time she was about 18 months old, until she turned 5 last year, when things finally started to improve.  And that's certainly not to say that things are now easy or perfect!

Big A is still prone to erupting into tears over every little bump and bruise (like as minor as a breeze blowing a hair on her arm kind-of-thing!), and I still struggle to get her to respect my authority.  She is definitely much less defiant, moody and emotional than she used to be, but when she is happy and having fun she often ignores me, which is incredibly irritating.  For example, she'll come into the bathroom after I take a shower and slap me on the butt and laugh.  Then she'll keep doing it, and when I ask her to stop, she will ignore me and keep doing it over and over until I lose my temper.  A minor thing, but she does annoying stuff like this to me all the time.  More importantly, she will ignore me when I tell her to stop doing something that involves safety risks. Like when I pick the girls up from daycare and I'm trying to get them ready to go home, Big A will start pushing Little A's stroller up and down the hallway, getting into other parents' and kids' way and almost knocking people over.  That kind of thing really makes me want to lose it.

The other challenge we have with Big A is she is a major dawdler.  Getting her to accomplish any task in a timely manner is virtually impossible.  But admittedly, Adam and I are not patient people and perhaps a little OCD about being efficient and on time, so perhaps our expectations are too high for a 5 year old.

All this aside, Big A is a great kid that Adam and I are very proud of.  She is self-confident and free-spirited: she continues to dress however she wants and do whatever she wants without concern about what others think, and I love this about her.  Some days she'll wake up and put 6 ponytails in her hair, other days she'll insist I paint hearts and butterflies on her face for no reason.  She is always one of the most enthusiastic participants in her kindergarten and daycare classes during concerts and performances.  She is completely non-judgemental.  I have NEVER heard her describe herself or another child in terms of appearance or labels.  In fact, I don't think I've ever even heard her say anything negative about anyone.  Period.

Unfortunately, it is now Little A who has hit a challenging developmental stage.  She turns 3 next month, but like Big A, it looks as if the terrible 2s are going to extend well beyond age 2.

Perhaps some if it is due to her dislike of daycare, but she is doing better there.  She doesn't pitch fits about going as often lately, and she even resists coming home some days because she is having so much fun.  She finally concedes that some of the kids are her friends, and the teachers report that she is doing great.

Some of it may be due to her refusal to nap.  The bear trick worked for a few weeks, but eventually, like most parental tricks, stopped being effective.  No matter how tired she is, and no matter what the consequence of not napping (i.e. Pink bear is not allowed to come to daycare the next day), this child WILL NOT NAP.  Not even in the car or stroller.  So by late afternoon, this child is often DELERIOUS, like seriously losing it.

The rest of it is probably just this yucky developmental stage.  None of it is our parenting, of course.

When Little A doesn't get something she wants, dramatic, complete hysteria ensues.  Really I am not exaggerating.  This kid is just one extreme or the other.  When happy she is the most affectionate, adorable, joyful, charming child.  When unhappy...well, just imagine complete opposite end of the spectrum!  And really I am not exaggerating.  In addition, Dr. Jekyll/Mrs. Hyde continues to refuse to potty train, something we have yet to have the emotional energy to really tackle.

Yesterday I agreed to let both girls ride their bikes to daycare in the morning.  Little A has been getting very upset when Big A goes ahead - she is inevitably much faster on her 2-wheeler+training wheels than Little A on her balance bike - so I made her promise to let Big A go ahead without getting upset about it (of course I realize now that making a not-quite 3 year old promise something is silly).  Nevertheless, the minute Big A pulled ahead, Little A erupted into tears and carried on the entire way to the school.  She was so out-of-control when we got inside, that one of her daycare teachers insisted on taking over and having me leave so they could calm her down.  It was so bad, one of the dads asked me later if everything was okay because the situation looked "intense".

That's one word for it!

Last night was almost as bad.  After dinner, Little A pushed herself away from the table, got down from her chair, and threw her bib on the floor.  Adam told her to pick it up and she refused and told him to pick it up.  He told her to pick it up before he counted to 5 or go to her room.  She refused.  She went to her room and screamed.  Adam went up 3 times and asked her if she was ready to pick it up and each time she refused.  Finally, I went up and she decided she was ready.  I brought her down and she picked it up, howling and crying the whole time.  Adam and I clapped our hands and told her we were proud of her, but I think at that point ALL of us were emotionally exhausted.  The night ended with yet another tantrum when she asked to watch television after her bath and we told her no, that it was bedtime.  Man, what a day!
I keep reminding myself (and Adam) not to make judgements about her character, that this is most likely just a stage...and hopefully one that will end sooner rather than later. 

Given that Little A is our last child, I am a bit saddened that she is making it so tough to enjoy this stage.  Her adorable, squishy, cuddliness is not going to last much longer.  Hopefully I can take some of the lessons I learned when going through these issues with Big A, to cope better with the challenges and help Little A come through the other side a bit faster...or at least I can reassure myself that it IS a stage and somehow we WILL get through it alive!!

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