Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Ferocious Fours...

My kid's got a serious case of them. At first I just thought it was the result of an accumulation of late bedtimes that transformed my lovable, hilarious cherubic child into a swirling-headed, snake-haired, fire-breathing, pea-soup spitting demon o' doom. But I am starting to fear it is yet another "phase" in the seemingly never-ending parade of "phases" that have marched their way through our lives and trampled all over my ability to, well, stay sane.

You'd never know it by looking at him----

Look how joyful! Look at how genuinely happy and effervescent!

But underneath Mr. Happy Face lies a beast just waiting to have his any demand responded to with so much as a whisper of "no." Then, my friends, The Ferocious Fours come alive and wreak havoc on the eardrums of anyone in a two block radius and the psyches of two parents just trying to find a balance between our child having some sense of ownership over his life and our need to set limits and boundaries for him so that he knows he will not, in fact, always get his way in life--either in his time with us, or out there in the great big world.

When Ethan doesn't get what he wants, there is the whining of the word "please" in ever elongated and increasingly high-pitched peals of despair, accompanied by what what might seem, to the untrained eye, to be a pee-pee dance (definition: the hopping jig of a preschooler who has to relieve him/herself, while at the same time refusing to stop whatever it is they are doing in order to take care of business. Usually ends in a puddle on the floor). It is not a pee-pee dance, however; it is a dance-of-emphasis, an attempt to convey the urgency of the "please" which has turned into a "plllleeeeeeaaaaaassssssse," that, thank the universe for small mercies, eventually only dogs can hear.

After the "please" at varying decibel levels and superfluous long-e sounds phase of the tantrum, comes the "I will repeat over and over again what it is I want until I drive you over the edge of sanity & what I'm asking for ends up being the external monologue of your life as you push that shopping cart around town in your matted terry cloth bathrobe and scuffing slippers, twitching and muttering, "I want a play date. I want a play date. I want a play date."

Husband and I try all methods of reasonable and calm explanation. "We aren't having a play date right now honey, because you just got out of school 5 minutes ago, where you played with your friends for 5 hours," or "We don't have a play date right now because everyone Mommy called today is busy," or "No, we can't have a play date right now because it's 8pm and time for bed." We commiserate, "Yes, I know you're upset that we don't have a play date right now. I understand that's so frustrating for you," and "I'm sorry its so upsetting to you, honey, why don't we play (fill in fabulously fun game you can play with your mom, even though she's a sucky excuse for a play date)?" We talk about the next play date we have planned, tomorrow, or the day after, with any one of Ethan's many wonderfully fun friends.

This usually results in more wailing, screaming, running from the room crying, more "pleeeeeeeeeaaaase" appeals, etc, and no one gets what they want (Ethan: a play date & us: a child who can hold his shit together when he doesn't get his way every. single. time.) Lest you think that we are evil parents who keep our child locked up indoors and away from any social interaction, starving him of friendship and play time, please note that this display of temper might all occur, as it did today, after a FIVE hour-long play date with two of his favorite friends. A play date complete with running through yards, swinging on tire swings, building forts, riding bikes, playing guitar (which, as an aside, I just had to retype b/c I first spelled it "guiltar"----Freudian much?), lunch out at a super fun restaurant where they had the whole place to themselves to make noise and play, followed by TWO hours of running rampant all over a local park.

There was much disgruntled futzing about ending that play date, but as soon as the crying subsided on the ride home from our friends' house, the first full thought Ethan articulated was during the lull was, "Can we have a play date with C when we get home?"

Sigh. C is our next door neighbor and Ethan's constant when-we're-at-home companion. It's lovely 95% of the time, to have a friend living right next door, who is almost always available for impromptu play dates. The problem is that the other 5% of the time, my child is pitching a hellacious tantrum because for whatever reason, a play date will not materialize at that given point in time. Today it was because C's family was cleaning out & organizing their garage (which sounds very spring-cleaning-y & it is, because it was 70 degrees today, for the 4th-or 5th day in a row). We said that "maybe when C is finished working with his family...." which turned into C and his family working until sundown and dinner time on their Sunday afternoon project (and more power to them--our garage is a compelling argument for our nomination to the show Hoarders), and meant that there would be no playing.

When Ethan realized there would be no play date (until school tomorrow morning which is essentially a 5-hour long play date with 12 of his nearest and dearest), the ruckus that followed was epic. And exhausting. Ethan retreated to his play room to alternate between whimpering and screaming and I found myself wondering...at what point did my 4.5 year old boy turn into a 14 year old girl (and I can say that, alluding the The Crazy of the adolescent teenage girl because I was one.)? How long before he starts in with the "I hate you! I hate you! You don't understand!" as he stomps off to his room, slamming his door behind him, shaking the whole house for effect. Not that I ever did that.....

At one point, after the screaming and crying stopped, while Husband and I were in the living room, one of Ethan's over-sized, inflatable Spiderman boxing gloves came flying into the living room, apparently hurled by Ethan, from his play room, in an expression of civil disobedience and protest. Fair enough, little man. Fair enough. But you're still not getting a play date.

This has pretty much been the way things are around here for the past week or two. I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out what has changed in his routine or habits that might have triggered The Crazy, but I am at a loss. So I chalk it up to "Phase." "Its just a phase." "This too shall pass." "Don't take it personally." And I take a lot of deep breaths. I give time outs when his tone towards me or Husband is disrespectful. I talk a lot about how we don't always get what we want (but if we try, sometimes we get what we need---thank you, Mick Jagger, for writing that catchy tune, and thank you Glee for such a kicky version of it that I can play for Ethan, and sometimes manage to turn chaotic tantrum into Living Room Dance Party). And I arrange for a lot of play dates.

But he has his blissfully happy moments, too...like this morning when we snuck out into the just-barely warming up morning of our backyard, still in our mis-matched jammies, and took a little joy ride on our scooter....




when I first got those jammies for him, I thought they said, "I *heart* chickens," which I thought was way cuter than "I *heart* chicks," (and clearly less gender-y and borderline sexist), but whatever...

Morning Face Mama brought to you by Ethan. Apparently I slept really hard on that eyebrow...


Goofy faces, raging tantrums. He is my sunshine.


5 comments:

lonek8 said...

oh lord. you are way more patient than me. I hope this phase passes quickly!

Grandma Bear said...

Look at your Dodson under pre-school. Four year old "out of bounds" right on schedule!

This too shall pass but its tough while its happening.

Amy said...

My advice is drink more wine. Ha!

Been there, doing that. It's brutal. Hang in.

Emi said...

yeah the whining I swear will kill me.. and the relentless repetition.. it's a good thing pics we take are usually of happy times to remind us of their cuteness...

MamaBear said...

Aw, man! We don't get a ton of tantrums, but we've been told by K's preschool teacher that she's "by far the most emotional" in her class, which translates to, "Yes, your suspicions are correct: your child is a total drama queen." We don't really know how best to handle it, either--we don't want to belittle her feelings, but indulging her as she bursts into tears about everything doesn't feel right, either. The sleep issues are over--let the social/emotional issues begin!