Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Prince and the P(illow)

Several months ago, Husband and I attended a "parent education night" at Ethan's preschool entitled "Help! They Are Out of Control!" We went because we hoped the childhood development expert would at once reassure us that Ethan's erratic bouts of devil-spawn behavior was not some sort of irrefutable evidence that we had broken or spoiled him beyond repair, and give us real tried & true magic tricks to get him behaving like a recent graduate of Miss Grace's Finishing School for Devil Spawn and Other Possessed Beings.

Fortunately, her nifty old-timey visual aid (a giant pad of paper clipped to a big easel) assured us that the peaks and valleys of Ethan's behavior are totally normal at his age and not at all an indication of demonic possession or horribly horrible parenting. Preschoolers just, for a number of valid and not-at-all-your-fault reasons, are...challenging. So that was a HUGE relief. However, her methods of coping with said out-0f-control preschooler pretty much revolved around counting to 3 a lot. Which? Isn't bad, I guess, given that my kid has yet to test me past "1...2....". I fully admit I have no idea what happens when I get to "3." But I imagine its got something to do with our world being sucked into the much-feared black hole of Tantrum.

Husband and I walked out of the event feeling that, if nothing else, we were relieved that our child's Sybil-esque behavior was at least normal and that we were not dealing with the only child who could be snuggles and smiles one minute and screaming, and door-slamming the next. It was nice to know there were other parents wandering aimlessly through the same trenches. And we happened to fall into a nice routine of pleasant behavior from Ethan somewhere around that point, which encouraged my brain to put the whole thing behind me and settle into an extended period of "My child is the sweetest little boy ever & aren't we such wonderful parents?" (note: the hubris perhaps only slightly exaggerated).

And then.

My parents came to town, excited to see their cherubic grandson. Their legacy in the flesh. And at first, things went great. In a burst of uncontainable joy, Ethan ran through the baggage claim area into the waiting arms of my parents, both beaming with pride and love and all that other fabulous stuff. When we got home, Ethan showed Grammy & Grampy all of his prized possessions and probably sang 2-3 lines of the entire Beatles catalogue for their listening pleasure. After dinner, Ethan and my father sang Passover songs together, my father singing the part of Moses' "Let My People Go" (which, I'm sorry, but I can't ever hear anything but Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off when I hear that song..."Let My Cameron Go..."), after which Ethan declared, "Grampy, you have a really good God voice," and my heart melted into a gooey blob of mushy love for both of them.

Apparently, though, the biological clock of preschooler behavior was tick-tocking in Ethan's body and approximately 30 minutes later, some sort of primordial alarm went off inside him and his sweet little Dr Jekyll turned into cranky-ass, irrationally screaming Mr. Hyde right around bedtime.

The problem? His pillows. Pillows.

I guess, somehow, the pillows that were just fine the night before (and for every night for the past 2 years) were suddenly atrociously and offensively unacceptable. As if they'd magically turned into fields of flaming poop or something while we weren't looking. Crimes against humanity. So visceral was his reaction and refusal to tolerate the presence of the pillows that before Husband and I knew it, Ethan had thrown his pillows from his bed, the tears had started falling and the wailing "I don't like my pillllllllllooooooowwwwws" had commenced, at approximately the volume of a jumbo jet buzzing the roof of our house. So it was a really good time.

We tried the "enough dawdling, Ethan, go to bed," routine. We tried the "look, Mommy's using the pillow--its okay! Nice pillow!" routine. We tried the "are you kidding me?!!! This is ridiculous!!! There is NOTHING wrong with your pillows!!!" routine. We tried the "do you want to sleep on one of mommy's pillows? Daddy's pillows? A pillow from the living room?" routine. We tried the "do your ears hurt? Does something hurt when you lay down?" routine? Each routine garnered the same out-of-control irrational refusals and wailing. Eventually I had to do the stern, "mommy will be right back" and then go out in the hallway and laugh until my sides hurt routine because the whole scene was just SO ridiculous. Poor kid.

Finally, grammy saved the day by coming in with her plush, C-shaped travel pillow. "Would you like to sleep with Grammy's pillow?" she asked, and the angry wrinkled face on my child relaxed into a exhausted, glassy-eyed contemplation of the oddly-shaped pillow. He reached out and took it from her, put it down on the bed and spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how exactly to use it. He put it around the top of his head, over his eyes, around the back of his neck, laid his cheek on the side of it and then in the hole in the middle of it. It was clearly NOT at all comfortable for him, but he was relentless in his attempt to find a way to use this pillow, his other pillows still discarded, strewn across the floor.

There were hugs and kisses at this point, and we left Ethan and his travel pillow to their business of falling asleep. Finally. On my way out of the room, I picked up his regular pillows, detestable things that they apparently were, and put them at the foot of his bed so that he wouldn't trip on them in the middle of the night if he got up.

Before I went to bed a few hours later, I went in to check on him. The travel pillow lay on the floor by his bed. He was sound asleep. On his regular pillow.


Sarah said...

The thing that drives me beyond crazy about Harry is that he CANNOT listen and follow directions. At lunch today, I told him literally 7 times to take his fist out of his water glass. Then he thought it was hilarious to spit soup back into his bowl, so I told him to stop it, and he instead spit water into his glass. WTH??

Love the title of this post, and I am glad you left the room to laugh-- sometimes these preschool tantrums make me want to rip my hair out-- I like that you can still see the humor :)

gringa said...

Ah yes -- that does bring back memories--- and the sheer stubborn insistence -- he is truly an almost 5 year old....

Becca said...

*Head desk*. I've heard it called the "effing fours".

lonek8 said...

you are such a nicer mom than me. My kids get "there's nothing wrong with that pillow. Go to bed" followed by me leaving the room and that's the end of it. I do not have the patience (or interest, frankly) to deal with ridiculous tantrums, especially at bedtime when I want to get downstairs and finally eat some dinner.

ps: how badly did you want to say "I told you so" when you saw him sleeping on his regular pillow? of course, kids totally don't appreciate the I told you so.

Toby said...

So funny. I actually remember my last tantrum - it was over spaghetti, which I'd liked every night before that and every night after, but that one night, it totally offended me that my mom tried to feed me something so disgusting. So funny what sets kids off sometimes! (Well, funny in retrospect, but I'm glad you were even able to laugh at the time!)

cicadalady said...

oops, i think i just signed my last comment as toby's... that was me! xo kita

MamaBear said...

OMG, this is the best possible timing for me to have read this post, having just written a "Does my 4-year-old have an anxiety disorder and/or OCD?!" post on my own blog. Sh*t-flipping over practically nothing is a hallmark of life in our house with K, so hearing similar stories about Ethan (while, of course, I sympathize completely) gives me hope that maybe this IS just normal 4-year-old stuff. Whew.