Thursday, May 29, 2008

Geneva Convention conveyance of human rights, interrupted

It always starts here, in the cute place.

I know you read that title and expected a long, deep post. You aren't going to get it.

In fact, this post, which is not be about politics or world affairs at all, is actually about mommying. More specifically, it is about Persistence, whom I adore, but who is also hmm shall we say in an extremely challenging phase that I am extremely challenged by.

Persistence's pre-school ended nine days, three hours, and 22 minutes ago. That would be three weeks before public school lets out. It has been hell on earth ever since.

I realize I should be overflowing with the joy of uninterrupted quality time with my precious child who I adore more than life itself, but pretty much I wake up and within ten minutes am humming, "I wanna new drug." I'm counting minutes until her father comes home by 8:30 a.m.

This is because Persistence is THREE, also known as the Cruel and Vicious Age. People tell me five is worse, but I lived through Patience at five and did not actually fling myself out the window---which has felt very tempting at least twice in the last couple of week---so I live in hope that People Are Mistaken.

I have my doubts, though, because I really do not recall falling off the deep end this way with Patience.

Persistence is, and always has been, a completely different ball of yarn.

Recently, she decided---in a manner not unlike immature and self-centered adults in major leadership positions---to toss out the Geneva Convention. Her rationale appears to be that the pursuit of her goals (which are unnamed and vague, largely due to her not really being too sure what they are, largely due to there not really being any goals, largely due to the fact that in all honesty she's really just acting out of her prevailing emotion, which largely seems to be Peevish)...

...where was I?

Oh right, the pursuit of her current state of Peevishness supersedes everything else, including that middling matter of human rights.

So, as I sit in the preschooler's equivalent of Gitmo, I have had a few minutes to ponder the situation and I have figured out a few things.

The charges against me include: not giving her what she wants even when I give her what she wants, and lack of superhuman powers to make the impossible happen just because she wants it so. Lesser charges include: existing, breathing, being a convenient target.

My torture includes Incessant Recitation of All the Ways in which I Fail to Meet Expectation, threats, tantrums, hissy fits, destruction, public displays of threeness, and an incredible imitation of Gladys Kravitz.

I realize that as a three year old her job is not to make my life easy, but it also behooves her to not make it this hard---a point I am trying, unsuccessfully, to press home.

I also realize this is a phase and this too shall pass. We just left a lovely phase, which I didn't full enjoy because I know enough about parenting to have a part of me waiting for the shoe to drop, which it now has. I am also not fully suffering in this phase because I know enough about parenting to realize it's of limited duration.

Don't think I don't know how to handle this or parent. Often griping leads to Unsolicited Advice (read: Assvice). I'm really just seeking sympathy, you know, "You're a good mom Julie, your kids are fine, you'll all get through this with some hair left on your head and your teeth enamel not damaged beyond repair."

Inevitably, you wind up here.


Here's a sample of one of many moments in our day:

P: I hungry.

Me: You ate ten minutes ago, how can you be hungry? (This is me, resisting fixing meal number 12 before 10 a.m.)

P:

Me: Okay so do you prefer a bagel or a cheese stick with apples?

P: NO! Those is YUCKY!

Me: Did you have a food in mind?

P: NO! YOU FIX ME FOOD! I HUNGRY!

Me: Okay, bagel with cream cheese and apples.

P: I HATE APPLES!

Me: Hmm okay a little while ago you said you loved apples. If you don't want them now, how about an orange.

P: ORANGES ARE SOUR! YOU MEAN! I STARVING A DEAF!

Me: So just the bagel then. Okay let's go make it.

P: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! YOU BAD MOMMY BAD!

Me: Are you really hungry for food or do you just want attention? Do you want to play a game? Pet shop?

P: NO! I HUNGRY! FOOD! FOOD! YOU GO 'WAY MEAN MOMMY!

Me: I'll make a bagel and set it here. I'll put milk here too. You can get it when you want it.

P: AAAAHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGHHHHH (body flung to floor)

Me (losing patience): Okay. Not a bagel. You come look here in the kitchen and see what you want.

P: I WANT A BAGEL! WITH COOKIN'! AND WITH CREAM CHEESE! On a PINK plate! PINK PLATE!

Few minutes pass, ruckus of some sort continues

Me: All righty, here is your bagel, as ordered.

P: A BAGEL! NO! I HATE BAGELS! I'll throw your flowers on the ground, mean mommy!(shoves plate to hit flower basket, I catch both)

Me: TIME OUT!

Persistence is very, very angry right now. She is angry because her school is over and she doesn't want it to be. She wants her class and classmates every day just like always. Nothing is ever right because I can't fix the problem and give her what she really wants. No amount of fun events---such as special playdate and birthday outing with her cousins yesterday---redirection, attention or similar will make her happy until she really adjusts to this change of pace.

She loved school, loved her teacher, loved her buddies and loved her routine. The days now are unstructured, unreliable, inconsistent (read: not just like school). I can do as much as I can to help her during the time, but I can't change how things are; school is over, that's that.

She has fun at the pool, enjoys the playdates, but under it all is a sort of sadness and irritation because she'd rather be doing these things at school, and every day she is reminded of school because her sister still goes.

I hope that by the time her sister gets out of school, Persistence will have adjusted a bit and with her sister home too, the sense of injustice won't overwhelm her quite so much.

I keep guiding her to good behavior, keep rewarding good behavior and do my best to keep myself as the Grown-Up in our interactions, but oh they do get weary, these mommies do get weary, wearing that same old shabby mantle, waiting for some tenderness.

In the meantime, I am speaking through gritted teeth by 10 a.m. and am asserting my rights: my right to remain silent, my right to not be silent, my right to a Time Out, my right to be spoken to kindly, my right to be the parent, my right to not be hit, my right to laugh out loud at the Gladys Kravitz impression, my right to call her father at 9:30 a.m. and simply say AAAAGGGGGGHHHHH.

So far, if I resort to Extreme Parenting (e.g., time out in room instead of on stairs, grounded from morning TV show) I can buy a few hours of relief: she's relieved there are still boundaries that will be enforced in her life, even without school and I am relieved we can have a little bit of fun and good time (my standards for that, by the way, are really low right now, so basically I qualify any period of time that doesn't include my darling daughter yelling that I suck <-- paraphrasing there; we don't actually teach our children to curse).

And I wait...

If you're lucky, you end up here.


Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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24 comments:

SciFi Dad said...

At the risk of this comment being labeled "Assvice"...

Have you actually gotten her to tell you that she misses preschool? Are you sure it's the general structure that she misses and not a specific activity (something you could emulate at home)?

When my daughter gets like that, I tend to turn the tables on her and act like a three year old myself, with an inordinate amount of questions, each one generated by the answer to its predecessor. It usually takes us to the root of her problem, or at least to a place where I can offer something as an alternative (or sometimes a solution) that she accepts.

MommyTime said...

Ohhh, Julie, I've been there. Yesterday. Today, thank goodness, 4yrsold and 2yrsold are both at daycare while I grade papers. They average out to 3yrsold, and when they are together, that's precisely how they act -- all "Nnoooooo, I want the red cup!" "NOOOOO, I do!" and then flinging it to the floor so the dog can lick up the milk. And no activity is good enough because I won't let 4yrsold make a slingshot, which is what he really wants... and... well, you don't need to hear my sob story. Suffice to say, I hear you, and I send much sympathy.

I, too, find the strength to get through it comes from good coffee and the intervention of daddy when I can't stand it anymore.

If you want, we could have a virtual playdate: pick some activity like pizza making that we'll do at the same time, and take lots of photos, and let our kids email each other with pictures and updates during the boring parts (like when the dough is rising or the pizza is baking). Might be enough change-of-activity every 20 minutes to keep them engaged for a good two hours? Just a thought...

My only assvice is: pour yourself a big glass of red wine after bedtime. This, too, shall pass.

Sober Briquette said...

And here I was thinking, "Going back to school after Memorial Day is such a bummer. I wish Fiona was done now."

Thanks for the wake-up call. Hang in there. Drink wine coolers.

Mayberry said...

OMG three. The land where Mommy Can Do No Right. Ever. Even With VERY DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS Shrieked at Top Volume.

Last night my son was being an incredible PITA esp. to his dad. Later he told him "You need to go to work, come home and play with me, then go back to work, then come home for dinner." Um, craving attention much?

Kyla said...

All I can say is, are you free this weekend? Sounds like you are in need of a break, as am I.

anniegirl1138 said...

Three. I am so glad we are now past Three. And Two. They were not good years. Five has been no picnic either but I blame myself somewhat. You really shouldn't move kids to another country at five.

Six is coming up and it looks promising.

I feel your pain.

Mama Luxe said...

You're a good mom Julie, your kids are fine, you'll all get through this with some hair left on your head and your teeth enamel not damaged beyond repair.

;)

Mine is 21 months and blow-outs are rare, but intense. Today was the first major one in a while and was also over food.

BD: "Cheese"

Me: "You have cheese on your plate" (innocently pop a piece of my own into my mouth)

BD: Pointing frantically at my mouth, "CHEESE CHEESE NONONO CHEEEEEEEEESE!!!"

Me: Mommy has to eat, too. You have some on your plate, but I'll get you more if you like.

BD: NO UDDER (other) CHEESE!

Me: Feta or Cheddar? Those are the two we have.

BD: UDDDDDDER CHEESE!!!

Me: I'll bring you both.

BD: sobbing "FETA, CHEDDAH, CHEEZ, NO, UDDAH" hysterically and throwing both types off her plate

Me: Honey, I love you, and I'm happy to give you cheese, but I can't understand you when you scream and cry.

BD: Frantically signing "cheese"

*sigh*

I think I just waited too long for naptime.

ALM said...

Ok... so... I'm kinda glad I'm done with that age. (Understatement.)

You can do it. You can make it through the next two years - until she grows out of this! (Sorry, didn't mean that to sound as dire as it came out! But you can! Time goes quickly!)

Mad said...

A three-year-old who likes school? Who misses school? Colour me dumbfounded.

I'm sorry Julie, three is hard in all sorts of ways and each child brings her/his own brand of parental misery. These days Miss M gets mad if I walk across a room without holding her hand. She gets so mad that she makes me come back for a do-over. Time and again. I can't walk out of a freakin' room and know that she will just happily follow me. Ug. Ruddy 3. Ruddy day care transition.

Blogversary said...

You are a good mother.

And, your post made me laugh out loud because I soooo get it.

I am starting to get that good phase/ bad phase thing too.

Hope your weekend brings some peace.

Brenda said...

"public displays of threeness"

What a terrific description!

My youngest (now 4) actually became tolerable at 3. Before then she was lucky every single day I didn't ship her off to boarding school!

What's funny (or not), is that by the time school starts again, she'll be used to the home routine and resent that school is different! It's all so much fun! But then it won't be YOUR problem!

Jennifer H said...

We're stuck in a phase right now, so I'm afraid I'm not much help.

I would suggest buying wine by the case, though.

wheelsonthebus said...

Thank God, THANK GOD our preschool is year-round. THere is a five-week break in August, but that is the worst of it.

I tell you this not to gloat but to tell you that the ONLY advice I ever COULD think to offer is to enroll in a year-round preschool. There is no other cure for being three.

TigereyeSal said...

Oh, oh- been there, blogged about that! I LOVE this example of so-called mommy-blogging in action. I sure do love my daughter, but as a 3.5 year old, she made me crazy! I love your articulation of the same issues. Thanks for the affirmation!

Sally

katydidnot said...

"an extremely challenging phase that I am extremely challenged by."

euphemism who?

katydidnot said...

and omg. i starvin a deaf!

nuh-uh. you didn't fall on the floor laughing?

Melissa said...

I'm am so not looking forward to the summer. Even though we have things planned, life around here gets weird when the schedule goes out the window. P seems like she might be the same way.

Don't have any "assvice" for you, but if you're still coming to Austin next week, I could wrangle up some fajitas for you. And a rita. I make a mean rita. :)

painted maypole said...

oh. rough. sorry.

Susanne said...

Poor you. And poor Persistance too. I remember. I wasn't dealing with this as graceful as you though, sometimes I'd provoke the meltdown in order to have it done, and to relieve tension. (I'm more the "you can't have anything to eat now, if you didn't eat enough for breakfast that's your own fault, you'll get to eat lunch later"-kind of mother. Cruel and unfeeling.

She'll settle down a bit, you'll see.

Karen said...

I just want to congratulate you on not flinging yourself out of a window. I am in my last finals days of age three (until the next one does it) and I am wiping the dust of my feet and welcoming 4 with open arms. I do remember something of age 5 but it is all a blur in comparison to the constant-ness of age 3 trials. Now, to officially state what you know to be true: You are a great mom and she'll grow out of this because of your amazing parenting skills & love.

Bon said...

i've decided i'm just going to bribe O to stay in the terrible twos forever. except, well, i recognize those expressions in the photos, so maybe it's not so great now...? :)

you are a good mom Julie, with fine strong enamel.

Angela at mommy bytes said...

Oh we had the worst threes too. Twice. Four is so much better and still no picnic, but still a welcome relief. You'll get there!

jeanie said...

Can I let you into a secret?

Bring out dictator mother.

No choices, no decisions, very firm boundaries and guess what - kids absolutely love it - especially at moments like this where they feel their control of life has slipped.

Maybe make her a little school at home with times up for snacks and such, give her a lunchbox at the start of the day and make it fun.

Its not foolproof - goodness, what mothering moment is? - but it worked for me.

I hated that it did, as it went against what I wanted to be in a mother, but man, did we have a happier life as a result.

Cathy said...

Yeah, that whole "Terrible Two" thing?

So very wrong.

Three is terrifying.