Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Lightness of Being Unbearable

I feel obliged to note that lately, when Mermaid Girl hasn't been reaching new heights of self-care and saving the U.S. economy, she's been being JUST AWFUL. Terrible. Bratty. Obnoxious. Tear-out-the-hair aggravating.

I don't even have any cute little anecdotes about how awful she's been. Mostly her awfulness is an endless reiteration of the following scenario:

1. She asks for something: a later bedtime, an extra dessert, more TV time, a trip to the park before dinner, another game of Crazy 8's, whatever.

2. We say either
a) No, or
b) Some time-buying half-assed stalling thing along the lines of "I don't think that's a good idea right now, but..."

3. Before we can get to the compromise suggestion or enter into any further negotiation or discussion, she falls apart: screaming, crying, pouting, proclaiming that we're MEAN and TERRIBLE and there is NOTHING GOOD ABOUT THIS DAY, THIS IS THE WORST DAY OF HER LIFE. Then more crying. Followed by, if we're at home, stomping into her room and slamming the door. It's like living with the worst kind of teenager. Except we still have to wipe her butt when she poops.

All in all, it's been a crabby and ennervating week for all three of us. RW and I are pretty good at holding the line-- we've had a lot of practice-- but it takes it out of us. It's the shortness of her fuse and the immediate overblown detonation that does it: there's no ramp-up, just a total meltdown seemingly out of nowhere.

Oh, wait, I just remembered a good one:

A couple days ago I picked her up from preschool, as usual. The first thing she said when she saw me was "Can we go somewhere before we go home?" This is a common question, and the common answer is "Not Today." But on Monday I was happy to be able to say, "Sure, we can go to Overpriced Market On the Way Home to pick something up."

Imagine my astonishment when she immediately started howling and berating me to the tune of "NOOOOOO, I DON'T WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE INSIDE! I want to go to a PARK! Inside places are STUPID! They are LITTLE BABY PLACES! You don't CARE about me!"

She followed me out the door and up the street to the car, wailing and keening and insisting that only a park would do and that she hated inside places. I kept miserably, doggedly repeating that I was too cold to go to a park and wasn't going to change my mind, but we certainly didn't have to go to Overpriced Market if she didn't want to, and she calmed down after a few minutes. I'll say this for her: she doesn't hold a grudge, and though she hates it when someone else tries to cheer her up, she can pull herself together if you leave her alone and don't get in her face.

So she was happily chatting away by the time we drove past Overpriced Market. "Hey!" she exclaimed brightly as it flashed by on the left. "I do want to go to Overpriced Market now! I changed my mind!" But by then we'd passed it, and I said we weren't going back, that she'd already said many times she didn't want to go and by now it was too late and we needed to get home.

Whereupon the whole shebang started over again, right where she'd left off: wailing and screaming and gnashing of teeth and oh, did you know that my kid has the meanest, most uncaring mom in the whole world? And that Monday was the worst day ever?

And so it continued until we got home and I stuffed some protein into her.

I'm sure all this awfulness means she's on the brink of some fabulous developmental breakthrough. I just hope it happens before we hit New York and all our friends and relations get the only impression they'll have of her for the next year or two. For their sake and hers. And mine.

Just in case, I'm bringing lots of portable snacks.


Blogger Katie (WannaBeMom) said...

Oh no-- I hate to tell you this because I am sure it's miserable for you, but even this story sounds amusing to me-- She's got quite the personality, and even if she's crazed when in NY, your friends and family will see that about her. Plus, she'll probably be charming. Don't worry, but carry cheese.

6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL - I can SO relate - and yes, it's horrid to deal with - but it's also a phase. "It's just a phase, it's just a phase" - nothing lasts very long as kids keep on growing. I suspect a growth spurt, and she'll figure out that her tactics aren't working sooner or later and she'll come up with something new and different to challenge your patience and nerves.
You're doing good though! Sara

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops - that'd be sara

7:27 AM  
Blogger PPB said...

Oh, my.
I once was watching my niece during a similar phase of hers. I was pushing her stroller home from the park when she started screaming, bloody murder. "You're not my mommy. I'm not going with you. You're not my mommy." Oh, yes, someone heard her, and called the police. Luckily when the police found my sister she explained that not only was I watching her but that she was going through a 24 hour brat phase.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

My solution is usually to scream back at the top of my lungs. I'm sure that's helpful to you. It certainly fixes the situation right up! (not)

No really, I feel for you. It sucks to be on the other end of that, but I always figure it's sort of a measure of "how far can I go and still have my mom love me anyway?" Or at least it's training for whatever she'll throw at you as a teenager. Hmm.

6:45 PM  
Blogger GraceD said...

Honey, welcome to my world.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Kate R said...

does it get better?
Nope. Just less obvious.

3:52 AM  
Blogger Mopsie said...

I have no advice or anything. I just want to say BRAVO to you and partner for keeping the boundary and not giving in. I work in mental health and let me tell ya -- the number of clients who would be different today if their parents had done the right thing instead of the easy thing is astronomical. (And of course I'm oversimplifying and generalizing, but when you spend your day setting up boundaries for folks that no one else did, you get a little bit tired of parents that give in to every little whimper.)

Sorry, I got a bit off track -- this was supposed to be a cheerleader comment to say, "YAY FOR YOU ALL!!!" :o)

6:26 AM  
Blogger That Girl said...

My usual response is "Im sorry, you'll just have to do this, Ill pay for therapy later"

Good luck, this too shall pass - and come again, and pass.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...


Been there, done that, gonna be going through it again, and again, and again. That 4-to-5 transition is a killer. Just keep telling yourself that difficult phases like this usually precede a major growth spell. Yeah...that's it.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto what Kim said. This is SOOOO 4-5, so pre-school. We are having it with Mark right now: there he is at the Highland Wildlife Centre among the pine martens and artic foxes going, "I'm not really all that crazy about animals. I'm boooored. Let's go home now." (It took an hour and a half to get there.) And I suddenly remembered the Very Last Badger Fun Day with Sara, a week before she started school, on the ferry to the island in the Firth of Forth where we were planning to picnic, going, "I don't like seals. I don't like boats. I don't like going under the bridge. Boring boring boring this is so boring." ad nauseam. I am CONVINCED it is the sign of a girl or boy who is Ready For School.

I won't say "it gets better," but that *particular* power-struggle stage DOES pass.

love, E Wein (

11:13 AM  
Blogger Rosie Bonner said...

gosh. so much to look forward to, for the mother of a 3-year-old.

oh? and also? brilliant title.

4:02 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

Thanks, Rosie! I have to give credit where credit's due, though-- RW thought of the title.

5:45 PM  
Blogger RHD said...

I have one of those at home, only being slightly younger, she's not as articulate about it, so it's heavier on the wailing lighter on the guilt trips.

Say it with me now, "this too shall pass." *sigh*

6:12 PM  

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