Tuesday, May 28, 2013

&%$# Four-Year-Olds Say

On Saturday morning I sat on that piano
bench for TWO HOURS and 46 minutes.
The last few days have undoubtedly been my most frustrating and challenging as Hallie's mother. Beginning Thursday evening, Hallie instigated stand-off after stand-off, the worst of which lasted nearly three hours and involved us barricading her in her bedroom (the door to which doesn't lock) with the mattress from Will's trundle bed and the piano bench so that she could finish throwing her fit without hurting herself or us.

I've never seen a will as strong or a temper as fierce as Hallie's. She stands up to us at absolutely every turn, and does so fearlessly. She plants her heels, digs in, and never wavers, regardless of what she stands to lose or gain by sticking to her guns. She knows exactly what she wants, and "hits below the belt", if you will, to tip the scales in her favor.

Hallie knows exactly what to say to hurt our feelings, and though I try not to let her words bother me, doing so grew more and more difficult as over the course of the weekend she repeatedly screamed, "I HATE YOU!", "YOU'RE THE WORST MOMMY IN THE WHOLE WORLD!", "I NEVER WANT TO LIVE WITH YOU EVER AGAIN!", and "I WANT A NEW FAMILY!"

After we finally resolved Saturday night's stand-off (by putting Hallie to bed at 6:25pm), Tom and I collapsed - physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted - onto the couch. I wondered aloud where we'd gone wrong with Hallie; after all, her six-year-old brother is for the most part well-behaved, well-mannered, a good listener, kind, and respectful...and was raised by the same parents.

And then Tom gently reminded me that Will went through this same phase. A short stretch of time during which he used violent and angry words and acted as though the entire world was conspiring against him at every turn. I couldn't remember experiencing anything with Will like what we'd just gone through with Hallie, so I did what any writer would do and began searching my archives.

Sure enough, Tom was right. I found this post, written for Blogher on August 28th, 2011 when Will was four years old.

I've hemmed and hawed for the last two hours over whether or not to write about what happened to me tonight, and while I probably shouldn't do it, I'm going to anyway. Because I know writing it down will make me feel better. Because (I hope) my mom and mother-in-law and friends with kids will comment and tell me that their kids have done the same thing to them and that they got over it.

Tom had to work late tonight - so goes the beginning (and the middle and the end) of the university semester. As a treat for the kids, who were missing their dad, we 1) went to Blockbuster and rented a movie, 2) played on the indoor play structure at McDonald's, 3) purchased Happy Meals for dinner, 4) had a picnic with said Happy Meals on the floor of the living room while watching the movie we rented, 5) took a bath in Mom and Dad's "swimming pool" bathtub with the jets ON, and 6) finished the movie curled up in beanbag chairs.

Not a bad evening, right? At least until that point it wasn't.

I asked Will to pick out a book to read before bed. He said no.

I told Will that his two choices were picking out a book to read before bed or going straight to bed. He said no.

I told Will that if he didn't make a choice I would make a choice for him. He said no and ran away.

I made the choice for him and put him straight to bed, at which point he told me he didn't like me anymore. Will tells me he doesn't like me whenever he doesn't like what I've asked him to do or not do, and while I tell him it hurts my feelings, I try not to overreact.

It was after I'd sent Will to bed and was tucking Hallie in that he went for it - he told me he wished I was dead.

I have no idea where he heard the phrase - we certainly don't use it in our house, and I'm sure the four Disney Channel cartoons the kids watch On Demand don't either - and as it turns out, he doesn't really know what it means. He knew it was hurtful though, and he chose to direct it at me. (We did eventually discuss what Will said meant, how it made me feel, and better ways for him to express his anger. Not sure that conversation was all that productive though...)

So I'm kind of sad, I'm pretty pissed off at Will, and I'm wishing there was a way to write this outburst off as just another thing four-year-olds do and even eventually outgrow. Is it? That's what I'm wishing for tonight.

I'm not sure I'd ever appreciated my obsessive need to document everything more so than I did the moment I discovered this post. Interestingly, reading the words I'd written two years ago didn't bring back the pain and frustration I'd so clearly felt when dealing with Will that night. Instead, reading this post gave me hope. Knowing that Tom and I brought Will through his rough patch to where he is today gave me hope that Tom and I can also bring Hallie through her rough patch; hope that if we stay the course - parenting with love and boundaries and respect and faith - we'll all survive this.

As I typed that last sentence, singing rang out from Hallie's room..."If you're lost and alone, or you're sinking like a stone, carry on. May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground, carry on."

She didn't have all of the words exactly right, but the message was clear.

So yes, we'll carry on, and hope to once again see our sweet girl on the other side of this draining and demoralizing four-year-old phase.

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