Wednesday, April 19, 2006


The persecuted preschooler

Ahem. I would like to register a complaint.

Back when parenting was just a theory, people told me all sorts of things to watch out for. They said I should sleep when the baby sleeps, and that no matter how many receiving blankets we had, we’d need more. Check.

They said that when baby learned to walk there would be lots of bumps and bruises, and that when he started to talk he would melt my heart every single day. Check.

They said I should stop wearing white shirts because they would be spattered by an endless parade of leaked substances, from breastmilk to the alarming neon orange residue of alphaghettis. Check.

They said I might have to learn to let the baby cry, and that the first day I left him at daycare would be the day I came to understand what heartbroken really feels like. Check.

They said that a smiling, gurgling six-month-old is perhaps the most endearing creature on the face of the planet, and that the tantrums of the two-year-old are like thunderstorms in a perfect summer day. Check.

They said it would be the most rewarding, difficult, exhilarating, frustrating, heretofore unimaginable experience of my life, every. single. day. Check.

What they didn’t tell me is that my four-year-old would be more moody than a menopausal woman deprived of chocolate and coffee crossed with a lovesick fourteen-year-old girl.

How can a child who is so sweet, so good-natured, so clever and so loving be such a tremendously unpleasant creature? Within the same hour?? This is, by the way and in case you haven’t figured it out, one of those posts where I pretty much beg you to say, “Oh yes, me too!” Please.

I expected the “He’s looking at me!” kind of complaint at this age. I expected to referee a lot of roughhousing, and settle a lot of disputes over toy possession. I didn’t expect the “Everybody is mean to me!” whine on a daily basis. (Uttered whenever he is compelled to do pretty much anything, from eating his dinner to taking off his shoes before coming into the house.)

He has more than one weapon in his martyr’s arsenal. When he is contradicted (“No, you cannot ride your bike in the house.”) he yells, “FINE then!” and runs up to his room to sulk. He will look at me with his stormy grey eyes brimming with tears and tell me he's "not having a very good day" because of one small thing that has happened in an otherwise near perfect day. It's both frustrating (especially for an infernal optimist like me) and disappointing to see him fixate on the negative aspects to the exclusion of the positive.

If this is just a phase, I don't mind riding it out. I've tried to sit down with him and explain all the wonderful things that happened in a day to offset the single bad thing, but he just squirms and is obviously having a hard time listening to it. I've tried to reason with him that everybody is not so much being mean to him as enforcing rules that we all have to live by. None of it seems to sink in.

My friend Twinmomplusone wrote a post the other day about four-year-olds that got me thinking about this. She has TWO of these mysterious creatures - imagine!!

So, for those of you who have four-year-olds, or have recently endured the phenomenon - please tell me: is this moodiness typical of your average four-year-old? And how do you deal with it? Most importantly, is five better? Or (cringe) worse?