Monday, November 11, 2013

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral

I think I play this game frequently in my head, except that I call it "Overtired, Stage or Baby OCD."  Bean has had a series of epic tantrums, which sadly leaves us emotionally bereft and in tears.  I genuinely thought that this was behind us.  Her last tantrum phase lasted six months and started somewhere around 22 months.  Her tantrums were clearly linked to two things: our move to the 'burbs and her frustration with her inability to properly communicate.  Well, we are far beyond both those things.  Bean can articulate everything that's on her mind from her recent dream of "soldiers farting out marshmallows" to her constant chorus at dinner of "I don't yike mushrooms Mom."  All of this points to the obvious, yet delayed response of Bean having a baby sister.

My first thought was that Bean was just overtired.  She's going to preschool five days a week.  That's a lot of school for her.  Plus, they are actually learning letters and doing introductory math.  And there was the recent time change.  She doesn't nap and she's clearly wiped by the end of the day.  I've pushed dinner to earlier and started her bedtime routine by 7PM, and still the tantrums continue.

Perhaps this is just another stage, but instead of Bean experiencing frustration with her inability to communicate, she's frustrated with her inability to do certain tasks on her own.  Basically, she doesn't want any help from me and wants to do everything on her own.  Hell hath no fury like a preschooler getting assistance from her mother to put on her underwear.  I think I saw smoke come out of her ears yesterday and fire from her eyes.  Every single day is a minefield because anything, and I mean anything could set her off.  Yesterday, it was me giving her a glass of milk with her cereal.  She wanted to ask for the glass of milk, even though I've automatically given her milk with her breakfast for over a year.  The day before it was that I switched off the water from the faucet when she washed her hands.  Or that I closed the front door.  Or I put the pacifier in HT's mouth.  Or I hung up her jacket.  Or I put the dirty clothes in the hamper.  Or because I grabbed the pull-up from the closet before bed.  It could be anything and just when I think I see a pattern emerge, she changes and makes some crazy new demand like "I have to pick out HT's outfit"  or "I have to give you the napkin."

Which leaves me to my next fear:  Is Bean exhibiting symptoms of Baby OCD?  Does the American Academy of Psychology recognize such a condition?  Yesterday Bean told me that she had to knock on the car door two times before I could open it.  What the what?  That's straight out of Crazy 101! I told her absolutely not, and I refused to give into that becoming a new pattern for her.  And she cried, not full out tantrum, but we did have an uncomfortable ride to preschool.

I get it.  She's trying to assert her independence.  She's the big girl complete with the baby sister dribbling behind her.  She wants to do everything on her own and I know that I should let her/encourage this but it's hard because some things she just can't do yet (help me cut vegetables) and some things I'm just not used to her being able to do on her own yet.  And the tantrums are exhausting and are coupled with a recent streak of her just not listening to me.  If I ask her do something, she flat out refuses.  After I ask her repeatedly, she'll say quietly with a gleam of mischief "You forgot to say a word."  The word she's referring to is "Please" and she's basically parroting back to me things I say all day long.  And then I feel utterly defeated and respond by quietly muttering "please" like a vengeful teenager.

Ultimately, I'm just tired.  Twice this week, I came downstairs after bedtime and sobbed because I didn't like how I sounded when dealing with Bean.  Saying "NO" all the time can be exhausting.  The thing is, we are both miserable in this.  Bean simply can't control her emotions, her frustrations, her anxieties.  Lately, I've been telling her that when she's having a tantrum, she is acting like King Triton.  If you are familiar with Disney's The Little Mermaid, as I am.  You will recall the scene when King Triton gets very angry with Ariel and uses his trident to destroy all her grotto's treasures.   I tell her that when she screams like that, I feel sad like Ariel.  I told Bean that when she wants to scream, she needs to learn to calm herself down whether she has to sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"  or count as high as she can go or just breath in deeply until she feels better.  I made a "Positive Princess Power" chart, decorated with all the Disney Princesses and she gets a smiley face for putting her dishes in the sink or quietly reading to herself or not having a tantrum to reinforce positive behaviors.  When she gets twenty smiley faces, she will get a special treat.  She seems to respond well to the chart, but not well enough to cancel all tantrums.  It's been a week with the chart and she hasn't reached twenty yet which I think gives you some insight into our current mood here.

I'm hoping that this is a stage.  I've spoken to other moms of preschoolers and I've heard similar horror stories.  I just want this stage to be over so I can get my sweet little girl back.  Until then, I will build in a 20 minute buffer zone for every time we leave the house.  It's going to take her more time to do everything that she feels she has to do on her own, so maybe I should just let her.  I should just accept that we will be late to everything.  I'm going to pick my battles like she can pick the color of her cup, but she can't knock on the car door before entering.  Hopefully, over time, less battles will turn into wars and we'll both be less likely to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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