What happened to my baby? First Rose was cute, then she learned to walk and talk and she was precocious but charming. Then she learned to make jokes and she was funny. Now she’s just a monster. A blue-eyed, macaroni-and-cheese-fueled, desire-driven monster.
The other day, I picked Rose up from the babysitter’s. The kids had been swimming and I’d already hung out for an hour, chatting and watching the kids play. Rose decided she wanted to get in the pool again. She had shrugged off her life jacket and wanted to go in without it and her bathing suit. I had observed her last attempt at the pool. She hung onto the ladder, wearing the life jacket, and wouldn’t let go. We didn’t have to be anywhere but it was nap time and in my opinion, it was not worth waiting for another unsuccessful attempt at entering the swimming pool. So I said, “No, Honey, we have to go. Come get your stuff.”
“NO! I WANNA GO IN THE POOL!”
“Honey, you haven’t even got your life jacket on and we have to go,” I said.
“NOOOO!” she yelled.
“You can go in the pool tomorrow, Rose,” her babysitter said, “It’s going to be nice.”
“NOOOOOOOOO!” she screamed.
“Okay, come on!” I said, grabbing her stuff and attempting to pick her up.
“NOOOOOOOOO! I WANT TO GO IN THE POOL!” she shrieked, kicking and clawing at me and pushing away.
I dropped the stuff, reached around her waist and picked her up. I felt her pummel my back and arms. Her feet flailed, legs kicking my thighs and shins. I carried her, naked and fighting, into the house, out the front door, and lifted her onto the running board of the car. That was too much for her.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” she shrieked, swatting my glasses off my face and leaving a huge gash on my cheekbone.
I grabbed her waist, lifted her, naked, into the car seat, fought to get her arms buckled as she kicked and flailed, and forced her butt back into the seat to buckle the bottom straps.
“NOOOOOOOO!” she screamed. “WHERE’S MY DRESS UP? I WANT MY DRESS UP!” Her babysitter had cleaned out some old toys and found a princess outfit for Rose. Rose had worn it before the pool incident and wanted to take it home.
“Rose,” I said to my captive audience. “That is not the way to get what you want. If I wanted to give you the dress up right now, I couldn’t because of the way you’ve been acting. Little girls who throw fits don’t get their dress up.”
Crying, she said “I WAAAANT MY DRESS UP!”
“You will get it tomorrow.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!” she shrieked. I closed her door to get her brother, carried by the ultra-helpful babysitter, in the car. Rose continued shrieking throughout the process. Once in the car, I handed her a pacifier. (Yes, my three-and-a-half-year-old still uses a pacifier. I am a terrible parent. I also caused a massive, screaming hissy fit, as described here.) She took it, and continued to scream for a few more blocks. By the time we finished the five-minute drive home, she was calm and she wanted me to carry her to her bed, so I did. She went down without a fight and took a nice, long nap. I went to the bathroom to dress my wound.
That’s not the only recent incident, but it was the most dramatic. Speaking of drama, my husband and I get a little bit of that every day. Whether her brother touches her toys, touches her or is too loud for her to hear “Curious George,” there is some kind of blow up – usually several. When it’s not her brother, it’s either us or some non-issue that she’s exaggerating for effect, like “My play house fell down!!” with tears running down her face.
“Pick it up,” we say.
“I caaaaan’t,” she’ll say.
“Yes you can,” we’ll say, going over to pick it up. “See?”
“My baby fell down inside,” she’ll cry. At this point we just give up. If she’s this dramatic now, what’s going to happen when she’s a teenager?
Right now, Christian is my favorite. Not because I love Rose any less, but because his needs are simple. I thought it would be hard going from a kid who’s so independent to one who’s so dependent, but it’s not. If Christian cries, there’s a finite number of easily determined reasons: He’s hungry, he’s tired, he’s hurt, he’s surprised. That’s it. That’s his repertoire. I feed him, rock him, or soothe him. That’s my job and that’s all.
Rose isn’t a job, she’s a project, and even though I was a project manager, I can’t handle her. There’s no Gantt chart that covers all of her variables. And there are never enough resources. Every day when she wakes up from her nap, she asks for company. I have to explain to her that I cannot just call someone up and have them drop everything to come here. That’s ok for her 12-year-old idol in the neighborhood, but other friends require advance planning. We had her brother in part to keep her company. When will he fulfill his purpose? When?
I don’t know. Until then, I’ve got to handle her violent screaming fits like a lion tamer with a whip and a chair. (Hmm, whip and a chair. Haven’t tried that yet. Hmm.) I can’t escalate her issues to my management, because, along with Matt, I’m the boss at home.
Or am I? I think I should take my problems with Rose’s behavior to a higher authority. Normally what I do in this circumstance is to write a magazine article on the subject. When I research it, I apply all that great guidance I get to my own life. But I don’t have any articles pending about this, so I need something more immediate.
I’ve been praying a lot lately. Well, not a lot for say, a New York City cabdriver with a dashboard Jesus, but a lot for me. I’ve been praying for the resolution to so many problems for the people I love. I’ve been praying for us to maintain our financial situation in these times. I’ve been praying for the return of economic prosperity. But it occurs to me, if anyone knows how to handle a defiant three-and-a-half-year-old, it’s her maker. So I’m going to start asking for divine assistance with my parenting. It comes a little late, I realize. It’s what I should have been doing all along.
Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Maybe it’s all the project management stuff that’s got me screwed up. What with flow charts and schedules and dashboards and such I never thought to go straight to the top. My parenting decision tree was Matt, then my birth mom, then professionals, then, when I’m absolutely desperate, God. I need to start with God more often. And I need to trust Him to resolve my issue or help me find the right help. Maybe if I’d fast tracked this sooner, I’d be a better parent by now, and Rose would be playing quietly on the floor.