Groan up

Disclaimer: I wrote this over a four hour period. I forgot what I was saying several times. Also, there was wine. And an oft-waking baby. But post I will! For I have decided to post! And here I am! Posting!

Right before Rosie turned four, I remember (stupidly, naively) giving myself a mental high-five because we had made it through her “toddlerhood” and now she would be magically adult-like, with no more need to communicate her desires via guttural wails and backbone-bending floor calisthenics. Hooray! Go team! OK, so I wasn’t completely ridiculous about it—I figured I’d give her a few weeks after to wrap up any of her three-year-old shenanigans, but then, no really: Time to get it together, toots.

(I realize there’s a lot of back story missing for this, seeing as how I haven’t blogged in, oh, two straight months. Rosie has been having many issues that we have so far been unable to solve with our existing parenting knowledge, things involving clothes and shoes and putting them on her body, among other distressors. When the problem is clothes–and it often is–it’s not so much that she doesn’t want to get dressed, it’s that she wants us to help her get dressed, but she doesn’t want that shirt, she wants the pink shirt (that’s in the dirty clothes because she wore it the day before and it has a large indeterminate stain on the sleeve) and she doesn’t like any of those pants because they’re tight, and she doesn’t like those pants because they’re too big, but no, you pick, mama, I WANT YOU TO PICK but these socks feel funny and I WANT MY PINK SHIRT I WANT MY PINK SHIRT I WANT IT I WANT IT I WAAAAAAAAAANT IIIIIIIIIT. It is, in short, maddening. And clearly has another cause besides clothes.)

But now we’re two solid months in and it’s seemed to almost get worse in a way. We’ve really struggled with how to deal with her when she gets like this, and I’ve felt a little despairing about it because I know there is something we’re not figuring out about it—something deeper. Is it big sisterhood? Max has been around for over half a year now, so that doesn’t seem likely, and besides, she luvvvvvvvs him. Is it the lack of schedule over the holidays? That always got Noah good, and then he’d top all the crazy off with his birthday to send him riiiiight over the edge. But no, this particular level of bananas started before the holidays. Is it just developmental changes on the horizon? My mother-in-law holds to the theory that when kids are off their rockers it’s because they are on the verge of doing something brand new. This is the theory I have been clinging to, but based on the intensity, frequency and duration of her outbursts, I would think she’d be able to speak Swahili by now. (She can’t.)

Today was particularly hairy. The most bizarre part about this was that the weekend as a whole was lovely—we had movie and pizza night on Friday night, like we usually do, then Saturday Noah had a basketball game, which Max, Rosie and I stayed home from, since Max needed a nap, and Rosie expressed a desire in being at our house, which I don’t blame her for–I miss being at our house after the work week. I can imagine she does, too. During our time at home we had a dance party (natch), played many a pretend game, and just generally loafed, which I think Rosie appreciated. Then when the bballers came home we ate lunch, loafed some more and then went to get Rosie’s hair cut.

You have to stand up in the barber chair when your hair is Rapunzelesque.

Afterward we picked out a birthday present for Noah, got a movie and book from the library, ate some Sugar Babies … life was peachy. Bedtime was fine, Saturday was in the bag, hooray. Then Sunday morning came.

Fleshing out the details of her tantrums seems tedious and slightly unfair to her, so I will just say that many decibels were loaded into my eardrums before I had even touched my feet to the floor, and for the next 30 minutes after I woke up, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Finally we reached a place where she was able to calm down and get dressed for church, with little to no protesting, even … until we got to shoes, that is.

These are Rosie’s “church” shoes, and by “church” I mean “all the time, all the days, all the weathers” shoes. Also, all three pairs are too small for her. This has been discussed. At length.

For church, she finagled her way into wearing the red pair, but I told her that when we got home, we were going to say goodbye to her shoes, and start wearing the new ones she recently got (that she had not worn once yet). She seemed agreeable. Rosie is nothing if not enthusiastic in the moment.

Later in the day, well after we had gotten home from church, she asked to go outside to play and I told her she needed to put her shoes on. So she opened her basket to choose a pair, and BOOM: reality. No red shoes, no pink shoes, no silver shoes. She was bereft. And she lost her everloving mind.

Again, the details are not important, but it was a Tantrum to End All Tantrums, complete with Screaming Unto Hoarseness and Leg Bashing Upon the Floorboards. She went on so long that she started to make no sense, and at one point (heartbreakingly) started saying “I don’t know what to DO! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!!” She was ’round the bend and then some. Meanwhile, I’m holding Max, whose face is clearly reading WTF is Wrong With You People, and trying to carry on a rational, normal conversation with Noah, who is sitting on the couch reading the Guinness Book of World Records. L is straight channeling Job, all the way from the Old Testament, dealing with her with more patience than I possess in the whole of my body. He never lost his cool, but talked to her rationally—which if you’ve ever dealt with a screaming kid, you know that this is the fastest way to rocket them to apoplectic—and held firm to the consequences he laid out as the screaming went on. (It was pretty badass parenting, I gotta say.) Finally, finally, fiiiiiiiinalllllllly she allowed him to scoop her up and hold her, and he took her to the swing on the porch and just swayed back and forth for half an hour, talking, not talking, whatever kept her quiet. At one point I thought she might be asleep, she looked so relaxed and collapsed on his shoulder. We got some food in her, brushed her teeth, dealt with another breakdown about washing her hands after using the bathroom (although, she probably burned off the germs with her white hot fury, so we probably should have just dropped it) and then L shut himself in her room and lay beside her until she was asleep.

After all that we sort of sat on the couch shell shocked, like we had just emerged from a cave, all blinky and discombobulated in the bright light of day. And then after we shook ourselves (and poured up some libations) we talked, in earnest, about what in the world could be bothering this girl of ours. L said that when they were on the swing together she asked, “Are you going to still hold me when I’m big?”

Clearly, he thought, it was about the shoes. We got rid of her shoes, the ones she’d worn and loved for months and months and months—before she became a big sister, before she turned four—and now it seemed like we were making her be someone else before she was ready. L was convinced. And it seemed to make sense to me. I could tell he was more and more sure that this was the issue, and finally he said, “I’m willing to go to the store tonight and get the same shoes she had before. Hell, she can wear them every day, if that’s what she wants! One day she won’t want to any more, and that will be that. But she wants the shoes she knows, so I think we should go and get her her shoes.” I agreed. He went.

Fifteen minutes later he texted me a picture—the very same pair of shoes she had outgrown, in the size she needed, and on clearance to boot. They’re waiting in her shoe basket now, a surprise for in the morning.

I don’t know that this is the answer to life, the universe and everything Rosie, but I’m hoping it helps, at least a little. I want her to know that we’re OK with her being little for a while longer—the girl in our arms with the pink sparkly Mary Janes and long brown hair that reaches all the way down her back.

8 comments

1 Allen { 01.07.13 at 12:09 pm }

Well?!? Did it work?

2 Ling { 01.07.13 at 4:10 pm }

I am so glad you’re writing more often again. This was wonderful. And yes, I also want to know if it worked!

3 alianora { 01.07.13 at 6:31 pm }

Aww. I hope it helped, I really do.

4 Elissa { 01.07.13 at 8:40 pm }

As the momma to two little girls who sometimes act (especially the littler of the two) much like the Rosie you just described, my whole heart ached as I read your every word. I often tire of hearing people tell me how “lucky” I am to have girls because they’re “easier than boys.” It’s not a competition… it’s tough to be a parent… and all of them are complicated in their own special way. Congrats on doing what seems like a damn good job of cracking this particular code. She’s a lucky girl.

5 Elizabeth { 01.08.13 at 1:08 am }

Our oldest is 3.5, so a little behind your Rosie, but she can throw some PTSD-inducing tantrums similar to the ones you’re describing – and the last few months have been nuts. Her almost-one-year-old brother looks at me sometimes like, “Uh, what the crap is going on with THAT one? Is she going to be okay? Can you please fix it?” And there’s no rhyme or reason to what sets her off. My theory is that it must be terrifying to realize that you’re “big” now, and even though that comes with a lot of cool privilege, there are all kinds of “baby” things that you really loved and don’t want to leave behind, and you’re stuck in this middle place where you want desperately to grow up, but you also desperately don’t want to, and it makes everything pretty hard and dramatic. If I’m honest, I feel similarly about her growing up: I desperately want her to, and I desperately want her not to. So I get it. It doesn’t make the epic tantrums any easier to deal with, but it helps me keep it in perspective.

6 racher { 01.08.13 at 11:32 am }

@Allen @Ling @alianora Sooooo, they were a little too big. Which was a bummer. And I also missed the big reveal, but L said she just smiled (it was early in the morning). Definitely not the answer to life the universe and everything, but she seems to be OK with wearing other pairs of shoes. For now. We’re going to keep trying them, maybe as a “Ooh, let’s see if your feet grew TODAY,” kind of thing.

@Elissa TOTALLY not a competition. (Can you imagine? Ugh.)

@Elizabeth Love love your comparison of desperately wanting her to grow up and desperately not at the same time. Nail hit on the head.

7 juliag { 02.20.13 at 8:45 am }

OMG. We have the same children. I kind of felt that when I met you and sat at “the kids table” with your littles this weekend at RD. But reading your blog confirms it, entry after entry. My Mr 4 is your Rosie. My six year old is your eight year old. #3 is too young to tell, but I’ll have to follow your story and see if we get a third set of twins.

8 racher { 02.20.13 at 9:18 pm }

Ha! Love that! So far Max is Mr. Chill n’ Easy, so here’s hoping that’s what develops with yours!

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