One thing that it has taken my dull mind a long time to accept about children is that their development is not linear. When Felicity started sleeping through the night on a regular basis as a baby (and without looking back through my archives, I honestly could not tell you when that was -- four months? maybe five? It seemed so deeply important at the time, and now...gone), I thought, "Well! Glad we're done with that!" and then felt pathetic and betrayed when, inevitably, she started waking up at all hours as she went through some stage of growth or another.
The same has been true of separation anxiety (she had zero problems with school drop-off at first, but six weeks into the school year, suddenly she was stricken and hysterical when it was time to enter the classroom), potty training (I have no idea when children cease having occasional accidents, but apparently it's too soon to expect that, at least for my particular child), and the big-girl bed (she has slept in it without incident, but two nights ago she announced that she was all done with the big-girl bed and wants to change it back to her crib (request denied)).
Between my being slow on the uptake in this regard and my brain's equally dullard-like inability to remember my child's age (for a while now, I have thought of her as already being three, which is understandable since she's easily the size of a four-year-old), sometime I wonder if I set my expectations for Felicity's behavior a little too high. It's not that I expect her to be perfect all the time or sit quietly for hours on end, but at times I catch myself wondering with indignant astonishment, "WHAT is this BEHAVIOR? She knows better than this! Why is she being so UNREASONABLE?"
Now, two- and three-year olds are not known worldwide for their superior analytical and high-level reasoning skills, so I'm not sure how my bar got set so far north of where children this age can be expected to conduct themselves. Perhaps I've been spoiled because Felicity IS a well-behaved child, for the most part, and she is big and increasingly independent, and she CAN sit still through things like a ballet performance. But even if I were completely accustomed to dealing with the mercurial moods of the preschool peer group, dealing with the daily battles of will that arise with even the most even-tempered child would wear me out.
I am one of the world's most conflict-averse people, so having to cajole and negotiate with a hysterical small person over something as simple as putting on a pair of shoes saps my strength with impressive speed. If I'm tired (which I am 100% of the time), sick (which I have been since October), and/or hungry (also a constant, at least at the times I am usually trying to get Felicity to do something), my patience is gone before the scene even begins.
All this is to set the stage for last Friday, which -- aside from the one time I had to lock myself in the bathroom when Felicity wouldn't take a nap as an infant so I could have a breakdown out of her view -- I can now admit was my worst parenting moment.
That morning, she had thrown a huge fit about getting dressed, and then another huge fit about putting on her mittens and hat, even though it was about 10 degrees outside with a wind that could blow holes in your body. We managed to get outside fully clothed and mittened, but she was whiny and crying the entire way to school. Then, when I went to pick her up from school, she threw herself on the floor and rolled around in the lobby, screaming, when again I brought out the hated mittens for her to wear. Both at school and then again at home, I tried to take her to the bathroom, but she cried and fussed and said she didn't have to go and when I got her onto the potty she squirmed off and cried some more, insisting she didn't need to go. So I sat her in her chair in the kitchen and started to make lunch for both of us, and then she announced, "I peed in my pants!"
I...did not react favorably. No, I YELLED, why did you do that?? and you know better than that!! and I asked you so many times and you kept crying and saying you didn't need to go! And then I got right in her face and YELLED some more about tell me, WHY did you do that? I want to know! and I shook my finger at her, and while I changed her out of her wet clothes I kept on yelling.
She, of course, was sobbing and as my yelling lost steam, I started to cry, too. I took a few deep breaths and I hugged her and told her I was sorry for getting so upset and for losing my temper. I explained that I was feeling very angry because I had asked her so many times to use the potty, and she refused, but that I knew better than to yell and make her sad. I said I was also upset because Fridays are our Special Mommy Days, but it was difficult for us to have fun together when she was making a fuss all the time and refusing to listen to me or cooperate. Then I said I was sorry again and we both breathed for a while and then I made us a quesadilla.
As we were eating, Felicity said, "You want to talk about these things some more. Like about how to behave." So I talked about how Mommy didn't behave very well because we shouldn't make a big fuss when we're angry or upset, but Felicity also should have listened to Mommy and cooperated. I asked her what she thought about her behavior that morning at school when I asked her to put on her mittens but she rolled around on the floor instead, and she said, "I was not impressed!"
That, of course, almost made me fall out of my chair laughing, but it also gave us a chance to deconstruct the morning and the ways it could have been better. The next day, several times without prompting she went to use the bathroom by herself (which is much more typical for her than to have an accident, as she hasn't had one in months), and she wore her mittens and hat without a battle. Of course, as the week wore on there were Incidents, and today we had a lengthy, tear-filled (hers, not mine this time) standoff over shoes. But on the whole, it's been better. I know it will be better some times, worse others. I've figured that out now. We're both trying to be better.
As Felicity would say, "Let's talk about some more things."
She's doing so well at school, and as compared with last year, she is much better with unfamiliar settings like birthday parties. We've been to two parties in a short period of time, and both times she was not as engaged as some of the (usually older) kids were, but she also didn't freak out about all the bustle and noise and excitement. Perhaps now she understands that there's cake and a treat bag at the end of each one, so it's worth sticking around through the chaos.
At one party, she received a plush pig puppet as a favor, and when she pulled it out of the bag, she looked at it with total wonder and awe and said, "Oh! This is a very special gift."
She loooooooves the dollhouse that Santa brought her. She plays with it constantly, and she has a complex narrative of what's going on at all times. The most recent development is that the family likes to "show off their sweet dance moves" in a sort of reclined kickline.
She also plays with her magnetic dress-up ballerina a great deal, and again has a running storyline: "She's wearing the tutu with stars on it. She looks like a flag! The green costume is only for Halloween, so she's going to wear a leotard and dance pants today. Those are very comfortable. She's going to wear her fancy gown to the party tonight and a red bow in her hair. Her hair is in a ballerina bun! It's soooo beautiful. You wear a ballerina bun sometimes, too."
I love that she has a seemingly vast vocabulary, but she still uses the /n/ sound for Ls, so she'll talk about her friend "Shinoh" (Shiloh) or declare, "You want some choc-nates," or tell her baby doll, "Naked Baby needs to go to sneep." WOE will be the day when she stops doing that. And we're up to maybe 60% of the time that she uses the first person correctly, so that will be a thing of the past all too soon, as well (SOB).
By her own announcements of who she likes ("You nove Mommy. You DON'T nove [boy from school or, sadly, Daddy]. You want to nove Mommy JUST."), she would appear to have extremely fickle taste, but it seems like she often says things purely to see how we'll respond. I have explained hundreds of times that we can love lots of people all at the same time, but she seems insistent that it's an either/or proposition. We're working on that.
We're starting to venture into an age when parenting becomes more difficult, not because of the aforementioned power struggles, but because we have to actually know stuff and think about larger-picture things. For example, Felicity asks about what new words mean all the time -- some are easy enough to explain, like "similar" or "difficult" or "ridiculous"; but sometimes I am almost stumped by how to sort out a definition in a way she'll understand, because it's a concept that's abstract or so firmly in my own understanding that I can't break it down for someone else. And now of course, I can't think of any examples even though a word came up last night that I tried to explain six different ways, none of which was effective.
Anyway, at those times I occasionally think back to her infant days, when her needs were so primal, so simple that I could figure them out almost instantaneously. She's much more communicative now, obviously, but she's also so busy doing so many things -- asserting herself as an individual, but also trying to still be Mommy's baby; learning to be independent (but also trying to still be Mommy's baby); figuring out nuances of language and behavior; absorbing observations about the world around her; interacting with people in many different settings; putting her imaginative thoughts into words. It's utterly fascinating and exhilarating, even as it can be maddening and exhausting sometimes.
Even when I'm sitting and holding her against my body, her head barely tucked under my chin anymore given her great height, promising her that she'll always be my baby, I am so glad those days are behind us. Because now she's really becoming herself, ever more each day, and she is my favorite person in the whole world.