Often when I post, what I want to say pretty much just writes itself. This time around, I’ve been struggling with how express my home-life over the last six days. I am now on my third attempt, having hit that big black X several times. I’m nervous because for everything going on right now, I feel like it has to be my fault; something I’m doing wrong, or not doing enough. But I promised myself I’d always keep it real here, so this is where I am right now.
The crux of my matter: my three year old daughter. Wow, I need help. I am clinging by dirty and ragged fingernails to the last of my already splintered sanity. I would measure that approximately 80 percent of my child’s waking hours spent with me this past week have been immersed in preschool tantrums. We are at war, and I’m just trying to understand why.
It all started on Saturday morning. Both of my children appeared to be in fairly pleasant moods, happy to have the day at home to play. I walked around my house, surveyed the usual scattering of toys, and decided it was time to take action.
I alerted my little darlings that before they headed outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather we had some cleaning up to do. My 21 month old son, who is only aiming to please these days, walked about singing a Clean Up song; picking up toys and placing them in bins. My daughter was none too happy with her present predicament and conducted an immediate sit-in. She plopped herself in the middle of her playroom and uttered various cries of protest.
“I wanna go outside! I don’t want to clean! I wanna watch TV! ”
I made my way through all attempts at reason. I tried giving her small tasks of the ‘please pick up that block and put it there’ variety. I calmly explained to her that with just a little bit of helping Mommy she’d have the rest of the morning to play. No dice.
My next move set into motion a fury that brought preschool angst to a whole new level. My son went out to play; my daughter remained inside. She wailed, kicked, punched, rolled about on the floor, banged on windows, swung at me, and flailed in such a way that I was just short of considering demon possession.
Tantrums for us are not new territory. I’ve listened to the behavioral therapists that attend my parent group meetings. I’ve tried all of their tricks of the trade. I remained calm. I did not yell. I stated plainly that she would be able to go outside to play as soon as she calmed down and helped me pick up a few toys. Then I went about my business and let her scream it out. Scream it out is exactly what she did for well over an hour.
This process continued. After nap that afternoon she again refused to help, which was killing me because it was such a beautiful day outside. I wanted to enjoy this time with my family, but I also couldn’t back down. I felt it was crucial to stick to what I had started. The tantrums continued. That night, after being confined all day I had a discussion with her, stating that I really hoped she would decide to help out tomorrow so that we could go outside and play. Her answer to me, “I didn’t want to go outside, so I didn’t clean.”
Seriously people? I felt like Mommy Dearest engaged in a battle to the end with her kid over a plate of rare meat.
The next morning brought more tantrums but I continued to stand my ground. Then all of the sudden she woke from her afternoon nap and picked up the toys that had been awaiting her attention for the past 30 hours. She was rewarded with praise and time outdoors. I thought we were in the clear, but that night and the days that followed only brought more screaming and crying about oh, you name it. The task of washing hands after going potty or getting ready for bed could easily set her off.
I confess that by Wednesday I pretty much lost it. My composure went out the window. After another hour of tantrums before bedtime (a portion of which was outside for my neighbors’ enjoyment) and my constant pleas to understand what in the name of all that is holy was wrong with her, I started screaming. It offered no help except to give me the emotional release that was required to get through it. At a loss, I picked her up, plopped her on her bed, and left my screaming demon spawn in her bedroom. I shut the door behind, sat in the stairwell, and drowned out her wailing with my own sobs as I cried my bloody eyes out. My husband came to my rescue and the change of guard seemed to help her, but not me.
I’ve been telling myself for months that she’s just three, that this will pass, and that she will settle eventually. Well, she’s almost four and it’s getting worse, by far not better. Her constant will is bearing down on me; a weight on my shoulders, resentment is brewing. I’m reaching the point where I can’t ignore that there’s something else wrong here. I’m searching for what it is that I am doing to precipitate this, and coming up empty.
For several more days the pattern continued. Then out of the blue this morning she got up, got dressed, was happy, did what she was asked to get ready for the day ahead, and had a very good morning. Are we out of the abyss? I’m not holding my breath on that one. I don’t know what to do, but things need to change. It’s not fair for my baby boy to be exposed to this mayhem. It’s not fair, all this stress that it’s causing me and my husband. It’s not fair, this sad little girl that I just want to be well adjusted and happy.
We can’t live like this. So tell me, is this normal? It sure doesn’t feel like it.
Help me Oh Internet, you’re my only hope.