I have an emotional daughter. I know this, but not everyone around me gets to see her true colors. She’s pretty good about being incredibly obedient in front of other people and only acting out with me—I feel so privileged!
As a result of having a child who is so much like me it’s scary, my life is rife with ridiculous power struggles and completely illogical arguments.For instance: this morning A was trying to get ready for Church. I know that she has some tactile sensitivities (scratchy tags in her clothes bother her as does any other foreign fabric) so I packed a nice, fancy dress for her to wear (one of her favorites) and in anticipation of the tactile issue, I also packed a tank top to wear under the dress.
After she got the tank top on she insisted that it was wrong-side out. So, in order to avoid a totally pointless argument (what difference did it make if the shirt wasn’t right-side out, it was going to be under her dress anyway…) I took the shirt off of her and turned it the way she wanted it and helped her put it back on. Lo and behold, she was convinced it was still right-side out and she wanted it the other way! I finally cut the tag off for her and told her we’d try to put the shirt on one more time, and if she couldn’t find a way to make it work then she’d have to wear the other outfit I packed for her. She was finally ok with the shirt and got her dress on.Mind you, all this time she’s been crying and upset and I had to take her firmly by the arms and get in her face and remind her that I can’t understand her when she’s talking into my shirt and crying. My MIL was watching everything play out and even asked if A could wear the dress without the tank top. I almost laughed, sure I’ll let her wear the dress without it, but A would have a meltdown over that.
After that exhausting battle we finally finished getting ready for Church and left. A and I were in the bathroom before services started and she had a complete meltdown about the sleeves on the dress. She wanted to change or wear a t-shirt under it! Yes, sweetheart I’ll magically pull a t-shirt out of my tiny little diaper bag because I knew we would have this problem! Good grief! I also found it annoying that she had been wearing the silly dress for 20 minutes at least and this was the first she’d mentioned about it.I had to explain to her that she was going to have to wear the dress because that’s what she chose and all our extra clothes were at Nana’s house. When we finally joined her brother and my husband on our pew she was keeping her hands under her sleeves—sure, whatever helps!
After I sat down my husband leaned over and asked what the meltdown was about. Everyone had heard her crying and acting hysterical in the bathroom!It’s seemingly ridiculous moments like these that I’m reminded that I can’t reason with her. A has gotten so emotionally involved in the situation that reason flies out the window. I could have told her a thousand times that the shirt was wrong-side out, the way she wanted it. I could even have shown her (and I certainly tried explaining and showing it to her today) and it wouldn’t have mattered. Emotion distorts her perception of reality. So what do I do?
There are times I just put my head in my hands an take a moment to compose myself because I’m so tempted to yell “You’re FOUR for cryin’ out loud—YOU figure it out!” and then stomp out of the room. However, I am the adult and there are many reasons as to why that’s a bad idea. The main thing that helps me get through an episode like that (and we have an average of one a day, if not more) while acting like a grown up is that I know that this is real to her and if she doesn’t learn how to handle those emotions now, it will only get harder for her to understand how to control them later.
I’m creating a relationship with her by helping her through each of these episodes. She’s learning that I’m not going to force her to do something that is uncomfortable for her (this morning I let her choose to change out of the dress and tank top before we left the house while it was still a reasonable time to change her mind). She’s also learning that she and I are a team through my refusal to threaten her and punish her (it ends up being me and her against the tag, not me and her against each other). She’s learning to own her decisions (she chose not to change when she had reasonable time to do so, so she had to be uncomfortable or find her own solution until she can change). She’s learning that it’s ok to cry, but that there’s a time and a place for it.Sure there are times things get ugly and I yell back. There are times that I don’t know what else to do, so I spank her. There are times when she’s being petty and I’m petty right back.
Has it always been this way? Oh my, no! There were days before she was even talking that I’d just sit and hold her while she cried and cried and I’d cry along w/ her because I didn’t know what else to do.I thought my “problem” would be solved when she started talking because she could finally tell me what was wrong. Nope! When she first started talking I only got one chance to guess what she was saying (and any of you who have had young kids just learning how to talk, you know how hard it is to figure out what they’re saying)—on a good day it was two chances and then she’d just melt down. Her needs weren’t being met and I had no idea how to go about helping her.
Naturally, after she started talking more clearly, her response became “I don’t wanna tell you!” Or she’d just be hysterical, not even trying to communicate with words. Oh. My. Are you seriously telling me I waited three years for this moment and it’s only made things worse?! She’s four and a half and I still have to remind her to use her words! I feel like we should be past that—way past that!