I want to make something abundantly clear. I love my children. I ADORE my children. I would rip out my kidneys and my lungs and my heart and even never wear mascara again for my kids. I think they are cute and smart and wonderful and I love being a mom.
Now, brass tacks.
41/2 a SHITTY age. I do not love it. No, sir, I do not.
Declan is an easy child, overall, and I know this. I know I am lucky. I know that when it counts, in public, he is perfect (usually) and charming and doesn’t make me look like a complete failure as a parent. Which is really all that matters, isn’t it? Public perception.
But at home? A bit of a different story. And maybe I’m extra super bitter because Paul just got back from 5 days in Boston
asshole, but I am at my wit’s end.
I’ve learned that with each new age, the extremes between “good” and “bad” grow exponentially. In the beginning, with a newborn, there is very little good, really. But you are a mess and in love and miserable, so any good would be wasted because you are too sleep deprived to notice it. And really, the bad seems bad then, but if you had the maternal jadedness that comes with having a, say, 2-3 year old with a newborn, you realize that other than having to feed them constantly, newborns aren’t that bad. (Note: I still never want another one. Ever.) So it’s kinda of a wash.
As they get older, you realize with the bad comes the good. For example, a 1 year old is so cute because they toddle around and point at things and laugh and say words that don’t exist. YAY BABIES!! But then they learn to smack you, so BOO BABIES.
Then you hear of the Terrible Twos. OH NO THEY ARE 2!!! But the reason why 2 sucks is because they are so freaking unpredictable. They go from being this little cherubic angel that is like “I WUV OO MOMMY!” to “AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!” because you gave them the red cup instead of the blue cup or the wind changed from east to southeasterly or the sun is in Aquarius. No one knows. But again, if you aren’t pregnant during the 2s (like I was, mistake), you pour a glass of wine and ignore the shit out of that nonsense.
Threes are better because they start talking like real people and not like drunks, so that’s good. And they invent imaginary friends and go to preschool and don’t poop on themselves (sometimes), so +100. But the other extreme is the manipulation comes out in FULL FORCE, so you have to be prepared to basically say no to everything they ask for all day. Because it’s all a trap. And that gets OLD. You always feel like the bad guy, but really, does anyone need to hear 34 stories before bed? Does anyone die from eating food that is green/not cheese/not in the shape of something? No, they don’t. But you will spend all day negotiating and trying not to yell FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT HIS HOLY YOU’VE BEEN SITTING IN THIS CAR SEAT FOR A YEAR QUIT ACTING LIKE IT’S LACED WITH POISON. Or whatever.
So now we are at 41/2. A friend of mine told me that the half-years are always the worst, and I totally agree. I’ve seen articles on it, too. Something about dissonance or harmony or not having enough wine. I skimmed it. But it is totally true.
We are in the range right now, and it is balls. Total balls. Did you know 41/2-year-olds say “Whatever” when you tell them to do things? No? Me either. But they do. They probably also have Twitter accounts and listen to Taylor Swift. I wouldn’t know.
So yea, we are in the car the other day, and I’m telling Declan something, and he goes “Whatever,” and rolls his eyes. Let me repeat that. HE SAID WHATEVER AND ROLLED HIS EYES. And when I tell you I almost pulled the car over to climb in the backseat and absolutely lose my sanity, I am not lying. To date, there is NOTHING that makes me angrier than a sass mouth. NOTHING. You wanna pitch a fit at Target? Go for it. You wanna wear your checked Vans with plaid shorts and a cableknit sweater? Have at it, hipster. But you talk back to me? You dare treat me with anything but reverence, you are taking your life in your hands, my child.
But my bigger issue, honestly, is how I handle it. I know all the standards: Be consistent. Don’t react to bad language. Don’t argue with them. I can do that. But when I’ve done something nice for my child and he doesn’t show gratitude or I tell him to do something and he back talks, I lose it. I keep trying to put the fear of God, or even worse, the fear of MOM, into him when it comes to back talk, but it’s not working. We take things away. We yell. We time out. But other than in the moment, it doesn’t change things. And that is ultimately what makes me mad.
Because in the past, his behavior wasn’t malicious. It was a small child learning boundaries, and I guided him to them. But as they get older, they learn to hurt, to strike. They learn to go for the gut, go for the reaction. And I know he knows better, because he never acts that way in public or at school. So I know this is about Paul and me, and him. But what I need to learn his how to not get angry. How to not feel like a failure when he acts like a brat. How to not take it personally.
Because I know one thing. The good will get better. But the bad will only get worse.