Where did my daughter’s bossy behavior and tantrums come from?Meredith Carroll
My older daughter wants an Oompah Loompah. And she wants it now.
When I was pregnant the first time — despite the insistance of countless others to the contrary — I postulated that any kid born to me would be the exception to all the classic pratfalls of childhood, like nose picking, an unhealthy obsession with belly-button lint, and adolescence.
However, my 3-year-old daughter has long since put the final nail on the coffin of my theory and buried it 7 feet underground (the extra foot for emphasis). There is little doubt that she is a professional toddler. And she’s doing such a fine job that I think a recount will be in order if it turns out she’s not first in line for a merit raise.
When she turned two and showed no signs of having issues with, say, sharing and sleeping, I was convinced we were the lucky ones who were to escape the early years with nary a visit to a psychopharmacologist. But as it turns out, she was just saving it up to unleash her fury all at once, and all the time. Usually for no discernable reason.
Like, she’ll snatch a toy or stuffed animal, strut outside, and announce to anyone within earshot, “It’s mine!”
Should anyone involuntarily glance at the It in question, she launches into a tirade.
“I not sharing!” she wails at a fever pitch, which usually elicits startled glances from the UPS guy or our elderly neighbor.
Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that I just have to chalk up her need for golden eggs and the geese that lay them to her straightforward desire to get exactly what she wants, when she wants it.
She goes about it using a simple formula of three dirty words: No, Need and Now.
As in, “NO, I NEED it NOW!”
It’d be one thing if the things she needed immediately were primal, like food, water, or shelter from a storm. But she claims to need things like chocolate on the stroke of each hour, a nineteenth book read to her at bedtime, or a gift to celebrate putting her shirt on correctly with the tag in the back.
When she voices an explanation for her needs, or, rather, shrieks what she cannot or refuses to live without, it’s hard to reason with her. Mostly because she can’t hear us over the sound of the glass shattering or the neighborhood dogs howling.
I’d like to blame her behavior on her age or the addition of her little sister to our family at the end of August , but my maternal instinct tells me she just has a certain kind of personality. A special kind of personality. You know, the kind that only an exorcist or a mother could love. The problem is, I don’t.
She was a seriously hilarious and easygoing kid until about nine months ago (well, except for her knack for screeching incessantly on airplanes, but I can’t really blame her for that since on most flights I’d like to scream bloody murder, too, particularly when I get knocked in the ankle by the beverage cart).
I’d say the change in tides coincided with me getting pregnant with the aforementioned little sister, but she didn’t seem to understand there was a real baby in my belly. At least, not until my lap became virtually nonexistent sometime during the seventh month and she was forced to cuddle with my feet if she wanted a little extra TLC.
Looking back, there may have been one or two signs of the personality that was to emerge.
Like one morning when she was 15 months old and we switched her from a bottle to a sippy cup. In the span of roughly four minutes, she went from being confused to anguished to, ultimately, pissed. Within a few hours she walked around playing it cool, deftly staring right through the milk-filled sippy cup like she was a panhandler holding out a tin can on a New York City subway.
“To hell with your milk and the sippy cup it’s in,” she seemed to be saying with her stoicism. I remember almost wishing she’d act out because the nonchalant attitude seemed eerily sophisticated for someone with a penchant for eating paper.
The next morning her indifference turned into panic. She took one look at the milk in the foreign milk vessel and swatted it away, after which time she fell to the floor, howling, the tears streaming down her face like she’d just been forced to listen to a dramatic reading of Charlie Sheen tweets. It was her first full-blown tantrum, actually. (Which was, of course, lovingly noted in her baby book.) And she showed us who’s boss: she’s now nearly 38 months old and hasn’t touched a drop of milk since.
Technically, though, I can still handle her. You know, to the extent that a rabid raccoon or feral cat can ever really be handled. It’s just hard to argue with a girl who knows what she wants. Although she seems determined to make it much easier (by arguing as much as possible).
It doesn’t help that every time I’ve thought she’s been transitioning out of a particularly unpleasant phase, some parent or other seems to take an evil joy in letting me know that as bad as that one was, it’s only about to get worse. Three is the new two; four is the new three. So much to look forward to.
It’s all good, of course. She is my daughter and I love her (mostly) unconditionally. Plus, if it (she) gets any worse, I don’t think any jury would convict me of accidentally allowing her to fall down the chute where the bad eggs are cast off from those geese she covets. You know, the ones who lay the golden ones.
And just to remind myself that it’s not all bad, at night I wait until she’s asleep and go into her room to watch her angelic face for a while until the pain from the migraines she induced hours earlier fades. But the peace never lasts long.
“Even the devil sleeps,” my husband always whispers in my ear when he slips in her room behind me.
But at least I take a secret delight in knowing that as challenging as my kid can be, other kids always seem worse. Just like I always knew it would be.