[Note: This was written over the course of various days throughout September. Ignore the "todays" and "yesterdays" etc. as best you can because they're irrelevant but I can't be bothered to change them. Sorry, and thank you.]
We finally had a good day! Wesley woke up cheerful one morning and wasn’t aggressive toward Thora or rude to me, and he kept it up until bedtime. He thought about having some meltdowns at various points during the day, but he was able to talk through them instead and seemed really committed to being nice. He worked hard to do it and I was really proud of him.
I NEEDED that day, badly.
Then last night, Wesley got really upset because Daniel had shared some coconut water with him but there was none left to have seconds. I kept trying to talk him down, but he laid on the floor and kicked some giveaway boxes, and then pulled a huge stack of meticulously folded blankets off a chair and grabbed the corners of each one to shake and unfold them, and then he threw them all around the living room. After there were no more blankets to mess up, he moved to the coffee table and used his whole arm to sweep everything on it onto the floor. I figured he needed to get the destructiveness out of his system so I just let him go for it.
I was talking to him the entire time and he just kept saying he was mad about the coconut water. Then he said he wanted chocolate soy milk, knowing full-well that we didn’t have any in the house, so he got worked up over that too like it was some giant conspiracy against him and what he wanted to drink. Finally, I got him to admit he would like regular milk and some water.
Again, I was talking through this whole fit (“You’re really upset there’s no more coconut water! You’re so mad you’re throwing blankets!” etc.) and ended up talking a bit about problem solving. I indicated the blanket mess in the living room. He brightened up and his whole demeanor completely changed. “Mommy! I know how to help! I will fold some blankets and you can fold some and we can work together to solve the blanket problem!”
So we did.
The rest of the evening wasn’t perfect by any means, but he did fix the blanket mess he created and was happy to do so. I felt like once he understood that I sympathized with him and what he wanted, he was able to see how he could help fix the mess he created.
Today, he got up grouchy again. I can usually tell what kind of day it’ll be based on how he reacts to me nursing Thora in the mornings. He’s often very annoyed by it, and responds by getting in her face and making loud noises, pinching (usually ears or cheeks), bending her free arm the wrong way, or snuffling at her feet. This morning he did all those things while I tried to talk to him about what he was feeling.
The best I got out of him was that he doesn’t like it when I nurse her because he wanted to go to a park. (?)
I finally got us all ready to go and we went to the Farmer’s Market, where he had a meltdown over cheesy popcorn. Then at Daniel’s work, I had Thora in the carrier and was talking to one of Daniel’s bosses, when Wesley was apparently annoyed I wasn’t paying attention to him so he jumped up and slapped Thora upside the head/face and she started screaming.
It’s difficult for me to judge whether or not this is all within the realm of normal. I’ve never heard anybody talk about their four-year-old behaving this way, but I kind of figure they’re probably too damned embarrassed to admit it. I know I’m embarrassed. Parenting is unfortunately one of those life skills that’s constantly on display and constantly under scrutiny. I mean, really, what’s the best way to respond when a kid slaps an infant in the face because his mother was having a brief conversation? It’s not like there’s one right answer, though there are many wrong ones.
I hate to admit it, but it’s a little gratifying when he completely loses his shit like this when Daniel’s around. Partly because I feel like it usually sounds like I’m exaggerating when I try to describe my days, and partly because I can see how quickly it tests Daniel’s patience and then I get to feel like a martyr for having to manage it EVERY DAMNED DAY by myself.
As I’m posting this now at the beginning of October, some things have improved and other things have gotten worse. He’s less violent, which is a huge relief. There have been several occasions where he resorts to punching or scratching as a first response, but he’s getting a bit better at just glaring horribly at us instead. I’ll take it.
He’s gotten more rude verbally though – everything is “peenie pee poop butt penis” and he says things like “excuse my FARRRRTS” when he burps which turns a perfectly polite response into something gross. He called Daniel a penis head the other day and BY SOME MIRACLE I did not laugh out loud but ugh it’s exhausting. I tried making a “bathroom words stay in the bathroom” rule, so if he wants to call someone a “peenie-weiner” he can, but he has to be in the bathroom. It sounded brilliant – I read it online somewhere, ages ago, and stored it in the recesses of my brain for exactly this moment – but it totally does not work. He just shouts “NO!” and runs away or he calls you a rude name. Or just quietly says “poop” at you to let you know he will not be controlled.
It’s the defiance and the mansplaining that really wear me down day after day. He clearly thinks I have a brain the size of a walnut and has no qualms about (incorrectly) explaining familiar concepts to me. “Mommy, Thora is crying. You have to go get her and change her diaper.” “Mommy, you are doing the laundry wrong.” “Mommy, that’s not how you make eggs. YOU’RE DOIN’ IT WRONG!” Ad infinitum.
He’s still iffy about Thora needing to nurse or take a nap. I think it’s because he knows if she’s already napping we can’t leave the house. He makes up all these plans in his head about his daily activities and then gets SUPER PISSED when I don’t do them, except A) it was something he made up, and B) sometimes he totally fails to even tell me about them. So I’ll start transferring her into her co-sleeper and he’ll start having this full-body screaming fit about going to a park, when this is the first I’ve heard of it.
Writing that out, maybe we need to actually make plans every day? Before we get up in the morning? That sounds exhausting, but maybe it’d alleviate some of the “but I wanted to do THIS today” fits.
He does go to preschool 2x/week now, which I love. Mondays he only goes for 2hrs and normally he’d do that on Wednesday too, but it only costs me $15 to leave him there for the whole day (it’s at his daycare) so I happy throw fistfuls of money at the daycare provider to have a day to myself once a week.
Anyway. Things are sort of better but “less horrible” is still sort of horrible, so there you go.