Bean is three-going-on-teenager. Lately, she has been having emotional outbursts as if a surge of hormones has just trampled through her. She used to be able to deal with the normal disappointments of toddler life, e.g. not getting another ice cream cone or not being able to stay at the playground a little longer. She may have put up a little bit of a fuss, but a minute later — completely back to normal.
Over the summer, that minute turned into several minutes, then turned into a car ride home, then turned into half an hour, of sourpuss. That girl can hold a grudge! I guess my bad influence has finally paid off. Yes — only pride, I tell you.
But now? Now it has developed from sourpuss to emotionally charged crying. Um, excuse me, but when did my child turn into a moody teenager?
Up until now, we have told both kids that it's okay to cry if they are upset. This comes from a child-rearing book I read, from which I'm seriously reconsidering the benefits. The message was that too often, kids are told not to cry; that they are babies if they cry. It also said sometimes crying is just a mental and physical release that helps kids when they are not able to express themselves clearly. It also said telling a child not to cry is actually an adult's coping mechanism; i.e. seeing our kids cry makes us uncomfortable and we want to help and stop them from crying, so we say, "Don't cry."
When I read this, I thought to myself: Interesting. Because quite often, I do feel better after I cry. I feel tired, but I also feel a release of stress. I also recognized that when I see my kids cry, I tense up. Obviously I don't want them to cry. Telling them so is what automatically come to mind.
So, I asked G to humor me, and to try and refrain from telling the kids not to cry when they do so. Instead of using those words, we tell them that it's okay to cry if they need to, but they also need to try and tell us why they are crying and how they are feeling.
I know. Sounds all new-agey or something, doesn't it? I don't consider myself a hippie parent (or even a hip parent) but parenting has sent me into somewhat of a tailspin — my biggest fear is sending them into therapy. Oh my God they are crying what do I do and why are there 12,000 books about how to deal with kids crying I must be doing something wrong!
So. This is the message we provide: It's okay to cry.
Yesterday, I picked the kids up at school. Bean immediately burst into tears when she saw me, then ran to me and wrapped her arms around my neck. I asked her what was wrong. She couldn't even talk. Several of her classmates followed her out, and one of them told me she wanted to bring her painting home.
Seriously? It's that traumatic?
I admit that I was a little embarrassed. Perhaps it was because the teacher waited patiently while Bean cried — sobbed — and tried to explain to her that she could bring the painting another day and my child could not handle the trauma of this news. Perhaps it was because many of her classmates followed her out to watch her sob and see what was going on. Perhaps it was because I was at a loss, exasperated at yet another episode of her not being able to handle a situation she used to be handle without much fanfare. Perhaps it was because I have been conditioned to think Crying is bad. Crying is for babies.
Of course, being a mother, I also feel guilt — for feeling embarrassed by the very thing that I have been telling both kids all along that they should never feel embarrassed about. And also, for not knowing what is going on with my own daughter. I try to talk her through these moments of OH MY GOD MY WORLD IS FALLING APART, but I am not able to conclude much other than she is upset that she didn't get what she wanted.
I would like to think I would admit if my daughter were a spoiled brat. Maybe I'm fooling myself. But she's a twin. By nature, being a twin means she doesn't always get what she wants. She and Buddy fight. Sometimes she wins, sometimes he wins, and sometimes no one wins. We don't let her get away with pouting; we don't give her things when she does; we tell her to go into the other room until she's stopped. What is going on?
Any hints? Anyone else's three-year-olds hitting puberty?
I hope that it's just a phase. Hopefully, it will pass, and she'll once again learn how to cope. You know — WITH LIFE AS A THREE-YEAR-OLD. Because apparently? This is very trying and dramatic.