Don’t you hate it when you look back on an interaction with your child and find yourself wishing you’d handled it differently? Lately I’m finding myself in this situation a lot with my four year old, "Little G".
For example: a few days ago, Little G had a complete meltdown because when she asked for another child in the family, I said no.
“But it’s not fair!” G crossed her arms, wrinkled her nose and yelled out her protest at the top of her tiny, but healthy, lungs. Then the tears began to flow. “I want someone else to be the smallest,” she continued. She stomped her feet and kept her eyes on mine to see if she would get a reaction.
Truth be told, she does have a younger sibling... D is 14-months younger than she is, but because she is such a peanut, her bro is a couple of inches taller than she is and at least 3-5 pounds heavier.
Now on any given day, G tends to suffer through at least six or seven monstrous injustices. Each of these is met with the level of drama she believes to be appropriate, meaning as much as drama as she can possibly muster. So when I didn’t rise to her bait on the topic of bringing another child into the family, she took it to the next level: her mouth opened and her eyes screwed up tight, she dragged herself from the kitchen, into the living room and let loose full-throated wails of misery.
No, I didn’t give a millimeter on that new child thing.
Later, however, after G had gone to bed, I recalled her complaint and I empathized. Not about the request itself, which is obviously not her decision (!), but about the feelings that led to it. I can imagine that it must be tough to always be the smallest in the family, the least competent in many areas (when compared to her 3 older sisters), the one who gets scared more easily than anyone else, and so on. When I had the chance to think about it, I could see that being in that position day after day would be difficult and G might actually deserve some sympathy and TLC to make her feel better.
But G got neither sympathy nor TLC from me. Instead, she received a show of complete indifference, because her method of delivering her message was so obnoxious, so rude, and so oft-repeated that I couldn’t get past it to see the legitimate, hurt feelings behind her attitude.
What’s wrong with this picture? Aren’t I supposed to be the grown-up here?
As I’ve mentioned before, G is a bona-fide drama queen who can over-emote in any situation, turn ANY minor mishap into a volcanic, lava-strewn, the-world-is-ending, Armageddon situation. She’s got the whole adolescent thing down-pat already and she isn’t even five yet. (When I say that I’m terrified of her tween and teen years, I’m probably understating my feelings.) In short, she launches into her the-world-is-ending routine and I tune her out, over and over again.
I guess I need to reconsider how I am handling these situations. My daughter’s having the temper-tantrums, but I need to do a better job, too. I’m the grown-up; damn, now I need to act like one...