Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I guess it was bound to happen

Yesterday, I think I broke Alyce's heart, just for a moment. And I died a little inside, just for a moment.

It would be the understatement of the century to say that these past five weeks on my own with the girls have been, at times, really difficult. There have been plenty of wonderful moments, just the three of us, but my lack of sleep and worn-thin patience sometimes make these occasions difficult to appreciate. Lots of things are harder without Matt: bedtimes, running errands, getting out of the house, answering all 120,345 questions, and let's be honest, foot rubs are just not the same when you do it yourself. Oh Matt, when will you return? (In three more sleeps!)

Alyce has changed a lot in five weeks and I think Matt will really notice the differences. Her imagination is more vivid (or maybe she's just bossier in the expressions of said imagination--No, Mama, YOU'RE the big bad wolf coming to my castle and you MAY NOT huff and puff until the crown has been saved from the dragon fairy), she can completely dress herself (though she usually chooses not to), and if you look closely you'll notice the tiniest freckles sprouting on her cheeks, and some green showing up in her eyes. But you'll also notice that a new kind of tantrum erupts when you are unsuccessful in reading her mind (of course she wanted you to stand on her left and not her right), and that she's taken defiance to a whole new level.

Oh, defiance, why do you taunt me so? I don't even know where to begin. I know every how-to book will remind me that three is all about pushing limits and testing boundaries, but it doesn't matter how much I know that to be true. In the moment, in that simplest act of pure evildefiance, I lose my head. I am quite capable of understanding (see how I'm empathizing, parenting books?) how it's sometimes too much for a three year old not to grab that paintbrush and paint the white wall purple. All that drippy, gooey, bright purple paint is too much to resist. I get it, the first time. But when it has been explained to that particular three year old (I'll call her Schmalyce) that she may not use her Nana's paints to decorate all the rooms in the house, and then she goes and does it two more times before the end of the afternoon, I am incapable of understanding. What could possible provoke this kind and usually well-behaved child to such behaviour? And where does that look in her eye come from?* Seriously, can someone tell me? And can someone tell my mum, who is still trying to cover up the purple paint in my bedroom? Thanks.

So today, after so many trying weeks of this new kind of Super-Defiance, I wasn't very kind to Alyce. I should have been more sensitive to this little girl who was missing her Papa. I should not have said to her that Papa would be disappointed in her for continuing to purposefully crumple up her Papa's new print. She found it in a box, began squishing it up in her hands and just wouldn't stop, no matter how many times I told her to stop. She's old enough to understand now that Matt and I do not like certain behaviour, and to know that we expect certain things, but it's not what I told her that I regret, but that I chose to tell her this right when she's missing her Papa so fiercely. The knowledge that I've disappointed someone is one of the hardest things for me to face (like, ahem, when you quit your PhD), and I should have known better than to tell a three year old girl who desperately wants her Papa back home that he's now disappointed in her. And those tears that instantly poured down her little cheeks, and the sobs that came out, screeching Papa doesn't love me now, are totally and completely my fault. I'm such an ass.

I immediately explained that Papa would be disappointed by her behaviour but that he loved her very much, and that we always love her no matter what. I looked into her eyes and told her that she mattered to us more than anything.  I could tell that she believed me, and in five minutes we were smiling and chatting about dragons or magic wands or something equally important, but those few moments were hurtful. I wasn't intending to hurt her feelings, but I wasn't careful with them either. I'll forgive myself eventually because I know deep down that no parent is perfect, but I really wish it hadn't happened. I've been given this gift with Alyce, an opportunity to spend time with a truly magical girl (actually, I've been given two of these little creatures, but the other one, Shira I think her name is, often sits quietly on the sidelines while all of this is going on. But you'll see her in the photos I took today, so you know she's very much here), and I hate when my impatience makes me a jerk. Yup, it was a jerky thing to do.

We went on to have a lovely, regular run-of-the-mill three year old day, filled with more shrieks and tantrums than I'd like, but also filled with giant belly laughs over dinner and a late-afternoon dip in the pool, in spite of my jerkiness. But I think we're both going to bed tonight counting sleeps until Matt comes home.

P.S. Last week we moved into our new place and I've been without reliable internet since Thursday. I guess you can tell that I've been missing you, blog. Seriously, when will I stop typing? And thank you, cable guy, for making my life whole again.

* I know the look comes from her knowing how crazy this drives me--it's a mix of surprise (as in, I can't believe I actually pulled this off) and evil genius. And I also know that if I didn't react, she would no longer do these crazy things. But if you know how not to react, please do let me know.


  1. Ah, honey. I have lost my shizzle with Ben more times than I care to admit. Sometimes, when all else fails, you're left without an option.

    And although it completely stinks (complete ass, yes - jerky, you betcha) if, I tell myself, he is able to extract a lesson from witnessing Mammy When She's Really Cross then maybe it's okay.


    If it helps, I'd bet my last penny that if I asked Alyce, "What do you remember about yesterday?" it isn't going to be about what you said. You *know* it's going to be something about princesses. :-)


  2. I'm with Mammy P. above. Whenever I lose my "parenting-cool" and there are hurt feelings, there is always this that comforts me... My son is learning that even in really loving relationships there can be some amount of conflict, that conflict can be resolved, that we can recover from hurt feelings and move back into usual loving-mama-loving-kiddo-groove...

    Your comments about the challenges of negotiating life with a 3 year old reminds me of something funny a friend once said to me when, at the time, we both had three year olds. She said, "The terrible-twos were not so terrible... But the threatening-threes are really difficult!"

    Hoping your tomorrow goes better than today...