I think it will kill me. Year four that is. Why was I warned about terrible twos? It's nothing compared to the pre-Madonna super teen that is roaming and ruling my household these days. When did my sweet little baby girl turn into uber teen smarty pants, and we are NOT QUITE FOUR??? God help me figure this out before the PMS teenage years, where there will be some serious breakdowns, and I'm betting they will be mine and mine alone.
Caitlin has fallen somewhere between scared of the dark toddler and toddlers and tiaras. If I didn't know any better I would swear she turned 13 overnight. The only things that come out of her mouth these days are "NO", "I don't want to", and "I can't". It takes more than a couple of deep breaths to keep my hands to myself. My biggest challenge is I don't know where it's coming from. The tone she carries in her voice, the sass, the snark and moxy if you will. Yes, I know I'm queen of snark and sarcasm. I'm sure I'm at fault. Actually I know I'm at fault, and I think that's why I'm here confessing my sins.
I've been told that the biggest issue with Caitlin is lack of attention. Not enough attention from me. I'm not going to deny this, as it is absolutely true. Since Mackenzie's arrival, my time has been manipulated. I miss Caitlin something awful. I've lost a huge part of my relationship with her. It's like a ghost limb that I continually pine for. For almost 3 years it was just the two of us. My partner in crime. I was her comfort. Some kids have dolls, loveys, or blankies, Caitlin had me. I feel it's lost now. She has to rely on Daddy now. She does rely on her Dad and while it's not a bad thing, it's not my Mommy best. I'm guilt ridden because there were days early on in Caitlin's life that I would hope and pray that one day she would be more independent of me. Be careful what you wish for.
I'm also sure that my frustration with my almost four year old has to do with the level of expectations I put upon her. Is it realistic to expect her to pick up all her toys and put them away? Use the potty completely alone? Get her own snack? I'm not so sure these days...
Think back to your own four year old self. I did that in reflection the other day. I haven't discussed it with my mother, but I'm pretty sure I had ZERO expectations put upon me. If I remember correctly I was mostly expected to play with my Strawberry Shortcakes, wear clean clothes, eat my food, and play outside. I don't remember real chores. I remember having to be good in restaurants, but I'm pretty sure that's the extent of it.
Is it any wonder that Caitlin is completely rattled at the fact that I expect big things from her? Get dressed! Put on your shoes!! Eat your breakfast!! Hurry up! Pick up that mess! All while I'm carrying/changing/coddling her baby sister. I'd be pretty pissed off too! Does the phrase "That's My Mommy!" sound familiar?? I'm always so wrapped up in Mackenzie that I forget that sometimes Caitlin needs me. All she needs is some good solid attention. These days most of my attention is yelling and screaming, because she is mostly being obnoxious so I'll take notice.
My great expectations also come from the fact that Caitlin can not only unlock my iPhone and email my entire phone book, but she has also downloaded apps, called my friends in speed dial, and found Yo Gabba Gabba on YouTube for her sister. Is it any wonder that I expect her to dress herself, wipe her own butt, and fold laundry. Ok, so I don't expect her to do laundry, but if she can use an iPhone, shouldn't everything else follow suit??? I'm pretty sure if I asked her to Google cake pops, she would not only be able to tell me how to make them, but give me tips and suggestions on how to decorate them.
Greater expectations go hand in hand with those of her peers. So and so's kids sleep alone. So and so's kids sleep through the night. So and so's kids write their own blog. So and so's kid is campaigning for Obama. Some of those are a joke, but you have overheard other parents and then shrink in the background because your kid just learned how to identify the number 5. How can she still be afraid of the dark? Why is she still sent into an emotional breakdown when her favorite show is over? Why can't she write her own name? I don't know why, but I know other kids are doing it.
As I navigate farther into motherhood I'm growing more and more weary of the question "What is Caitlin doing", translation "What activities and classes is Caitlin enrolled in?". I'm having a hard time reminding myself that Caitlin and her peers are only four, when one is enrolled in French, the other in jazz ballet, and the third in semi-competitive soccer. I'm always biting my tongue. I want to tell them that while I'm sure that French is going to come in handy when the French invade the US (HA HA); but while their child is studying the days of the week in French, my daughter build a space ship and space suit out of old pamper boxes and a metal mixing bowl. So is the question do I want a McGruber or a Rhodes Scholar?
I'm trying to reevaluate my expectations. I'm only 3 days since my layoff this season, and I've already quit this mothering job twice. I don't want to yell the day away. I want a child with a little less snark and a little more happy. It's my job to make sure she is well adjusted and polite. So how do I focus my efforts to make sure my darling girls isn't cast on Jersey Shore season 25?
In a fit of self loathing, I was discussing this particular situation with a very good friend of mine. She reminded me that we were all brats at four years old. We were brats most of our lives. Bratty, demanding and self centered until our lives stopped being about ourselves and started being about someone else. Good point. She then reminded me that just because my daughter is demanding and bratty doesn't mean I've thrown my hands up in defeat. If I had given up, I wouldn't be so worried. Another really good point.
My mother in all her infinite wisdom of raising a bratty, independent, sarcastic child (yes, yours truly) summed it up perfectly. At four years old we are just beginning to realize that we have choices. Just like Mommy and Daddy have choices. Example: Will you take out the garbage? Sure, in a minute. Said garbage is still sitting an hour later. It was a question, it was answered, and the person who asked gave the other person a choice. It's no wonder that when I ask her to get dressed she says "Maybe later" or "I don't want to", she's used to observing choices. Now comes the real challenge in teaching not everything is up for discussion or debate.
So far we have had just a few issues this morning. We didn't want our usual breakfast choices, so we had pop tarts. We didn't want to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates, so we watched Little Bear. One minute I'm talking to a teenager and the next, she just hit her head on the kitchen table and is crying for her Mommy.
Four is the land of contradiction. A little person at the cusp of being independent. A little person still yearning for affection and attention. Four is going to be both a challenge and a blessing. Four is going to be frustrating and fantastic.
If you need me I'll be in the land of contradiction. You can find me there, just take the exit that says: "My baby isn't a baby anymore".