Hideous is the only word to describe the ignoring, shouting, bossing and flat out refusal my three-year-old daughter has gotten up to lately. I calmly repeat through deep breaths and clenched teeth: It’s only a phase. It’s only a phase. It’s only a phase. Though, my secret fear is that it might be a personality trait.
Everything is an issue. Like a true warrior, she chooses a different battle ground to practice her craft everyday: food, toilet, bedtime, hair brushing, hot showers, needing socks, not wanting socks, not sitting on the mat at daycare, getting into the car, holding hands near busy streets, tidying up, not tidying up, having her brother read bedtime stories, wanting to be left alone. Apparently, it’s all negotiable and she takes no hostages. I am exhausted.
The worst of it is that my daughter is bright. And beautiful. And about as humble as I am.
I want her to be strong, independent, and confident because I was a timid, painfully self-conscious child, but maybe I should be careful about what I wish for.
Daycare has professionally diagnosed her as “more stubborn than her brother” who they had previously assessed as “the most stubborn kid ever”. I’m not sure whether to be comforted by these monikers (I’m not insane for struggling!) or horrified (Why are they like this?! Who’s genes are these? Good God, we’ve created a monster.).
I look at my vulnerable, red-headed, four-week-old infant and ask, You too?
Maybe, it’s not so bad. A lady behind the counter of an overpriced boutique bunting shop once said, “Well, at least you don’t have to worry about a kid like that.” And she’s right, I don’t because my daughter can look out for herself and cannot be coerced or bribed to do anything she doesn’t want to. This will be good. One day. I do, however, worry about the other kids she comes in contact with and occasionally my own sanity, particularly in 12 years’ time.
I worry for poor four-year-old Luke who, on all fours, my daughter had by the scruff of the neck and was sternly commanding, “Are you going to be a good dog?” Hilarious, but it was not my proudest parenting moment, rocking up to that at a birthday party. (For the record, we don’t even own a dog. Who knows where she learns this stuff! I blame society. And TV.)
Is Sheryl Sandberg right? Do bossy little girls become leaders and CEOs? Does sheer defiance in a kid translate into determination in an adult? Or a criminal record? Tough to call it from where I’m sitting.
My stepson was pretty challenging when I first moved in about four years ago. He was 3 and 3/4 and, as previously mentioned, “the most stubborn child ever” according to the experts. There were tears. Mine mostly.
Now I see a boy who’s confident, compassionate, and surprisingly reasonable about vegetables, bath time, and fetching me water bottles or distracting the three-year-old with stories while I feed the baby. It was only a phase. I take great comfort in this fact.
I just hope the three-year-old’s phase is over before the baby’s starts.