Monday, January 12, 2009

Four is the Magic Number

Oh it's been preschooler drama central here for the past few weeks, and I am beat-down exchausted from it. There's nothing clinical going on, mind you, just the normal developmental challenges of being four (and 36...).

To wit, when kids are really little they are afraid of tangible things: dogs, darkness, clowns, whatever. When they hit the 4-5 mark, they are now afraid of imaginary things. If they can imagine it, they can be scared of it, even if it is the most ludicrous-sounding thing to an adult's ears. My child has been having issues at bedtime because she is worried that our house will blow down, or barring that, that a monster ("in an invisible costume so you won't see it") will come in and take her.

Where do you even start to manage that (totally normal but) illogical fear? I've figured out through trial and error and massive sleep deprivation, that it's a combination of straightforward explanation (come and push on this wall with me, it doesn't move and it can't move) and letting her use that same imagination to gain control over the fear (let's sprinkle magic fairy dust around the house just to be double-sure that a monster--in the extremely unlikely event of it a) existing and b) entering our home--cannot touch anything or anyone in this very safe, solid and not-falling-down house.) We're getting there, but I'm sleep-deprived in the meantime.

(In fact, our New Year's Eve was the eve that wasn't, since that was the night Bambina decided to throw down and scream and cry for about an hour because we would not go and sleep in her bed with her. It was a nightmare. She's at the top of the stairs crying/screaming. I'm in the kitchen crying after she yelled, "Mama! You ignoring me! I am so angry at you! [and then the killer:] I don't feel loved anymore!" The BBDD, bless him, was trying to maintain his own sanity in the face of the insanity of the two females in the house. It was a nightmare of an evening even though I pulled myself together after the shock of being told by my child that she did not feel loved, when I reminded myself that this child has every indication in the world that she is loved, not the least of which is that we both spent a collective 90 minutes trying to work her through her emotions until we realized that this was something she was just going to have to do and we were just going to have to let her do it--without giving her the desired payoff. Total effing nightmare--made much worse by the realization that we are so screwed if this presages her teenage years. But made better by her humor the next morning (after I very seriously told her that Mama and Dada love her more than they love anyone or anything else in the whole universe--but that's not the same as acceding to her every demand--and also congratulated her on using such great words to tell us she was angry), when she smiled at me slyly and said, "Yes, but when you don't do what I say next time, I'm pretty sure I won't feel loved again," and started laughing.

At the same time as her fears and emotions, her imagination is so wonderful. Last night she asked me why we draw hearts like that when that's not what a real heart looks like. Then as we were doing extra kisses and hugs post-fairy dust sprinklage, she asked, "What do kisses look like?" She also awakens every morning in the personage of an animal in a pet shop that I must buy before she will get out of bed. The deal is that I buy her and take her home to meet my Dad who will make her breakfast. It sounds straightforward enough in writing, but it's a whole script of what qualities I'm looking for in the pet, e.g, must be funny and sweet and love to run in the backyard, and it just goes on and on. Every day she is a dog, a horse, a sheep, whatever. Every day. It's wonderful, but not so wonderful that I don't find myself thinking, "Oh god, every damn day I have to visit this pet shop!"

She's also really into writing her own words, which is another wonderful window into her mind. Again with the fears, she wrote and illustrated a book called "Trapped" in which "Girl with her father hunting in the woods. They saw a lion. They camp in the woods with a tent. It was midnight, it was dark, it was spooky. It was so spooky that they could not find their way home. They found their way home. They were SO HAPPY!!!!!" We obviously helped her with that writing, but last week she wrote the following all by herself, again on another "book" she was creating, entitled:
"Some personis gona readth is bookto me." In some ways she seems like a teenager and in others she's still very much a baby, which is the essential challenge of being 4.

It's also a challenging time because kids this age are struggling to understand time. I read something about it that really put it in perspective for me, in terms of ensuring you don't spring stuff on your kid: "Imagine living in a world, every day, where you had no idea what time it was, what was coming next, when you'd eat, when you'd go to bed, until someone told you it was time to do it right now." Eeek. That's a pretty stressful existence--which was the author's point. So I'm trying to do a better job of really answering her question when she says, "When is bedtime?" at 3pm, and trying to give her some sense of what 4 hours feels like rather than just saying, "not for a long time yet!" And trying to structure our early evenings to give her a daily dinner-bath-bed routine that is absolutely sacrosanct so she can start powering down for bed and preparing for the separation of bedtime. Which, come to think of it, might make nighttimes easier and less scary.

So now that you've read this blog, you can have a snack, then play in the snow, then I'll cook dinner while you draw, then have a bath and then you can go to bed. :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are a good mother, doing all the research so we don't have to!