This rough patch, however, delivered us into different terrain. Without a pause, we had left the suburbs for…What? Off-roading in the wrong vehicle, with towering bramble hedges, hostile natives, and a high potential for ambush. To be fair, on my daughter’s end, there’s probably new construction underlying – and fueling – most behaviors. I DO know that a lot of our emotions must be listened to and then also grown and shaped by our peers and elders – and ALSO that preschoolers are often “trying on” emotional ways of being. But it’s disquieting when a person shorter than a yardstick seems capable of contempt and menace. In short, one of the few highpoints from the week was doodling the following Venn diagram:
|"Our daughter's in the center, right?"|
- “If you do not do [X ridiculous thing], I will take your skin off”
- “No YOU just don’t REMEMBER because I’m SMARTER THAN YOU”
- Silent, grim plotting [inferred]
- Sitting on top of a play structure, chortling, while the girl she has pushed to the ground cries. Glances triumphantly at father, as if he will share the moment.
In truth, the following proportions may be more accurate:
Yesterday evening* I was driving her home from preschool. *Also from a couple weeks ago.
"Sooooo," she begins from the darkness of the backseat. I turn down the radio. "I was thinking: tomorrow we could go to gymnastics."
"Gymnastics won't be open, but they have a lot of ice?"
"So we could go and skate on it."
"Hmmm. Well ~~"
"Oceane [preschool classmate] says I'm not ice skating, I'm SLIPPING. But I can ice skate, so we could~~"
"Is there actually an ice rink?"
"~~No but there's a lot of ice and it's cold. And Daddy [principal ferryman to gymnastics] doesn't believe that I can ice skate. He doesn't want me to be in the parking lot. So I have to TRUST him and show him so he believes it. You. And Me. And Daddy, we can all go."
"So usually when people ice skate, they wear special shoes?" I steer and make eye contact with her through the rear view mirror. "And they have metal blades on the bottom and so you wear them and go along, wooooosh in them, across the ice--" I make weird slicing motions with my hands and arms.
She peers at me. "Maybe. But I don't think so."
Oh the certainty~~! Part bluster, part wish. Or verbal doodling. Maddening, but fascinating. The first couple times she professed an enthusiastic love for something i just cooked, I relaxed into pleasure, ready to file the recipe into the child-friendly section of my mind. And then, less then two bites later, she sniffed:"Actually, I don't really like this. What are my other choices?" Wait, whaaaat? I have given up on trying to debate that one. It seems like she has warm up reactions, or specific faux-social reactions that she tries on; then abandons. And where does the true preference reside? I suspect she knows a small portion of the time, but she's game for playing whatever the role demands.
In any case, we have thankfully -- if mysteriously -- swung back to a more pleasant part of the behavioral spectrum. Whatever, however, we'll take it! She turned four on Monday (!!!) and so far, she is pretty much like a 3 year old, but more cake-filled, and armed with a Frozen bike.
Favorite snippet from this morning, while out on her scooter. Two larger dogs lunge at their fence, across the street, as we draw level to their house.
PS [shouting]: "WHAT...ARE YOUR NAMES??" They bark at us.
PS [to me]: I think they are saying, in dog, 'WE DON'T KNOW WHAT OUR NAMES ARE, BUT WE ARE DOGS'"
ME: Or maybe they're saying, 'HEY, don't come in our backyard! This is our house!' Because dogs tend to be very protective and they don't know us.
PS [pauses then shouts]: I GET IT!
PS [to me]: I was letting them know I understand and we won't come over.
Me: Ohhh, okay.
PS [shouting over her shoulder]: WOOF! WOOOF, WOOF!!
PS [to me]: I was trying to say goodbye, in dog.