It goes like this:
Jane: For Keeee-rrriiiissst’s sake, what is wrong with you guys? Do. Not. Fight. With. The. Four. Year. Old!
But do they understand? No.
Flora: Is it too much to ask to not have him pull my hair?
Sean: Is it too much to ask to not have him screech in the car?
Cinder: Is it too much to want my testicles to be intact?
So I try to explain. Of course it’s not too much to ask to have him not pull your hair. It’s a perfectly reasonable request. But how about you just move your head like so, so it’s not within grasp of his crazy little fingers? He’s restrained in the car seat. There’s only so far he can reach. Just… move more to the right.
Flora: But I want to rest my head on the car seat!
Jane: Then he will pull your hair.
Flora: Because he’s evil?
Jane: Because he’s four…
I re-coach Sean through this, again. Yes, it sucks when he screeches in the car. But he’s at this awesome phase that the more of a reaction he gets from you, the more he will do it. Ask him to stop, once… if it doesn’t work, zone out. Don’t pay attention. The more you ask, the more—and with more glee—he will do it. That’s the phase. It should be over in four-to-six months.
Sean: But it’s driving me crazy!
Jane: But you will never, ever win that kind of argument with a four-year-old.
Sean: But you hate it too! I saw you—when we stopped at that red light, you clicked open the door and your hand was on the door handle. I know what you were thinking!
True. I almost leapt out of the car and walked the remaining 4 km home. And there was a blizzard happening, and I was NOT wearing sensible shoes. But it wasn’t just the screeching. It was the combination of screeching-and-counter-screeching… because, see, it always takes two.
Which brings me to…
Cinder: I can’t wait to see how you justify Ender’s incessant assault on my privates.
Jane: Cinder, you do everything to provoke him but tape a “kick me” sign to your groin.
Cinder: A “kick me” sign on my groin? Now there’s an idea…
Jane: I have absolutely no pity or sympathy for you. And I’m becoming resigned to the idea that you will never give me grandchildren. Thank Zeus I have two other children who may continue the genetic line…
I own this: the four-year-old is… exhausting. He is such an amazing combination of exuberance, glee, joy—and utter chaos, destruction, self-centredness and irrationality—that… well, exhausting. There’s no other way to describe it. Chaos personified, joy personified. Love personified, too, but energy draining more often than energy-giving. The mantra that gets me through his most intense moments is pretty simple:
It takes two to fight.
So I don’t.*
Ender: I’m going to pee in my potty, and then I’m going to put it on my head and dance, dance, dance!
Jane: I’m going to start the bath running, then.
And look for the mop.
Caveat: I don’t always succeed. Of course not. Them four-year-olds are wily creatures. And sometimes, they crave the conflict as much as I crave peace. They—or the Ender, at least—will work tirelessly and methodically to elicit a scream. To arouse the Evil-Mommy-Within. To evoke The-Voice-of-Cthulu.
Cinder: Jeezus, Mom, what the hell was that?
Jane: Um… sorry. That was the crazy, I’ve lost all control voice.
Cinder: Wow. Did you ever yell at me like that?
Jane: I can honestly say, No. But, you know, I don’t think it’s that you were any less annoying. I think I had more patience.
Flora: Mom? I don’t think the crazy voice worked. Ender just ran out the front door.
Jane: But it’s -10! And he’s naked!
Flora: He’s also holding a pair of garden shears in one hand and a drywall saw in the other.
Send chocolate. Wine. And the business cards of some good therapists.
P.S. I still want to know what your totem animal is. I’ll collect all the answers in this Friday’s post. The things you will learn about yourselves and your friends… Hashtag #whatsyourtotemanimal if you’re tweeting the answer or respond in comments below the original post, It’s a game: what’s your totem animal? And what’s mine? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to play but keep it all undercover.
P.P.S. I want to ensure none of you construe the above post as parenting advice. To that end, I direct you to Rachel of Tao of Poop’s recent post, Can’t you just stop the parenting advice?
P.P.P.S. For the bloggers in the crowd: last week, my Twitter feed introduced me to Shane Prather, from Whispering Sweetly and her Bloggers Coast to Coast map. It’s a fun idea: you list your blog with her and can use the resulting interactive map as a way to meet local bloggers. Have a peek:
*I will also own that my conflict-avoidance powers are legendary. For better or worse.