Friday, September 30, 2011

I'm Going to Dizzyland!

Nope, that's not a typo.  I know how to spell Disneyland.  But I'm talking about a whole other world and it's ruled by my little, blond daughter.

Elizabeth's nickname (her brother gave it to her pretty early and it has stuck) is Dizzy.  Sometimes, it really fits.  She loves to dance in circles, spin in circles, twirl, run in circles... but mostly, she like to keep me running in circles, or so it seems.

Elizabeth is now 2 1/2 and she truly lives HER way in her own little world... Dizzyland, I shall call it.  This is a land where dressing up means changing your costume every 2 minutes, mom should always know exactly what she wants when she wants it, her family and friends should ALWAYS know which Star Wars character she has chosen to be for the day (and ONLY address her thus) and where manipulation is always done in a sweet, yet patronizing way.

1st stop in Dizzyland - Pottyland.  A world where all the familiar tactics, hopes, dreams, bribes, rewards, etc. should be thrown out the window and parents should just hang on to their hats & glasses, 'cuz it's a wild ride kids.  A week or so ago, Dizzy randomly asks to go to the potty prior to her nap.  This is a common stalling technique for her and I have TOTALLY given up on potty training her right now, but I still have to put away some lunch dishes and get William into bed so I think, "what the heck?".  I stick her on the potty, hand her some books and walk away.  When I come back downstairs from putting William down I walk into a rather "smelly" bathroom.  SHE HAS POOPED AND PEED ON THE POTTY!  Now I'm doing a victory dance akin to scoring the last-second-winning-touchdown-after-trailing-the-whole-time-in-the-Super-Bowl and she's nonchalantly staring at me like this is something she does daily.  She continues to use the potty and does the very same the next day.  "WOOOO HOOOO!!" I think, "She's finally ready!".  No dice kids, she stops the next day and wails like I'M the one who started this when I even mention the potty.  So I give up again.  Then 3 days ago she randomly walks into the house from the backyard and announces she would like to use the potty.  Whatever.  I'm trying not to get my hopes up these days.  I stick her on the potty and leave her alone again when I hear Mike go in there and say, "hey hon, you may want to check on her, it stinks in there."  She has done it AGAIN!!!  More victory dancing ensues.  High fives come out.  William gives her a hug and a kiss.  We celebrate.  It continues for a day and stops again.  What the hell?  I give up.  Time for mommy to travel to a new land, because this one is making ME Dizzy.

2nd stop in Dizzyland - Imaginationland.  Forget rabbit holes and wicked queens, kids.  Fantasyland ain't got nothin' on Miss Dizzy and her world.  Now, I had (well, still have) a CRAZY imagination as a child.  I played dress-up non stop.  And I didn't just use costumes or clothes that I had lying around.  Oh no, kids, I DESIGNED the crap I wore.  I pieced together all my mom's old scarves and things and created strange, flowy, colorful garments and then traipsed all over the house in them, inventing stories as I went along.  Apparently, my daughter is like me.  When she imagines, she REALLY gets into it.  She was a princess the other day, as she informed me immediately upon entering the playroom, and  she proceeded to point out and describe the dragon who was apparently besieging our castle.  Not only is her imagination wild, but she HAS to be the director as she is intent upon assigning the parts we all play as well as blocking out where our action is to take place.  When she was the princess and I asked if I was the queen, she informed me (rather indignantly), "you are NOT the queen and Daddy is NOT the king" (geez, Daddy was innocently working downstairs at this time, but apparently she didn't want us laboring under false pretenses).  I was then told  to "stand here" and fight the dragon.  Only apparently I wasn't doing it right because she broke into my play-acting with a barely-masked exasperation and said, "No, no mommy, not like that."  And then she decided my play just didn't measure up at all and switched the game.

And when this girl picks out a character, she doesn't just pick it out for play time.  No, no.  She's that person for the WHOLE day.  Earlier this week she informed William and me that she was "Manakin" (that's Anakin as in Anakin Skywalker and if you don't know who that is, you are not a huge Star Wars geek like me).  The WHOLE DAY, if you dared call her anything else, she would stop dead in her tracks and say "No! I Manakin!"  I'm not kidding.  We were at Tiny Tots (our indoor playground) and had to leave and I'm frustrated with her usual slow and distracted meandering path to our car, so I yell, "DIZ.  Come on!!  I said NOW."  She looks at me deadpan and goes, "Mom, I Manakin!".  So I say, "FINE.  COME. ON. ANAKIN!"  She looks pleased and says, "Okay, Manakin coming."  Then during lunch I tell her "Dizzy, stop playing with your food, just eat."  She raises the fork to her mouth, backs the fork back out and says, "I'm Manakin" and then takes her bite.  "WHATEVER, AN-A-KIN," I spit, "just eat!".  "OOOOOKAAAAAY" she says in her best impression of a surly 13-year-old, "Manakin EEEEEEatingbathtime.  She and William are playing this game where he asks her for a cup of water and she fills his cup only so that he will throw the water back at her and she can laugh hysterically.  They are both laughing hysterically as this cycle repeats itself, but I'm cracking up because each time William asks for the water he's laughing and gasping, "Diz, Diz, can I have more water?" and she's cracking up too and starting to fill his cup, but then stopping and saying, "No, I Manakin!" And will not pour the water.  So then poor William gets frustrated that she's holding up the game and says, "Fine! ANAKIN, can I have more water?" and then she continues to fill his cup like nothing happened.  It KILLED me.

And finally, in her Imaginationland, she must always be in costume.  Now William loves dressing up too, but he only wears one costume.  He's consistent like that.  Picks one, sticks with it.  FOREVER.  Not Dizzy.  She'll ask to be Tinkerbell, decide something is wrong and switch to Cinderella only to melt down and insist that she CAN'T be Cinderella, she HAS to be a Clone Trooper and then rip off that costume and accusingly throw her purple cheerleader outfit at me and then huff that she's "Rapunzel, NOT a cheer-eater" (that's how she pronounces cheerleader and I love it) when I ask if she's decided to be a cheerleader.  Tired, I will tell her to pick a last costume because it's time to prepare lunch or something and we've done two hours of costume changes and she will FREAK out and cry about wanting to return to the Tinkerbell costume we started with.  I swear, this child is just staying up at night plotting ways to rush me to the funny farm.

3rd stop in Dizzyland - Manipulationland.  A subtle world of pretty smiles, batted eyelashes, and clever words meant to turn parents around until they are hopelessly lost.  Now, William not a subtle manipulator. He's that kid who THINKS he is, but isn't.  You know the type to actually say, "wink, wink" when they are trying to trick you.  Not Dizzy.  Nope, this one will smile sweetly and pat you the way you would a crazy relative who you're trying to keep from tipping into sanatorium-grade levels.  My favorite is her current way of getting out of eating something she doesn't like.  Now most children will scream no or fling food or make faces or turn their heads.  Not so my little Dizzy.  When you hold up the offending item, she will very gently place your hand back down, give it a little pat and say, "let's just put this down."  You know, in that condescending way nurses use "let's" when they say things like "let's just try using a LITTLE less morphine today okay?  i think perhaps our pain tolerance isn't so good."  I died the first time she did it.  I was asking her to try some mashed potato and she pushed my hand down twice and when I asked, "What's up Diz?  Do you not like the potatoes, or are you full?"  she looked over at me in that sorry way like she wanted to say "poor mommy, you're just not too bright are you?" and patted my hand.  Then she sort of sighed out a quiet, "let's just put this down."  I think my water came out my nose.   I tried again with another item on her plate, stuffing I think, and she just gently shook her head again pitying her mother's lack of intelligence and said, "let's just put this down."  And the thing is, I was so busy laughing and marvelling at what a strange little creature she is, that I forgot about asking her to eat anymore.  She knows what she's doing, that one, she really does.

Final stop in Dizzyland - Mainstreet Meltdown.  As you are leaving Dizzyland, do not get sucked into Mainstreet for just like Disneyland's Mainstreet where you get sucked into buying something just to escape the labyrinth that is that park,  you will find yourself scrambling to stop a meltdown with heretofore methods you swore you would never use.  Elizabeth has suddenly become the master of turn-on-a-dime-I'm possibly-bipolar-or-practicing- to-become-a-stereotypical-woman-who-always-changes-her-mind FREAK.  It's like living in Tornado Alley and never knowing when that damn twister is going to change course and level your little farmhouse.  Seriously.  It's nuts.  The other day I go to get her when I hear her wake up from naps and she's all smiles and "hi mommy, can I go play?" cuteness.  Yet somehow, in the 10 steps it takes to get to her bedroom to the top of the stairs she FREAKS out.  I cannot understand a word through the bubbling tear/drool/snot fest that her face has become and I finally have to ask her to go to the bathroom or some other place and calm down and return only when she can speak.  She calms down and comes out and when I ask, "are you ready to be nice?  Can you tell mommy what it is you need?" she melts into "I WANT MIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLKKKKK!" and falls to the floor shouting, "Milk! I need milk! I want milk" as though I had refused to give it to her.  And no amount of reassurances that I am indeed completely willing to pour her a glass nor the sight of me preparing the glass will console her.  I completely forget that she has not asked politely and said please as I demand in our house and am lost in the storm that is Dizzy.   Finally, I get relief as she's gone back to some safe spot to finish her tantrum because she now knows that mommy is done tolerating her tantrums.  She may throw them... just not anywhere near me.  And this is nearly a daily experience now.  She's all fine and dandy and then apparently the world turns upside down and right is wrong.  I don't know.  She was LOVING Mike's uncle Rich when he came to visit not too long ago.  She was showing him her costumes, dancing, etc.  And then we're eating lunch together and she looks at him across the table and apparently decides he has been replaced by BEELZEBUB, because she begins her tear/drool/snot fest again and reaches for me in panic.  5 minutes later, when she's done eating, she hops down, runs over and pretends to sprinkle him with "pixie dust" and ask him to fly with her.  He shoots me a quizzical look and all I can do is shrug.  Man, this kid is as much of a mystery to me, dude.  Can't help ya, I'm just trying to find a way out myself.

All this craziness makes me wonder what's around the corner with her.  Congraulations mommy, you've navigated the waters of a crazy 2 1/2 year old.  Where are you going?

I'm going to Dizzyland!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When it's YOUR kid

There are times in parenthood when you observe the behavior of another child and you are thrilled that they are not YOUR child.  As a child melts down in the middle of a store, or goes wild in a restaurant or hits their parents in public, etc.  you are thrilled that it's not YOUR child attracting all this attention.  There's even a little self congratulatory devil sitting on your shoulder bemoaning the obvious parental shortcomings of the other parent and/or mentally disciplining the poor out-of-control child.  The angel on your other shoulder (the one who knows of Karma, cosmic justice and God's wonderful sense of humor) warns you that on another day, that will be you.  To exhibit forgiveness and not judgement, patience and not exasperation, and for-God's-sake to control your facial expressions!

Now there are also times in parenthood when you hear or see something with another child and you WISH that were YOUR child.  You know, when you hear Competitive Mommy Extraordinaire exclaim, "Little Timmy started reading when he was 3" or "Little Mary potty trained at 18 months" and that devil on your shoulder says, "you should be jealous!  what can YOUR kid do?"  Meanwhile, the angel is tsk-tsking and reminding you that all kids do their own special things and grow on their own timeline.

Recently, I had the mind-blowing experience of having my kid be THAT kid on the same day.  Now perhaps I'm tired, worn-out, slightly crazy or all of the above... but I found my mental capacity completely lacking in how to handle both.

Last Friday, as I was dropping William off at school, his teacher pulled me aside.  Uh-oh, I thought, what's this?  But she said, "This is my 8th year of teaching and I have to tell you that in my 7 years of teaching so far, I have NEVER had a kid who reads like William.  He pulled a book off the shelf and read it today and it's a book most 2nd graders can't read!"  She then proceeded to praise his behavior, patience, maturity, etc. and tell me what an absolute pleasure he is to have in class.  I was glowing, walking on air, thrilled beyond belief.  Here was my little boy, a star in school already and not only that, but socially pleasant as well. "Well!" I told myself, "I must be doing something right!"  My child was THAT child today.  The one who could stand out in a good way.  Insert Fate shaking her head here and proceed to our play date a mere 3 hours later.

We're trying to meet some friends at a park exceedingly close to our house (so as not to be too late) but I find myself in the endless leaving-the-house struggle... and it's NOT with Elizabeth.  William is in super-whine mode and is loudly complaining that he didn't get to play with his Legos and wants to be dressed up in his Snake Eyes (from GI Joe) costume.  I point out he woke up so dang early that he got to play with his Legos for a WHOLE HOUR before school, that the Snake Eyes costume wasn't going anywhere and the HE was the one who asked for a play date with his friend Gavin (which is awesome because his little sister Dannika is Elizabeth's age, so this particular family is always fun for play dates).  We finally manage to make it to the park (we freakin' DRIVE because, although it is totally within walking distance, we are now running late).  Luckily, our friend is running later, so I'm calmed down when she arrives.

When our friends arrive and I ask about enjoying our picnic, both of my kids insist they are not hungry (even though they are usually  FAMISHED by this time) and run off to play.  Not long into the play I see William and Gavin at the top of the slide.  Gavin begins to go down first and I see William bodily STOP this larger boy and try to push his way down the slide first.  William is currently (along with most 5 year olds I know) in an I-have-to-go-first phase that is making me CRAZY.  So I call him down, tell him to apologize to his friend and tell him he has to go last now because of his rude behavior.  They play nicely for a while, but hungry grumpies start to set it and William is bitching endlessly that his friend doesn't want to play with him (in truth it's that Gavin doesn't want to play exactly what William is playing, which is apparently a criminal offense in my son's book).  I'm hoping this lunch break is what we need for a smoother play date, so we sit and eat.  Not long after eating and the return to playing I see William and Gavin with arms entangled and the kind of red, rage-filled faces that precede hitting.  So I pull them apart and ask what's up.  Gavin says, "he has my shoe!" and I see that William is, in fact, holding Gavin's shoe and not returning it.  I turn on my son now and seeing my face he launches into, "I was just playing a game!  I wasn't being mean! It's not my fault..." and I hold up THE HAND OF SILENCE.

"Dude," I say.  "I am NOT refereeing all day, do you hear me?!  EVERY TIME you guys play, you argue (Which is, unfortunately for our girls who get along great, true) What have I said about games?  It is not a game if you don't agree to it!  I don't think taking your friend's shoe is a good game and he obviously does not think so either! You return it IMMEDIATELY and apologize!"

"He grabbed me!!!" William shouts and I can see parents' heads turning.

They play for not much longer and I think they are at peace on this rope pyramid thingy when Gavin comes over and says to his mom, "William is spitting at me.  And then he hit me."  Now, I know William didn't hit him because I haven't taken my eyes off of them, but the spitting part gets me. 

"Let's go see what's up," I hear Gavin's mom say, but I'm already on my way.

"William!  Did you spit at Gavin and hit him?"  I ask.

"No!  He's lying!"  William shouts.

"Well, now I've got his word against yours, what do I do?"

He looks at me and says, "I didn't hit him mom, I promise" and I notice he says nothing about the spitting.

"Did you spit?  Why would he say you did?"

"Uummmmm....  I was doing it to myself" (I HATE this answer.  He gives this one a lot when he's caught teasing his sister)

"EXCUSE me?  I don't think so," I fume, "we DON'T SPIT PERIOD.  And there's no such thing as spitting at yourself."

"Well, I was spitting, but he asked me to stop and I did."

"No he didn't!" Gavin interjects... and I'm done.  I'm done for the day.  After such a wonderful morning, to be dealing  with constant refereeing (and the fact that William and Gavin ALWAYS fight when they are together), I. AM. DONE.

"Okay." I breathe, "I'm DONE.  We're leaving."

The kids eyes widen as I walk toward our bags and my friend and all the children realize I'm dead serious.  Screaming ensues.  William is trailing behind me crying-screaming that we can't leave, he's so sorry, he didn't know, this isn't fair, he'll be better, he didn't mean to be so bad today, this is the worst day ever, he was SO good this morning that he's just tired and on, and on, and on.  He is attracting a lot of attention at this point. 

I'm just trying to fight either tears or the urge to hurt my child in public... I'm not sure which.  I'm just impressed that for once I'm not yelling.  I am so angry and embarrassed that I'm actually talking in a voice so low and deep, I hardly recognize it as mine.  I gather my stuff and instruct William to put on his shoes as I get Elizabeth ready to go.  I tell my friend apologetically that I think it's just time for us to leave.  I hate to cut the play date short, but I cannot referee today.  I just can't.  She totally understands and says she agrees it's for the best.  William is sobbing so loudly against this tree that people are looking.  Gavin is now saying that it's okay if William stays and he knows William is sorry and he wants William to keep playing.  I'm torn for a second and then I remember that I TOLD William we would leave.  I have to stick to my word.  I have to show him I'm serious.  And it hurts.

We head home and William is sniffling the whole time.  I send him upstairs and get his sister ready for naps and then I go into his room.  He's totally apologetic and shame-faced and tear-stained and pulling at my heart strings.  I'm remembering my therapists words "remember, he's only 5."  But on the way home I had told him that there would be no stories before naps, we just needed to have a chat.  He starts quietly crying and apologizing and asking can he "please just have one short story."  I know he's truly sorry.  I know it was rough and embarrassing for him and I want to fold.  But I don't.  I give him a hug and a kiss and tell him I love him, but there will be no story.  I remind him that today was HIS turn for forgiveness.  For recently, when a friend had lost a play date, he got cocky and said his friend was "bad" and I told him, "no, he's having a bad day.  We all have good and bad days and we must be loving and forgiving, because sometimes it will be our turn for a bad day and we'll want our friends to forgive us."

"Oh.  Yeah." He remembers the conversation.  He lies down and thoughtfully looks up at his ceiling and as I'm closing his door says, "well, I hope Gavin forgives me my bad day." 

Ouch.  Today was my day.  Today it was MY kid... the good, the bad, AND the ugly.