Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Have you met my daughter "Keyser Söze"?

I feel the expression “terrible two” wasn’t a fair warning to what Mike and I were up against with our daughter. I never imagined I could ever feel so helpless, angry, and defeated all at once. What’s worse is that I’ve heard it just gets harder and the “trying threes” (or whatever the horribly misleading name is for that age category) are even more brutal. Don't get me wrong, most times, Isla is lovely. The problem is, quite simply, we just weren't prepared for how quickly and easily she can transform from lovely to evil genius, and then back to lovely. It's truly amazing. 

 For those who haven't watched 'The Usual Suspects' (a great movie from the 90's), the title of this entry won't make any sense. Since I'm not a fan of spoilers, I'll just go ahead and encourage you to watch it. For those who have seen it - yes, Isla is a much cuter, sweeter, and not at all evil "Keyser Söze".

While Isla was screaming bloody murder in the park the other day because she was TERRIFIED to go in the swing she just got out of, a kind mother said that her daughter went through a similar phase. This was a tremendous relief to me as Isla clung to my dress, pulling it down with her death-grip just enough to expose my less than flattering, enormous, nude-coloured nursing bra (It was laundry day, and also all of my bras are scary now).

How on earth could she possibly be this scared of something she was literally just enjoying? Seriously, I needed to know. My brand new mom-friend assured me that her daughter was the same, and had very similar public meltdowns disconcerting enough to seek medical attention for. Apparently when her little girl was Isla’s age (nearing three), she decided the bathtub was petrifying and wouldn’t go in for months.  Again I was relieved because Isla has been showering since Christmas due to her fear of bathtubs, shadows, and worst of all: shadows in bathtubs. Bless this Mom and her ability to instantly make me feel better. She went on to explain that after speaking with her physician, she and her husband were informed that this is especially common with children who are highly intelligent because they tend to over-think things. Well then, it was decided. After hearing that very philosophy weeks earlier from a close friend; this mom confirmed that these wild, unexplained tantrums are simply due to the fact that my daughter is a genius (cue smug expression).

So the next day when Isla decided that she was absolutely beside herself with terror over getting dressed; instead of biting my lip in frustration (the way I keep from launching her out the window), I coddled her. After all, I thought, the poor little genius is just over-thinking the hole in which she’s to put her head.  Sometimes putting a shirt on can feel a bit suffocating; she’s probably just going to require a bit of time and patience with this one, I thought to myself.

This went on for a few days and, while it was getting to be a little much, Mike and I continued to be patient and sympathize with the issues obviously out of her control. “Poor little monkey” we thought. “Hopefully she outgrows this soon” we would say to console each other through our frustration. That is until our good friend “Auntie Cat” came over. Isla’s known her for a very long time, so she tends to not get away with as much. She pulled the same routine she’s been getting attention for over the last few days and, while explaining to Cat that “she’s just terrified of getting dressed”, Isla began to act up slightly worse. This resulted in time out, and a few empty threats of staying home which ultimately just ended up slowing us down and changing our destination to something local (that’s what I get for thinking I could have a nice afternoon walking around IKEA while Isla played in their “daycare”).

Anyway, Auntie Cat stepped up to the plate and, while Mike and I were distracted in the kitchen, attempted to get Isla dressed. Wouldn’t you know; her shirt went on like nothing. No screaming; no tears; no terror. Really? Really??? After all of that she was FAKING it? Amazingly these 'freak-outs' had all been for attention. My hat goes off to her because, evidently, she is quite the little actress. Here we are thinking that we’re this united front, impenetrable to the powers of manipulation, and she’s actually been running the show the whole time. *Sigh*
So a little lesson to my friends with toddlers; apparently they’ve got us figured out. We all knew they were smart, but this is just ridiculous. It seems, much like how a celebrity views publicity, that any attention, good or bad, is still attention. I suppose Isla's officially entered her "it's all about ME" phase. I'm not really sure what to do about it because, up until this point, I thought I was doing everything right (or at least not 'wrong').

I guess all I can do is hope that it doesn't last much longer, and that I have the patience to keep my towel-screaming to a minimum (effective coping mechanism). Oh, and also that the slack-jawed bystanders, who apparently enjoy staring at my family during one of Isla's public meltdowns, actually turn back around and focus on whatever it is they were doing. Gah!

One thing that will always make me feel worse during what I will gently refer to as a "power struggle" is feeling like everyone's watching. Dear society: please stop doing this! We're already having a hard enough time dealing with the situation at hand; the last thing us poor parents need is to feel like we're being judged. I tend to think that the ignorant people forming an audience are childless because no parent, aside from the A-hole variety, would ever make another feel worse during a time like that. If you're going to do anything, a sympathetic "you're not alone" smile will suffice. Or, even better, you can go fetch me a glass of wine, disguised by a take-out coffee cup (in case it's the afternoon); your treat.

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