Friday, August 08, 2008

The terrible four and a halfs...

I should preface this week’s column by saying I love my son.
He is the light of my life and generally speaking he makes me proud and happy more than he makes me want to tear my hair out and sit rocking in a corner having a wee cry. However at the moment we are experiencing a phase that few and far between parenting manuals warn you about.
We have landed, huffing, puffing and back-chatting into the terrible four-and-a-halfs and boy it makes it terrible twos look like a fun filled afternoon in Bananas.
The child - the son who I have always been impeccably proud of - has turned into a three and a half foot version of Victor Meldrew meets Kevin the Teenager.
Generally I consider myself to be well up on parenting matters, but I was so not prepared for this. I was expecting a glorious final summer with the boy before he started at big school and instead we’ve been spending more and more time issuing warnings, becoming familar with the naughty step and sticking stars on reward charts (or not, as the case quite frequently is).
I’ve had to zip my mouth closed not to make mention that this kind of behaviour won’t be tolerated at primary school as we have been warned not to use the big school as a threat - but the result is that I’m at the end of my tether.
Now when the boy is good - he is very, very good. He remains one of the most affectionate children on the planet who heaps kisses and cuddles on those he loves and is always ready to offer a hug is someone looks upset. He can also contentedly while away happy hours playing with his toys or his friends with not so much as a hint of a whinge.
But when he is bad.... well you know the rest. I wasn’t expecting to deal with the surly response of “Don’t want to. Don’t have to. Not going to. N. O. spells no” just yet. I was hoping to have at least nine years of a nice, lovely, respectable son to look after until that hit.
Nor was I prepared to hear phrases such as “Because I said so” or “Stop whining before I give you something to whine about” coming out of my mouth just yet. I imagined I would stay on my floaty (mostly) calm mammy cloud for another wee while and that we would have spent all spare time this summer skipping hand in hand along the sandy shores of Buncrana Beach or laughing madly as he hurtled down a slide in the playpark.
I suppose I was living in a happy parenting bubble where there were occasional flashes of tantrums and huffs but we more or less got on just fine.
Now I’m told it’s natural and just one of those phase things. I’m told that it’s common for children, just before they start at the big school, to have one major flurry of boldness to push the boundaries and come back from it all feeling reassured that you still love them. I’m told this - but I’ve only been told this in the last week or so.
It seems that this particular phase is yet another one of those parenting secrets that is only divulged on a need to know basis. In fairness if someone had sat me down at the start of this whole foray into the world of parenting and told me exactly, and in graphic detail, what I was letting myself in for I would have run screaming for the hills. Parenthood offers so many surprises that it is most certainly not for the faint hearted.
And yes while it is, for the most part, one of those life choices where the good outweighs the bad there are times when you seriously start to fantasize about it being a job you can take a holiday from. However these joyful little phases, it seems, are something you just have to ride out. But it has given me a glimpse into the teenage years to come and heart is filled with a sort of cold dread.
I remember so well when he was a little tiny baby and mad with colic and generally quite grumpy and I was like the living dead. “You think it’s hard now,” one well meaning ‘friend’ commented, “wait ‘til he’s older. That’s when the real hard work starts.” At the time I resisted the urge to point my puking baby in her direction, but now I think she might have had a point.
With all that in mind, however, it is my job as a parent to guide my child through these storms and remind him, even when he is doing my head in, that I do still love and I will forgive his tantrums and huffs because that is what mammies’ do.
And I knew that before signing up to the whole parenting deal. As many a good Derry mum has done before me, I’m just going to have to take my oil and get my happy child back on track.


Donna said...

Motherhood is definately a sacrifice. You start, thinking about all the good, wonderful moments and memories you'll make with your child, then your hit with the cold splash of reality.
You do everything for your kids, and eventually you realize there is no recognition for good parenting, especially from them.
I think, too, it neither gets easier or harder, the 'issues' just switch according to whatever age group they are in. (sorry if that sounds depressing, I'm just a really be fan of facing reality to help me tackle things).
This time? is no easier or harder than it was when he was an infant nor when he'll be a teen (I think - hope as I think of my own son), it's just the needs have/does shift.
Yea, you're not dealing with all-night whine and puke fests which were exhausting to the point of making you(may I quote) 'the living dead' but do you remember how truly hard that was? Atleast now you get sleep, huh?
This, too, shall pass. Then there'll come a day he'll be an adult, struggling with his own son, and you'll finally get that appreciation that makes it all worth while.
P.S. I hope this didn't sound too depressing, because it wasn't supposed to. I also love my kids, I just know that 'perfect day' will always be fleeting - but therein lies why we love being a mom.

Fionnuala said...

oh the joys, the joys....

FIONA said...

So happy to hear I'm not the only one who has a 4.5 yr old with a Kevin and Perry attiutude!! Worse thing is Ryan has now started copying and he's only 19 mths.aagghh

Keris said...

Yes, yes, yes! We've got the exact same thing! Ours is mostly around bedtime when he freaks out like he's never freaked before. I'd guessed that it was probably a preschool to big school transitional thing, but it's no picnic. Could be a new baby thing too, of course.

Penelope said...

I've just got back from spending the weekend with my nephews, the middle one being 4 and Oh. My. God. can he test the patience of a saint! I'm exhausted! At least I got to drive home though ;o)

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