While cruising down 196th, a song by P!nk came on the radio called “Please Don't Leave Me,” which is about a horribly dysfunctional adult relationship. That particular day for some reason, the thought occurred to me to imagine that it was one of my children singing the lyrics to me, instead of P!nk. “I don't know if I could yell any louder/ How many times have I kicked you outa here?” Wow! It was like P!nk was singing about a tantrum. Can you picture your child's bedroom door slamming after your simple request to flush the toilet?
“How did I become so obnoxious? / What is it with you that makes me act like this?” I don't have a teenager yet, but I bet that particular line would appeal to parents who do. It is hard to look at my 3-year-old right now in her tutu, cowboy boots and tiara and imagine her turning into a 16-year-old with a nose-ring and pink hair, but if that day ever comes there will be yelling involved.
I am sure you are already familiar with the reality of kids moving through developmental stages. To me this has always meant that kids are supposed to act like brats sometimes because it's in their job descriptions, right next to: “Drive Mom and Dad crazy!”
There are lots of behaviors that are pathological in adults, but perfectly normal in children. A 50-year-old who strips naked and runs down the street shouting “Eureka!” is a weirdo. A 2-year-old who does this in the middle of the Little Gym is just high-spirited and in need of a time-out. It is typical for 12-year-olds to allow their bedrooms to become minor disaster zones. But if your neighbor's front door was blocked by rotting laundry you would be concerned.
Then there's the issue of tantrums. A 40-year-old channeling P!nk and cursing out her husband might need counseling. However, a 9-year-old saying mean things to his mother requires some natural consequences and … fourth grade. The next time a tantrum strikes in the Bardsley household, I'm going to picture my kids wailing into microphones like pop stars. Maybe that will help.
If raising children means filling your home with little human beings who are working through some pretty serious mental stages, where does that leave us as parents? Knowing about normal childhood development never seems to make dealing with it any easier. I'm sure I'm not the only mom who has stayed up late at night worrying, “What if this isn't just a stage? What if my child never grows out of this?” And heaven forbid, “Was I like this when I was little?”
Oh crumb. This parenting stuff is hard.
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.
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