Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Out of Character

Audrey threw a huge tantrum last night before going to bed.  She didn't want to brush her teeth (nothing new), and then wanted to play with her cell phone instead of sitting down to read books.  Instead of listening to me as I asked her repeatedly to pick out a book, she walked over to the diaper pail - the place she knows grosses me out - and began hitting it with her cell phone.  I would not have put it past her to try to lick the diaper pail just to get a rise out of me.  After I counted to 5, a smile on her face the whole time, I took the cell phone and brought her away from the pail so we could read books.  She rebelled.  In the throws of her anger, she lunged and bit my thigh.  Then she landed in timeout.

The tantrum that followed must have gone on for a solid 30 minutes.  This is out of character.

When the tantrum first started, Sean didn't want her in the bedroom, citing that he would not be able to fall asleep with her screaming and crying like that. We removed Audrey from the bedroom to give both kids some space.  Later Sean began complaining because Audrey wasn't in the room and therefore he couldn't fall asleep without her.  Did he not still hear the screaming coming from downstairs?

Audrey refused both attempts by me and Tom to console her, rather choosing to get a blanket, throw it in the middle of the play room in the basement and lash away at it with her tears.  Where our dear Cito usually wants to be coddled and hugged during one of these tantrums, she preferred her distance.

The whole day had been like this - she screamed and yelled at the YMCA because I wouldn't carry her up two flights of stairs, through the lobby and out to the car.  She threw herself on the floor of the bathroom (again, a spot I assume she knows grosses me out), and then when Sean and I walked away, trying to get her to follow, she would scream and cry so loud that many of the retirees thought she was wounded or lost.  A handful of people tried to speak with her - she ignored them - and another handful got worried looks on their faces thinking she was searching for her lost mother.  Oh no, that's just the sound of her stubbornness.  I wasn't ever farther than 15-20 feet away, but she screamed like a member of her family had just gone missing.

Our usual tricks didn't work - like the walking away and trying to get her to follow - or the surefire hit: getting Sean to walk back to where she is, take her hand and gently lead her to where we want her to be.  She was having none of it.

So the next day, when I returned from my workout to pick the kids up at the YMCA, I was dismayed but not shocked to find Audrey in time out.  As soon as she saw me, Audrey started shouting, "I want to go in the gym!" and she soon broke down into tears.  The staffer releasing Audrey to me pulled out an incident report - a small piece of paper that I've seen handed to other parents before.  It was a recount of why Audrey had been removed from the gym not once, but twice, and why she'd been put in timeout twice: she had pushed another child.

YMCA woman: From what I know of Audrey, this is not like her.

me: Yeah - both today and yesterday have been hard days for Audrey.

YMCA woman: I have kids myself, and sometimes when a child is about to make a developmental leap forward they take a big step back.  Two steps forward, one step back?

me: Yeah, I've heard that before.  Let's hope that's it.

Today when I picked her up from the YMCA, I asked how she'd done, and the child care staffers said she did great.  I was so pleased, and I told Audrey so.  We'd had many conversations building up to the YMCA visit, talking about different ways of dealing with sadness or anger than pushing or hitting other kids.  She gave lip-service to understanding what I was asking of her.  And then I felt heartened to hear that she had survived well during the 90 minutes I was away.

me: Audrey, I'm so proud of you!  You had a good day at Kid's Stuff!  Did you have fun?

Audrey: Yeah!  (pause, then earnestly) I still pushed a kid.

me: You did?!

Audrey: Yes.

me: Why did you push a kid?

Audrey: I can't 'emember.


Audrey will often tell us that she's had a bad dream.  This doesn't happen in the middle of the night, but rather she nonchalantly brings it up at breakfast.  She's pretty matter-of-fact about it:

Audrey: (between bites of cheerios) I had a bad dream.

me: Oh, really? I'm sorry to hear that.  What was it about?

Audrey: A spider was kiwwing joos.

To the untrained ear, this could be interpreted as "A spider was killing Jews."  And the first time Tom and I heard her say this, we were a bit troubled.  Was our daughter's mind being infiltrated by the Nazis??

me: I'm sorry, what?  A spider was what?

Audrey: Kawwing jooos.  Big, big jooos.  And milk.

Ahhhh, so we're talking about liquids!

me: A spider was carrying juice?  And milk?

Audrey: (gravely) Yeeess.

Spider killing jews.  Spider carrying juice.  No matter which way you slice it, it's a strange dream.  She mentions no other dreams to us besides this one, and it crops up at least once a week.  If the first interpretation were true, that would be so out of character - I'm not even sure she knows what it means to kill someone.  And certainly not in a genocidal way.  But after the events of the past two days, I'm beginning to wonder.  The best we can hope for is that her spider is either carrying juice, OR that she has a streak of social justice in her - being worked out in her dreams.  In that sense, it would be Audrey's place to go up and push the spider for killing those Jews.  That hitler spider!  And she should be pushing the spider - she should be standing up for Jews everywhere!  And in that world - where Audrey reigns as defender of justice - she wouldn't be put in timeout.  Perhaps the developmental milestone she's approaching has to do with her accepting her super human powers to prevent Jews everywhere from discrimination and death.  Either that or she's just 2 going on 2.5, rebelling against the beginning of potty training, sensing the birth of baby #3 soon, and just being herself.