How can a 5 year old sway the whole atmosphere of our home?
I can still remember the birth of our daughter. It was a long awaited and anxiously, even hyper actively, anticipated day as complications had resulted in the loss of our first child. But thankfully those complications were better-managed by the doctors and our beautiful little girl arrived, healthy and happy, on July 3rd 2012. We watched the fireworks on the 4th from our hospital room window, finally, as a complete family.
It quite literally took me by surprise how sudden the over-protective daddy juice kicked in as I immediately felt a bond that can not be defined towards my little girl. The only way I can attempt to put it into words is that I was immediately wrapped around her little finger and an overwhelming instinct to protect her at all cost cloaked itself on my shoulders.
As we took her home we had so many ideas, and plans, on how we were going to parent our little one and I feel like we have done a great job! She is strong, healthy, smart, and well taken care of. I can honestly say that I am quite proud of our daughter and the way that we have parented her.
Don’t get me wrong here, there are many, many things that I would go back and change if I could. Also, there are so many times that my wife and I fly by the seat of our pants as we spontaneously make up rules, or move forward with a plan that didn’t have a beginning or middle, only an ending we were shooting for.
And then three years later another successful pregnancy ended with a chubby little boy. This was so exciting because we now had one of each! Our family really was a whole with his addition and it was so much fun to see our daughter interact with her baby brother.
How neat it would be for brother and sister to learn from each other and grow together. Each benefiting from the other as they moved up through school and life. Our boy would have a bit of a crush on one of his older sister’s friends. He would learn how to deal with females and become a gentleman as a result. She would have a brother to protect her from jerk boys that chase her in college and learn what it’s like to live with a gross boy before one puts a ring on her finger.
I love being a father more than I ever could have guessed. But I am also surprised daily at how different it is than from what I imagined years ago.
I had such a fun experience the other day with my daughter. It was a Sunday afternoon and we had some time to kill. So, as parents do, I began trying to think of an activity that would be quiet, entertaining for as long as possible, and a good learning experience. So I came up with a plan called: Stop Motion.
I remember my dad doing one of these with us as kids. I can’t remember what the story was, or even what the end goal was. But I remembered the basics and figured I would give it a try.
Basically what you do is come up with what you want your end result to be. In this case I wanted to make my daughter’s toy ponies tell some sort of a story. You then set the scene and set up your camera on a tripod where it has a good view of your scene. It is important that you have a sturdy tripod because you need the angle to stay the same throughout that scene.
Basically you play out the scene with very small movements snapping a photo after each movement. You need a good charge of patience and a methodical ability to foresee the end result as you move the scene forward step by step.
Once you’ve completed the scene, you then piece all of the photos taken (this could easily total up into the 100’s) and paste them together in a quick slideshow that looks like a video. It is really fun and the end result looks as if the ponies are walking around and playing out the scene on their own.
Take a look at our video we titled Thirsty Ponies.
I was surprised at how much attention she was able to give to the story. Of course I had to remind her a few times “small movements” but she really was attentive and patient with the process. I really enjoyed doing it with my sweet little girl and enjoying the final product later that night. The whole thing was just a sweet experience.
Then in the next moment the demon is let loose!!! J5 has this look she gives you when you say something she doesn’t like. She tilts her head down just a bit and forms her mouth and nose into a squished protest of authority. She then looks up at you with a furrowed forehead. The combination of her tilting her head down, furrowing her forehead, and looking up at you presents you with seeing only the whites of her eyes. It quite literally looks like an evil demon child glaring back at you after you have asked her to simply taste the food that she immediately declared as being ‘gross’ as it was being placed before her at the table.
Let’s take the other morning as an example: She is woken up with over an hour’s worth of time to get ready before we need to be walking out of the door. All she has to do is: A- Get changed out of her pajamas into her school cloths, B- Eat breakfast, C- Brush her teeth, and D- Have momma do her hair. That is a list of things that I could literally do in 15 minutes.
So the process begins: She is woken up and instructed to get changed. Now, I have noticed how sensitive my daughter is to discomfort. I don’t know if this is just her or a kid thing in general. But OH MY WORD!!! She will literally get undressed down to her undies, feel a chill, and curl up into a ball on the floor because she is cold. She will lay there in the fetal position, probably until lunch, if she were not prompted to continue getting dressed in order to warm herself up.
And so the prompting begin, “J5 please get dressed”……..”come on, you need to hurry”……and now getting a bit more stern and with more emphasis on each word, “J5, you need to get dressed or you’re going to be late!”. Now the response to the first and second prompt is a whiny-style moan. The response to the prompt that was more stern becomes a, well the only way to describe it is, defiant “stop it” or “okay, I am!”.
This is typically where the demon starts to rise. We have crossed the threshold from kindly encouraging to sternly prompting and we are headed towards threatening. Her response has gone from ignoring to responding with the demon looks and raspy voiced responses in defiance to what we are asking her to do to…..,well, my worst fears.
This particular morning we were rapidly running out of time. She had eaten very little breakfast and was simply laying in front of the fireplace in the fetal position. We were pushing her to get changed into her school cloths. We needed to drive away in less than 10 minutes and my wife and I were becoming exasperated. I then heard words that every man has said more than once comfortably but is an absolute no-no in a woman’s world. She said to me “I’ll just wear these cloths again”.
WHAT!?!?! These were the same cloths she had worn the day before and to bed that night. Now even at the age of 5 she is quite concerned about her appearance and what others think of her (that will be illustrated in a few moments). So when she said she was willing to wear the same cloths for another day that had already been worn for the past 24 hours it blew me away.
But at this point, it’s time to get out the door. So letter C (Brush her teeth) was up next. She went into the bathroom and stood on the chair at the sink looking in the mirror and talking to herself and who knows who else. So the prompting continued and the escalation continued in turn.
After me running a few more of my morning duties and tasks I walked by the open bathroom door to see my day old cloths wearing, bead-headed daughter meticulously applying lip gloss to her lips in the mirror like a super-model getting ready for a photo shoot.
I would like to interject that my wife is not a self-centered, appearance obsessed, woman. She blows me away with her beauty and I recognize every single day that I married up. And not just up a level or so. We are talking about a Mercedes AMG, GT C running around with Ford Pinto wheels and tires on as a partnership. But she does it without needing the best of the best cosmetics, clothing, or salon bills. She is a natural beauty and while getting ready for an important event will take longer than most mornings, there isn’t an obsession with perfecting the details that are already perfect. So this behavior is not a behavior that was observed in our home. That’s just J5 being J5.
At this point it is past time to go. So we are…how do I put this……: ‘encouraging her strongly’ that she needs to get her shoes on and get out the door. Well, her hair hasn’t been done yet and her demons have turned into emotional seagulls. You know that annoying sound a group of seagulls make way too early in the morning while you are trying to sleep in? Well, picture that but in a crying tone.
Then she is told that there isn’t time to do her hair. Yes, that was me, not momma…..momma probably knew better because the dam burst and J5 exploded with emotion. The tears are flowing, the voice is breaking with laments at the top of her lungs, the nose is snotting down her upper lip. Our nearest neighbor is a good half mile away and I bet they heard how bad of parents we were because we weren’t going to do her hair that morning and that’s with her still inside the house!
I wish I could fully explain the moods that she went through within a half hour that morning. The emotional responses are just unreal and the deliberate defiance, disrespectful talk back, and, my biggest pet peeve, the looks!
These looks come after a time-out has been enforced and she has had an emotional come-apart and finally calmed down and you have approached her to let her out. The demon turns and gives you this look that just makes your blood boil. Even when you are trying to play and have fun or take a cute photograph or anything; these looks just appear and it is so aggravating!
The events of that morning and her responses completely altered the mood in our house. You could just feel the contention thick in the air as a result of trying to get a 5-year-old ready for school.
After getting her to school that morning I came to my business, took off my jacket and hung it up along with my keys, and plopped down at my desk. I was at a complete loss at what to do. Being calm doesn’t keep her moving and pushing just turns her into this monster that makes you just want to pull your own hair out while yelling expletives at the tops of your lungs.
And then it hit me: This is a five year old girl. If she is like this now, what will 10 years from now look like???? I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I am not a drinker, but I was ready to run to the liquor store to buy a bottle just so I could take a double shot of Jack with my morning Dr. Pepper.
My daughter would be a teenager someday and I was terrified! Maybe being older will help my patience, maybe my wife and I would be more learned at that point and better equipped to deal with those moments. But what if we aren’t? What will I do!?!
Well, I Googled this ‘fear of teenagers’ and the word is: Ephebiphobia. It is quite literally “the fear of young people or teenagers” according to common-phobias.com. Symptoms include: extreme anxiety, dread and anything associated with panic such as shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, inability to articulate words or sentences, and shaking.
I haven’t experienced all of these symptoms when considering the ramifications of my daughter growing into a teen, but I have experienced anxiety and panic because my parenting skills are being stretched to their limits at the age of 5. Wikipedia flat out states that Ephebiphobia is the “fear or loathing of teenagers.”
While I don’t fear that physical harm will come from a teenager or anything of that nature, I honestly do have a fear of the teenage years and my ability to ‘parent through them.’ My daughter is obviously built much differently than I am. Not only because I am a male and she is a female, but simply the way we react to disappointments, struggles, discomforts, and other hurdles that confront us. Granted, I do have 6 times the experience she does when it comes to these issues, but you can just tell there is a difference in our wiring that makes it hard for us to understand each other in certain areas.
Most of the time J5 is a great little girl. She is kind, caring, and so much fun. I love her with all of my heart and only for the sake of explaining my concerns am I highlighting this behavior of hers. These behaviors are only moments during a day with our little girl. But they do happen and it leaves us fumbling for solutions and dreading the inevitable teenage years. We dread these years because we were teenagers once and we know that the defiance, disrespect, and emotional swings only magnify during those years.
HEAVEN HELP US!
All I know is that I will NEVER forget those feelings I experienced at her birth. I will ALWAYS treasure the wonderful memories we have made and will still make together. I will CONTINUE to love her every day, no matter what that day brings. And I have HOPE that all these things combined will help guide us through those rocky times of the teenage years until we can reach the safe shore of post-teen with a sound and solid relationship in tact.