A lot of parenting, I have found, rests on faith that your actions now will pay off later. This is certainly true in the early going (which is the only part of the going I have personal experience with). Preschool children can be little monsters. They don’t listen. Sometimes they don’t sleep. They don’t eat (but they would if you just had whatever you ran out of yesterday). They throw fits that can go on for hours.
It’s a challenge.
I had heard that something magical happened between four and five. The word that kept coming up was “reason.” As in, “They become more reasonable,” or, “You can finally reason with them a little.” I had my doubts, but I was hopeful.
Our oldest, Simone, has been difficult at times. I haven’t made a secret of that here on the blog. But there’s also always been this wonderful child lurking beneath the surface of the fits. She’s always been very empathetic. If someone is upset, she tries to cheer them up (and she’s pretty good at it). She (usually) shares. She’s very curious and intellectually engaged. But, yeah, she can throw a fit if she doesn’t get what she wants.
Then, a few weeks ago, something happened. She’d been going through a rough patch. Lots of fits. Not listening at all. Basically, doing the thing kids do periodically where you end up questioning every choice you’ve ever made as a parent. And then, it stopped.
If I was a believer, I’d be tempted to call it a miracle. It’s not that she never thows fits now, but they are much rarer and much shorter and generally easily explained by hunger or tiredness. Her self-control is a lot better. She helps with her brother. She helps (in her way) around the house. We were cleaning recently and she spent half an hour scrubbing crayon that her brother had scribbled onto a window. She volunteered for this job.
And now, it’s Christmas time. I have always loved Christmas and since Simone was born, I’ve been looking forward to that age when it would be as magical for my kids as it was for me when I was little. Last year was great because she was three and a half and it was the first year she really, really got it (she had spent the previous Christmas figuring it out as it happened). She knew what was coming and she was excited. But she was still pretty high-maintenance and toddler-y at times. But this year, I don’t even know how to explain it. I just can’t imagine anything more – to use a term I normally scoff at – heartwarming than my daughter right now.
Transcript for the preschooler disadvantaged: Dear Santa, Thank you for bringing me presents. *picture of reindeer* *picture of heart* Love, Simone. Thank you. It’s Christmas time.
Under “For Me” – Pictures of stroller, dragon Legos, doll. Under “For James” – Picture of Winnie the Pooh.
She is excited about everything. She was excited to get the Christmas tree and REALLY excited to decorate it. She was actually helpful with it this year, too. Yesterday, we wrote her letter to Santa. It took more than an hour (she is four), but she was so, so, so excited to put it in the mailbox when it was done. Last night, of her own volition, she made a sticker and ribbon collage to leave out for Santa on Christmas. She will periodically stop whatever she is doing to go look at the Christmas tree. Every night before bed, we count the days until Christmas. Last night, obviously, it was 24, and at the end she said, “That means Christmas is going to be here really fast!” For a few nights, she had trouble falling asleep, but she’s really calmed down now and goes to sleep quickly to speed the arrival of the big day.
It is everything I wanted parenting a small child to be. And it has come at the perfect time as her brother, formerly the sweetest baby in the world, has recently entered the limit-testing 18-24 month stage which he has supplemented with constant teething.
That also has been good for us, I think. Since he was born, James has been very sweet and it was impossible not to think of him as “easier” than his sister, but everything in childhood is a stage and that stage has ended for him. Which is fine. We’ve done this before, so at least it isn’t a surprise.
Parenting is hard. Sometimes, you question your choices, but this year, we’re seeing some of the payoff. Our daughter is happy and kind and she’s turning into an awesome little person and she’s going to make me cry one million times between now and Christmas and then… Christmas morning.
I might be as excited as she is.