Something strange has been happening lately.
I am not completely sure how to handle it either.
Over the last several months, there has been another shift in the behavior of my daughter.
I know little girls are supposed to be made up of sugar and spice and everything nice, but lately it seems like the “spice” part is less ginger or cinnamon and more of the Mexican ghost chili variety.
As with most parents, when the need arises to use the word “no” or deny her something she most desperately wants, we do our best to be firm and not give in to the tears or otherwise complete emotional breakdown that follows. And honestly, I think we have done a pretty good job.
I used to always wonder how a parent could let their child just cry and seemingly just ignore the tantrum and move on, but now I understand. There is this certain “parental zen zone” one goes to during these moments and the mind turns screaming and crying into the peaceful sounds of waves crashing on the beach. It takes awhile, new parents, but it will happen.
So, the noises I can handle. What is proving to be a little more difficult to understand are the physical displays of aggression.
I know, hard to imagine from a sweet little 3-year-old girl. Especially the one all of our Facebook friends see laughing and looking like a little model in all the pictures my wife posts.
Well, let me paint a different picture for you.
We are hanging out together as a family and starting to wind down as we begin preparing for bedtime. At this point, our little angel, full of hugs and kisses as she soaks up this time of complete attention and focus from both mom and dad, decides she is hungry.
After politely denying her precious little request to begin a new “Spanish-time dinner”, she starts to beg. And then she begins to get really sad. Followed by a few tears. Which, turn into a lot of tears with some arm flailing and appealing to mom in hopes for a more sympathetic response.
Once she has exhausted her options and the realization hits that her request has been fully denied, a switch flips.
She then lets out this adorable little toddler scream (think Xena mixed with a little Samurai) and goes into attack mode in which she runs at me, throws herself against my leg and begins to unleash a flurry of improvised karate moves with some sporadic death pinches.
The first few times this happened I thought, “How cute. My daughter is play fighting with me”, and I just reciprocated the action by play wrestling her as well.
As this has started to become the norm in our little routines of denial and “acceptance”, I am starting to wonder if maybe this is not just a cute little expression of frustration. Maybe she really holds me responsible for all the “no” answers in her life and is using all the power in her tiny little body to physically destroy me.
Sure, she smiles a little in the midst of all those punches, pinches and kicks and seems to hold back from really inflicting much damage, but maybe that’s just to throw me off and keep me from being too concerned in the midst of the attack.
For now, I have concluded this is a necessary, cathartic experience for her to work through some of those feelings of powerlessness in her life and have decided to sacrifice my legs for the good of her overall emotional health.
But if you ever see serious bruises and scratches on my legs and you ask me about them while she is with me, please try to see past the “I fell down the stairs again” excuse, look at the fear in my eyes and get help.