Child 2 has become a monster. An actual shouty, indignant, difficult monster. I’m trying not to exaggerate, but really, its almost impossible to understate the hell of trying to spend time with her at certain times of the day at the moment. Now, if you take out her entire first year, when she would easily qualify as the least content, least satisfied, most enraged baby there possibly ever was, she’s been mostly really quite nice. There’s been the odd tantrum here or there, naturally, and there was a long patch when if her brother so much as looked at her chaos would follow, but over the last couple of years, and certainly since she turned four, she’s been really quite lovely. She’s a sweet girl and, while this can mean that she can be suffocatingly needy, it also means that she’s a bit of a people pleaser and genuinely tries her best most of the time to be a kind, sweet, well behaved child. Well, she did. Over the last month, when it’sbeen tremendously clear that the work has been stepped up at school to prepare them for year 1, and she’s more exhausted than I’ve ever seen her, we’ve entered this phase of extreme unreasonableness. I’ve still been able to see the sweet and well behaved child, just sadly a great deal less frequently. And mostly when she’s asleep.
Take this afternoon, for instance. It went like this:
1. Child 2: ‘Mummy, can we make our own My Little Pony book?’ Me: (pleased she wants to do something so distinctly educational) ‘Of course.’ I sort out the paper and put together the book. There’s a short dangerous moment when the book is apparently too small, but her eagerness to start writing about Rainbow Dash overcomes this.
2. She decides she wants to call the book ‘Rainbow Dash and her Amazing New Adventure.’ I wish she’d picked some less difficult words to spell, but you know – encourage creativity and all that. She writes the first four words and manages to sound out ‘amazing’ without incident. She tries ‘new’ and then decides she doesn’t want it in her title. This is entirely due to the fact that she can’t spell it, but we skim over this. Then we get to ‘adventure’ which she flatly refuses to believe begins with an ‘a.’ I subdue my inner OCD gremlin and let her spell it the way she wants to. She flies into a minor rage at the fact that ‘it doesn’t look like it should.’ I tell her that if she wants my help, she needs to not shout. She shouts. I walk away.
3. She sobs, for some time, over the fact that I won’t help her. ‘You NEVER help me Mummy!’ she wails. Actual, devastated tears are running down her face. I refuse to help her again until she stops crying.
4. She stops crying, and we decide to draw Rainbow Dash on the next page, with only the occasional sad hiccup. She can’t draw a horse that doesn’t look like a dog. My pointing out that dogs and horses do look a bit similar is met with frank disbelief and some four year old scorn. She asks me to the draw the horse. The last time I drew anything was a sunset in second year Art, and I got the lowest mark in the class. I’m scarred by this and also the dog has more artistic ability than I do. Nevertheless, I draw an approximation of a horse. This also looks like a dog. More outraged tears.
5. I walk away. She asks her dad to draw the pony, and he traces it from the ipad screen. I’m really rubbish at thinking outside of the box in this way. She starts to colour it in. The blue pencil is, naturally, the wrong shade of blue for Rainbow Dash. We find seven more shades of blue, none of which are right, apparently. I have to stop myself from screaming ‘it’s BLUE! And it’s a plastic PONY! I can’t find it in myself to care that it’s a slightly lighter shade!’ My husband surveys us with amusement, and comments on how alike we are. ‘You even get angry in the same way.’ This is unhelpful.
6. There is a long debate about whether one strand of Rainbow Dash’s mane is actually orange (which it is) or peach. I resist asking what the hell kind of pony would have a peach mane. She is determined it is peach. Surprisingly enough, we don’t have a peach pen. She cries. I tell her if she cries again she will be going to bed. (it’s 5pm but never let practicalities get in the way of a good threat) There is more talk of how I never help her/ we never have the right colours of pencil/ she just wants me to help her.
7. I have to leave the room. The wailing follows me.
8. She stops crying (eventually) and comes to find me and asks me politely if I will help her again. I would rather gouge out my own eyes but agree on the condition that if she cries/ shouts/ misbehaves again she is going straight to bed.
9. We colour in great harmoney for some time. I trace another pony for her (Twilight Sparkle? Rarity? Who the hell knows?) I remember why I love her again.
10. I haven’t drawn (traced) Twilight’s eye properly. She puts her head on the table and sobs. I send her to bed. She storms off tossing her hair like an actual teenager. Wails of how ‘but I just Mummy! I just always want to be with Mummy” drift down the stairs. I need a drink.
11. I go upstairs and find an immensely apologetic child, Jekyll and Hyde style. ‘I’m sorry Mummy,’ she says sadly. ‘I know I shouldn’t have shouted and cried.’ We cuddle, and read stories. I welcome the return of my lovely, sweet girl, and hope that this is a very, very short phase.