This has been a month full of whining, complaining, yelling, and general contrariness. Ingrid finds fault with everything we say or do. It’s like having a teenager in the house, I imagine.
It appears that she has, for some reason, decided to be unpleasant and unfriendly towards us. She can be perfectly polite to others, but when she addresses me, it’s often by shouting or screaming. When she wants me to pour milk, it’s no longer “Can I have some milk please” but “MIIILLK!”. Once she even started with “Can I…” but then interrupted herself and shouted “MIIILLK!” instead.
When she wants me to help her get her boots on, she refuses to come stand where I am sitting. (I refuse to crouch on the floor when I’ve got Adrian in the sling, because it is very uncomfortable for both of us.) Sometimes she even yells when she wants me to play with her or read to her. “Du ska läsa för mig du ska läsa för mig du ska läsa för mig!” (“You must read for me”) she screams, and of course I must do nothing of the sort, I must leave the room instead in order to keep my temper.
Anything I suggest is rejected. Anything I mention in a positive tone, she decides to dislike. “Look, there’s one piece of apple left!” she gladly says. “Yes, I thought you might want one more so I left it for you” I say. “I don’t want it” she responds sulkily.
And she wants help with everything. She can even ask for help moving a plate to the side of the table, and complain that she doesn’t have the strength to move it, and demonstrate by poking at it with a limp hand and an exhausted face. When Eric and I can’t help but laugh out loud at that, she gets very upset and cries that we mustn’t laugh at her.
My guess is that this is a reaction to Adrian’s arrival. A bit delayed, you might think, but then again Adrian was much easier to take care of during his first month. Now he requires more of our time and attention, and even though I do my best to spend time with Ingrid, she cannot have all the attention she wants. Is she testing us, perhaps? “Do they really love me? Do they love me if I do this, this and this?” Or perhaps she is simply mentally tired and stressed by the change and by the new order.
Tellingly she really only behaves that way with me and Eric. When, for example, another parent at preschool notices that we are having trouble (read: Ingrid is yelling at me without pause and asking for help while refusing my way of helping her) and asks if s/he can help, Ingrid explains reasonably politely what she needs help with and gladly accepts it.
During all of this I try to remind myself that:
I cannot control her behaviour but I can control how I react to it (and that covers both my internal and external reactions).
If we are to break the spiral of negative emotions and negative behaviour, it’s up to me to do it.
I can choose to treat her the way she “deserves” to be treated, or the way that is likely to break the spiral.
When she yells for help doing something ridiculously easy, I may think that that kind of request really deserves to be ignored until she addresses me in a more polite manner, or refused because she can do it herself perfectly well. But all that achieves is an escalation of the spiral. Instead I can interpret her shouting as a way of saying “I feel ignored and tired and unloved and I hate it and I want company”, gently remind her that I would prefer if she asked me kindly instead of shouting, and help her.
But there are times when she has decided to not cooperate at all, and then it can be physically difficult for me to help her. I cannot lift her when I am carrying Adrian; I cannot put her mitten on if she keeps her hand all limp. And there are times when my patience runs out and I just cannot take her yelling any more, and I walk away from the room or the situation.
It is bloody exhausting to have two cranky kids. I don’t tolerate loud noise well, and when two children are screaming right next to me, it leaves me tired and with frazzled nerves, even less willing to indulge in Ingrid’s whims or to get engaged in her activities.
Another reaction to having Adrian in the house: Ingrid has started telling us that she has a stomach ache, when she clearly has no such thing (and forgets it as soon as she gets distracted), most likely because we have explained to her that Adrian cries so much because his stomach hurts. If it works for him, and gets him lots of attention, why not for her, too?
Ingrid’s favourite “toy” is our iPad. She watches movies on it, plays games, draws, plays dress-up and so on – together with me or Eric if possible. We also read (a good activity to combine with breastfeeding Adrian), do crafts, and play games (board games, card games and such).
She likes to pretend she’s a wizard or a fairy or an angel, and do magic. (Fairies and angels seem pretty much the same to her – pretty girls with wings – and since I don’t see much actual difference myself, I haven’t bothered trying to explain the very different cultural backgrounds of the two.) There have been magicians and fairies in many of the movies we’ve seen recently, as well as in fairy tales, ranging from the story of Sleeping Beauty, via Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, to Shrek and Aladdin.
She will ask me what magic she should do, wave her wand and say some magic words, and present me with the result. Sometimes she clarifies that “it’s just pretend”, that I shouldn’t expect real wings or that she cannot really magically bring daddy home early. I’ve begun using magic as a distraction when she’s in a bad mood: “wouldn’t it be nice if we could magically grow wings, then you wouldn’t have to walk home on your tired legs”. It sometimes works.
Often she or one of her soft toys is a kitten, walks on all fours and miaows pitifully. The kitten has lost its parents while picking berries in the forest, is sad and wants company. (We’ve read an Estonian fairy tale about a girl who gets lost in the forest while picking berries.) Now most recently the kitten has actually been abandoned in the forest by its father (since we’ve read about Hansel and Gretel).
Whenever I ask what she did with her friends at preschool, she tells me they played mummy daddy baby. She usually gets to be the baby, being among the smallest and youngest kids in their huge group. At home she plays she’s the mummy, and various toys and dolls get to be babies. She breastfeeds them, picks them up when they cry, and puts them to sleep. Sometimes she wants to be a mom for me, and I get to be big sister. She asks me how my day was, what I learned at school, and I am supposed to act the way she usually does. When she borrows my camera, for example, I am supposed to badger her “let me see, let me see [the photos]”.
There is also a fair amount of talk about being in love, and marrying. Contagion from all the older girls at preschool. She is in love with me and with Elin (a friend) she says, and will marry us both. Being in love means you like someone a lot, she says, and getting married means you live together.
When she draws or paints, it is only girls and princesses. Just plain girls more often than princesses, nowadays. They all follow the same template: head like this, dress like that, long hair on both sides. Very boring for me.
She has effectively learnt to write. Often she still wants one of us to tell her the letters, but when I instead say the word again, or just ask her what letter she thinks should come next, she gets it right 9 times out of 10. The most common mistake she makes is skipping a letter in the word. For example when she wante to write PIRN (for “pear” in Estonian) and had done P and I, she said that N should come next. But when I said that that would make PIN, she thought a bit and figured out on her own that R should be there too.
It’s like when she learned to stand and walk: she wouldn’t actually let go and do it until she was 100% able to do it. Back then it was some sort of subconscious or instinctive behaviour, but now it’s more conscious. She simply has a strong aversion to failure.
Speaking of walking, Ingrid is still not fond of walking so she cycles to preschool every day, if at all feasible, and most other places too. We had to walk when the streets were full of snowy slush. But when there are just some icy patches here and there, we take the bike. Slipping and falling a few times causes less fuss and complaining than having to walk all the way, especially on the way home in the afternoon. Even better than cycling is having a cycle race, meaning that she sets a goal (“first one to that brick house wins”) and races ahead on her bike, and I walk after her as fast as I can (cannot run with Adrian in the sling, he either throws up or wakes up) while shouting “this time I will surely win” or “now it really is my turn to win” and she laughs at me.
She can now hop on one foot (her right one) for a good 12 to 15 jumps, all the way across the kitchen. On her left she manages just a few.
Likes: painting my face (they do face painting at preschool on Fridays). Making silly faces and waving her arms around when I try to take a photo of her. Winning. Ice cream. Sundays, because then she gets ice cream. (Sometimes she starts counting down to Sunday already on a Tuesday.) Selecting clothes for Adrian. Torches. Balancing on pavement edges, ledges, and power cords on the floor. Playing rock paper scissors during train rides. Also during train rides, playing shop and selling me the houses, cars, boats and towers on the seat fabric. (Can’t find any official pictures; a slightly fuzzy photo can be seen here.) Plates, cups and cutlery with pictures or patterns.
Does not like: our tasteful green china. The colour black, or brown or grey. Waiting. Missing a train – even when I tell her the next one will be there in 2 minutes, she is upset.