Is there anyone on the planet more controlling than a three-year-old? Okay, is there anyone on the planet more controlling than MY three-year-old? From the moment he's awake until the moment he's asleep, my existence is a complicated dance of compromise (okay, you can ride your bike inside school grounds, but just this once), avoidance (girls, would you like to go to the P-O-O-L? Don't say the word if you don't want to do it - let's not get you-know-who's hopes up) and all out sneaking around (the box from the toy that Grandma got him is collapsed and recycled in his absence not because he loves it so but simply because he wants it to remain in the middle of the living-room).
Mihiretu's control issues are probably more than the average boy his age and with good reason. There's a lot that's happened to him that, plainly speaking, has sucked. He's seen the death and disappearance of his first family, has been landed in an institution he could not escape from, has been taken thousands of miles away from his first home to live with us. And we, though we mean well, have moved twice in a year and his dad who he loves more than anything else leaves frequently and (to a three-year-old) arbitrarily. The boy wants to lay his hands on something and know he can hold it.
That said, it's exhausting to live with. We've learned some of his triggers. He needs to lead the way, for instance. He can't stand anyone leaving him. Which, again, is understandable. And so he needs to be the first to climb the stairs to our house, ride away on his bike, walk into school. If he's not first, he sits down, be it on dirt or pavement, flings his flip-flops as far as he can and howls. This happens many times a day. And so we have learned to accommodate him. The girls, generally, are kind enough to let him ride ahead when we're on our bikes, are even willing to walk back down the stairs and wait until he has begun to climb before they do the same.
If we're not watching what he wants to watch on TV (which most of the time is Caillou), then he turns the TV off. If Lana (his greatest competitor) is watching with him and he decides he doesn't want her to, he turns the TV off. I have, on more than one occasion, seen her sneak into the living-room in the morning and crouch behind our lounge chair in her pajamas, clandestinely watching Caillou - which she doesn't even like - while Lord Mihiretu is snuggled up in a quilt on the couch. It's a rather sad sight.
Bedtime, as with just about any child, is the toughest time of the day. He squirms, he kicks, he screams and when that fails to dissuade us of our evil plan, pleads hungry. His belly can be taut with the three portions of spaghetti and broccoli he just put away and he'll still try to convince us of his terrible hunger.
A friend recently passed on advice she was given on how to deal with her almost-teen-age daughter. When in a power struggle, let go of the rope. And so, when I'm on my game, I don't directly resist whatever power play he's making. I change the subject, I ignore it, I give in to his demands if they're not too big a deal. I pick my battles. I win the war.
Probably his biggest trigger is when Ben or I show him that we're angry. He's defensive, I've realized. If he sees my temper, he insulates that hurt with his own temper. The more I react, the more he acts out, a terrible spiral. "You mad!" he'll accuse me, through tears. When I can get it together, I assure him in these moments that I'm not mad anymore, I wasn't fond of whatever he did that offended me and here's what he could have done instead but that I love him and then hug him and kiss him until he can't resist me any longer or shake the sillies out of him (which involves shaking him - gently - upside down). Anything to make him laugh and break the mood.
When I'm tired, when, as is the case now, I've been on my own with the kids for days on end, it's less pretty. I meet his control issues with my own. Tonight, after a good hour of trying to wrestle him to sleep, after he threw my book across the room and kicked me, when he accused me of being mad, I said, "You're right! I'm mad!" Not so constructive. In the end, we were both in such a state, all I could do was put him in the car and drive him around the block until he fell asleep mid-shriek.
I remember my girls at three. They, too, were often impossible. I comfort myself that things will change, and soon. Though, today Mihiretu threw a full-on hissy fit at Lana's school as we were waiting for her to come out of her classroom. Another mother from Lana's class tried to comfort me by saying that in a few years it'd be better. I told her that I was hoping for better times when he turns four. She said that four was much worse than three for boys. Just a "reality check", she assured me. I just about gave her a reality check between the eyes. I have to hope that we're on the road to better days, easier days. It's got to get better. It just has to.