Thursday, December 1, 2011

The sorrow of giving

One of the things I love most about holidays is picking out just the right gift for someone; something that will make that person smile or gasp or tear up with joy.  We're told from an early age that giving is better than receiving, but apparently it takes quite a while for that lesson to sink in.

I got to experience some serious preschool rage today that all stemmed from one wrapped gift.  Lottie was invited to a birthday party, and I had the birthday boy's gift gaily wrapped and ready to go.  I did that while the kids were at school, and I distinctly remember thinking that I should put the gift away so that neither Lottie nor Dallas was tempted to open it.  I forgot, and that's when things got ugly.

As soon as Dallas saw that package, he was all over it.  He dragged a stool halfway across the kitchen so he could get his face closer to the gift.  As his hand reached out to touch it, I told him that the gift was for Lottie's friend Loren for his birthday.  With a scowl on his face, Dallas said, "No, it's my birthday."  I gently reminded him that he had already had his birthday and had gotten a lot of nice gifts then.  Mistake, Mama.  Big mistake.  He knocked over the wooden stool, threw himself on the ground and yelled that he had NOT had his birthday and he wanted that gift RIGHT. NOW.  I told him that I understood that he was frustrated, and he yelled at me to stop talking.  After warning him that he couldn't speak to me that way, I left the room.  He followed.

He threw himself down on the living room floor and repeated over and over, "You can't tell me.  It's my birthday, too.  You can't talk to me about that."  I ignored him until he came over and stared at me from six inches away.  When I smiled at him, he yelled at me again.  Time out, buddy.  Three minutes of lusty crying and yelling ensued.  The whole time, he was saying that he wanted me to stop talking and not look at him.  So when I left the room again, naturally, he followed me.  Because that's what you do when you want someone to leave you alone, right?  <Insert eye roll,>

The drama continued for a while longer upstairs, and I let him get it all out.  Finally, he came to me and said, "Mama, I'm sorry I yelled at you.  I'm so sorry."  We had a really sweet hug, and he said, "Can we talk about it?"  When I asked what he wanted to talk about, he said he wanted to talk about how he yelled at me.  I told him that it hurt my feelings, and then he cried again.  It's hard to be three.  I told him that I understood his frustration; it's difficult to watch someone else get gifts and not get any of your own.  He was pretty confused by his response to not getting the gift, and I'm sure he didn't fully understand why he was so sad and angry.  Parenting is hard all the time, but it's really difficult when things can't be explained in a logical way.  Three year olds aren't too keen on logic.  Then again, I'm not either half the time, so I feel his pain.  I didn't mind the tantrum so much because I know he needs a way to express his frustration, but I also want him to understand that other people are allowed to have special days and be feted.  We all deserve to feel special without someone else taking over our celebration.  But he's three, and we'll get to that point little by little.

The day ended well with Dallas and I snuggled up in our bed reading books together.  He kept leaning over and giving me kisses and zorberts on my arm.  I know that was his way of showing how sorry he was that he had acted out this afternoon.  Lottie breathes drama in and out just like air, so emotions aren't especially scary to her: my boy is more sensitive, and emotions are intimidating to him sometimes.    But I knew all was well when he came into my room before bedtime to look in the mirror: he was wearing his Spiderman mask and wanted to admire himself.  He stood in front of the full-length mirror for a moment, then turned and said, "I look pretty awesome, Mama.  Good night."

Christmas morning ought to be frightening crazy chaotic dramatic insane loud pretty awesome chez Wells, but I'll think about that another day.

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