It has been a long time since Tom and I lived with a preschooler. Lilah, the preschooler in question, is four. She sailed through the twos without becoming terrible, skipped through the threes without becoming awful—and then hit the Frightful Fours.
Her former response to being thwarted was to assume a deeply saddened and affronted expression, rather like Mother Theresa confronted by, say, Lady Gaga. Then she would turn her back on everyone like an anchorite abandoning a wicked world. She did all this in perfect silence, which I thought was a dramatic underscore to her soul-gnawing sorrow at being denied Goldfish crackers for lunch.
Now if Lilah is thwarted, she will frequently throw herself to the floor with a scream. She will begin pounding the unoffending floor with her heels or fist, punctuating this with more shrieks. This is usually in response to being asked to eat something (healthy) or being told she can’t eat something (unhealthy), but there are many other triggers.
This bothers her parents a lot, but it doesn’t perturb Tom or me very much. She’s kind of a piker compared with her Mom or her Uncle Sean, although they went through it earlier than Lilah. It does raise the question of discipline, though. As Tom and I are sometimes the only adults around, permitting her parents to carry on their work lives, we are sometimes on the spot when it comes to applying corrective action. And disciplining someone else’s child is a sensitive matter. She might be our granddaughter, but she isn’t our child.
When Kerry and Mike are present, they get to do the disciplining. Tom and I are merely interested observers who need earplugs. When they are not here, we have relied on the Grandparent Card a lot, but who knows how long that will last? Counting to three (very slowly) usually works. Once in a while, a short timeout helps. So far, so good, but one of these days, Lilah is going to pitch a complete hissy fit on us, and we’re going to have to deal. The only advantage we have is that it really just doesn’t bother us. Raising her mother toughened us up a lot.
Now, what about those gummy bees? This is one of the great things about living with a grandchild—getting to hear a completely new set of wonderful mispronunciations. Her mother used to call flowerpots “flower pants,” which I always thought was brilliant. Her uncle used to go to “pretty school,” until Kerry finally scorned him into saying “preschool.” (Too bad.) Lilah has gummy bees: “I gummy bee a builder when I grow up.” “I gummy bee happy to see Auntie Cara.” I envision all these little gummy bees flying around her as she dances her way through life. They are all different pastel colors, and they have little smiles on their cute little gummy bee faces.
Because most of the time, Lilah is a delight. She has the most beautiful, sunny smile. She sings to herself as she plays, lining up her toys in the upstairs hall to “teach them school” or read them a story. She laughs readily and cuddles when she’s tired. She loves animals and art and playing games with Nana.
She can scream all she wants. She’s still my darling.