the drama is real
Just remember: everything is a phase. Everything is a phase – the mantra of parenthood. The last phase was pretty good, and decently long too. It was characterized by funny new words and cute phrases – Munchkin’s experimentation with languages – as well as the development of his first significant friendships. This new phase, which is full of threenage angst, can’t end soon enough.
The closest parallel we had hereto experienced was when Munchkin was just beginning to learn to speak, roughly midway through his second year. He clearly had a lot on his mind, and the inability to communicate effectively his desires drove him bonkers, resulting in prolonged and frequent bouts of screaming and whining. Now too his emotions all of a sudden have become too big for his body. Only this time around, there is no shortage of words and destructive actions with which to express them.
More often than not Munchkin takes his angst and frustration out on S in verbally creative and frequently abusive ways. “I want you to sleeeep (slip) and fall,” he kept screaming at S one morning as she showered – near as we can tell simply because he objected to her bathing. Another time he yelled at her to go outside and stand in the rain because he wanted to be alone. It wasn’t raining in reality; he just channeled his frustration into verbal cruelty.
D also comes in for his fair share of tantrums – though they usually lack the violent overtones of the verbal attacks Munchkin launches at S. In D’s case, Munchkin simply refuses to engage – forget about hugs and kisses, Munchkin simply does not want D around for days on end. Everything from “I don’t want papa to drive the car” to “I don’t want papa to come with us,” to “No, mama, I don’t want you to talk to papa,” delivered in an emotion-laden whine, as if D’s mere presence was a continued affront to Munchkin’s wellbeing. One morning, when D went to give Munchkin a kiss before going to work, the little man screamed that he would brook no kisses: “No, I don’t want a kiss! I’ll tell my teacher on you!”
Whereas before Munchkin would simply sit and cry if he didn’t get his way, his tantrums have now become more violent. He screams, throws things, throws himself on the floor – all the classic behavior one sees in movies and sitcoms and vows will never happen with one’s own angelic child. “I want the iPad!” he screamed over and over as S tried to get him to bed. “How about if you don’t whine you get three bedtime stories?” S tried to compromise. “Hmmm…that doesn’t sound like a good deal,” Munchkin retorted before resuming his wailing.
The worst part of this stage is that the sum of these outbursts is more than its constituent parts because even when Munchkin is not throwing a tantrum, his default mode has now become screaming and whining. He knows how to ask nicely, but prefers either to whine his demands or shout them like an army drill sergeant.
For all the abuse Munchkin heaps on S, his most common refrain when he’s upset and crying is “I want mama!” It’s “I want mama” when he gets up in the middle of the night and D tries to put him back to sleep, and “I want mama” if D rebukes him or asks him not to play in the fridge or tells him that no, he can’t throw his dinner on the floor simply because he wants chocolate. Waking up from his nap to find that S had gone out over the weekend, for example, Munchkin spent 45 minutes in tears screaming for mama before accepting a snack and consenting to let D change his clothes.
The switch from the cute language period to this monstrous threenage phase was gradual; we didn’t notice its immediate onset and there are still hints of the outgoing phase in this new Munchkin. There are times when he makes us laugh out loud – by earnestly demanding a “rain day” (“it’s raining – I can’t go to school when it’s raining; papa and mama go to work and I stay home to play with Kate”) or “menicent” (medicine) – “I need menicent cuz I’m farting.” It’s just that we long for the days when the laughs eclipsed the whining and shouting, and not the other way around.