Dear Five-Year-Old: I sure love you, even when I don’t like you much.

e suitcase

Beloved E,

I started writing a blog post in your honour just over two weeks ago, when you turned five. Part of the reason it didn’t get done in a timely manner is because your birthday happened to fall between two disparate weeks of insanity.

The other reason is that I wanted to write something full of love, something oozing with your unique five-year-old cuteness, and – well… I was having trouble getting in the zone.

You are an adorable, lovely little guy. Except when you’re a whiny and/or insolent little turkey.

Most people are amazed if I share with them that we have difficulties when it comes to your behaviour. We do appreciate that you are so well-mannered in public most of the time. I’m pretty sure you’re nicely behaved at school, overall – at least, we’ve never been told otherwise. I’m grateful that I’ve never had to abort a shopping trip, or lecture you at a friend’s house, or peel you off the floor at Funmazing.

But there are days when I fervently ask myself, “Did I really raise this kid? How did I?”

It’s the apparent sense of entitlement, along with a rude attitude, that shocks me every time. Particularly in contrast with the sweet version of you. I try to tell myself it’s just a phase, normal development and all that… but some of it must be avoidable, right?

We try not to spoil you (well… Daddy forgets sometimes, but mostly we don’t spoil you). We make sure you know that you can’t always have your way, and there are reasons why. We express our love in all kinds of ways, especially words and cuddles. We have taught you the socially-accepted manners that will help you along in the world. We feed you good food, limit your screen time, and make sure you get ample (opportunity for) sleep.

e sleeping
How beautiful the sleeping child.

And somehow, most days, you are quick to complain and quick to anger. This morning, you got up to the breakfast table and said, your voice seething with annoyance as if you were barely tolerating my incompetence, “Mummy. WHY did you put my lunch bag HERE??”

I have noticed a new trend where you fly off the handle about something and start yelling, and when I remain silent or respond calmly, you say, “STOP YELLING AT ME, MUMMY!! YOU ALWAYS YELL!!”

Out of the blue, I am accused. Like, every day. Multiple times a day.

Yesterday, I was dropping you off at school when one of your sunny-faced little classmates skipped by and said joyfully, “Hi! It’s Playday today!” You did not smile back. You said, “I KNOW!”, complete with irritated hand motion, as if she were insulting your intelligence. I was appalled. I hope this was just because your irritating Mummy was present, and not because that’s your M.O. at school. I know older kids whose default mode is nasty like that, and trust me: nobody wants to play with those kids.

This sentiment of “The world and especially my parents are determined to abuse me!” does seem to be your default mode right now. Most of the time, simply taking things in stride is a non-option. You use your highly-offended (and offensive) tone of voice on a regular basis.

Small injuries make you screech. The tiniest irregularity in your food leads to deadlock. You (like your daddy) are so used to doing things well that you have a fit of pique when you don’t master new skills instantly.

Unfortunately, Daddy and I easily get fed up with of all this. That means we’re not as patient with you as we should be. We raise our voices at you more often than we mean to. We’ve been known to plunk you in your room and close the door, just because we can’t listen to any more shrieks. And now, you’ve taken to running to your room yourself and slamming the door (sometimes twice or more) when you’re mad.

It’s not a good sign that, lately, I’m letting your words and sounds get to me. Since I have a job in which I work hard to achieve a listening audience, repeat instructions ad nauseam, and spend time amid noise levels beyond what I’m naturally built for, sometimes I get home and I don’t have enough energy and composure left for you. I know what kind of reaction I should have to your unappealing behaviour, but I can’t summon it.

You suddenly scream because your sister pinched you, and even though it’s not about me, all I can think is, “OMG I cannot listen to any more screaming.”

Or you cry histrionically, “You are only ever MEAN TO ME, Mummy!!” or even, occasionally, “I HATE YOU!” and I’m unable to laugh it off. I think about all I do for you every day, and just feel tired and defeated.

Or you challenge the limits we set for you, as is your job at this age, and instead of taking advantage of the teachable moments, I just want to shut you down.

I’m sorry. It’s not fair to you.

I know I need to listen more.

I know I need to think more about the underlying stresses that might cause your temper to flare.

I know I need to be the mature one, modelling things like compassion and apology and patience.

School is almost over for the year. This summer, I’m going to work hard to rediscover my calm and put love back in the forefront. I’m going to put in the time figuring out what will work for us, so that Sweet E can be your default mode again.

Because Sweet E is still there. You’re still the boy who loves hugs and kisses, who sits raptly for stories, who draws amazing pictures, who says adorable and enigmatic things when we least expect it, who adores your little sister, who dances like a twinkletoes, whose smile illuminates my heart, and who, five years ago, was born the most incredible blessing in my life to that date.

e and ab hand in hand

You are awesome, darling five-year-old, in so many ways. I love you all the time, always, more than you’ll ever know – and even when you can’t tell.

You deserve my best. Here’s to us, and to finding my best, together.

***


 

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Is this what it’s like to be popular?

So, lovely Di-hards, how do you like the new look? Isn’t it pretty??

I’d like to declare a huge thank you to my big brother, Uncle Ben, a.k.a. Eupharos, for taking a nice theme by NodeThirtyThree and customizing the whole thing according to my inexperienced ideas. He’s got skillz. And he’s even going to help with different versions of it for different seasons, so we don’t get bored. Yay! Merci!

(Incidentally, we are still working out a few kinks of the changeover… like you might notice the comments suddenly aren’t threading, for some unknown reason… but we will figure it out, I’m sure.)

I also want to express my thanks to everyone who read – and everyone who shared – my last post about teachers. I never expected that the aforementioned facelift would coincide with a much larger event.

It has been humbling and wonderful and more than a little freaky to watch my traffic spike over the last week… and when I say “spike”, I’m actually understating it a bit. Through last Monday, I got nice, regular, very modest traffic (100-200 page views per day) where I knew most of my actual readers personally, and the rest of the traffic bounced across my blog looking for movie reviews, Kate Winslet naked, Salma Hayek’s cleavage, or Reese Witherspoon’s legs.

On Tuesday, I suddenly had the most one-day page views of my li’l blog’s history, including more than 500 just for my teacher post. I was all like, “Woohoo! How exciting!” Then, the next day, views for the post jumped, such that Tuesday’s numbers became tiny. By yesterday, the post had been shared so many times on Facebook (over 1K) that my widget stopped counting.

I know these numbers are not huge by internet standards in general, but to me, they were nothing short of shocking. By yesterday evening, I was feeling a bit more “Um, holy crap,” than “woohoo”, because what the heck do I know about getting this much attention?? As of this writing, Those Greedy, Lazy Teachers has been viewed 14,000 times and counting. (Please don’t think I’m boasting here – it’s more like boggling.)

Again, thank you. I am honoured that you found my words to be worth passing along, that you chose them to help represent teachers’ situation. And a special thanks to all you supportive non-teachers – you make such a huge difference at times like these.

I’m figuring that this will be simmering down pretty soon. I think it is most likely a one-post flash in the pan for this blog, indicative of teachers’ level of frustration – not to mention need for understanding – in the current climate.

As such, dear teachers, I hope that reading this helped, for a moment at least. You have proven what a tight-knit, solid community we are. I hope your first week back with the kids was stellar.

And I hope that at least a couple people who needed that clarification have gotten it, and understand a bit better. It’s hard to tell about that.

You see, along with all the page views, I’ve also had an unprecedented number of comments, and… my very first trolls! (It’s funny that I vowed in my post not to read any comments on online forums… I didn’t realize I was going to create one.) And I was very nervous about those trolls before they showed up yesterday, knowing it must be only a matter of time before they stepped up to the plate… but then I got a comment from “Fred”, and honestly, I was grinning. Silly though it sounds, it made me feel that I’d “arrived” somehow – to be spread far enough to get me some haters.

Anyway, after congratulating Fred on being my first troll, I was amazed and relieved to realize it wasn’t just me against him: other readers were stepping up to enter the discussion. (If you co-defenders are reading – again, thank you.) It got rather interesting. And THEN, there was Thomas, who made Fred look like a relatively good-natured mischief-maker.

All this served to remind me of something I think I already knew: if a mind is tightly closed, you can’t just go and open it.

I think, to get into a mind like that, you would have to come at it sideways, far from the protective anonymity of the Birdhouse. You’d have to meet that person, in person, in an entirely different context… see each other as humans first, do something unexpected that peels back a layer of baggage. Like in this story from Momastery – I love how Glennon wrestles (philosophically) with herself and the jerk beside her on the plane, and they both learn stuff.

And hey, just for fun, since I’m all wicked-popular now (get it? I’m sooo funny), here’s a song that I hope might give me guidance on what on earth to do next.

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