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.

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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.



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

  1. Mark B. says:

    Amen, DiLoIvely. As a teacher of 28 young children (FDK)each and every day, and father of three (who are now 18 – 24, each of whom have been through this in their own way), all I can tell you is… I feel your angst. Well, it DOES pass…although it’s difficult to see the forest for the trees for a while. And, while I admire your ambition to “get back to the loving, patient you”, you should also keep in mind that “Sweet E” (who is not being so sweet these days) will need to take some responsibility for overcoming his “nasties” himself…even at 5 years old. If you negate that fact, then the entitlement and rudeness will surely stick. You are NOT completely responsible for his current state, so don’t be too hard on yourself. The testing of limits (and consequently, of your patience) is naturally going to be a cause for upset…even the calmest, most caring parent or teacher can only take so much before they let the child know that THAT final “limit” was the last straw. Letting “Sweet E” know that is only human, and…it’s the right thing to do.
    Your closing line is indeed the key…”finding your best, TOGETHER”.
    Keep writing the good stuff… and remember, this too shall pass. I know, been there and done that. Having said that…there are new and equally frazzling challenges awaiting you…LOL! Enjoy them. Together.
    Mark B.

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Mark, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. And of course, my hat is off to you for the incredible work and energy it takes to do your job and care about ALL the little ones this same age who each believe the world revolves around them.

      Thanks also for your kindness in reminding me that it’s not all on me. That part – knowing how much should be his responsibility and how much shouldn’t – is so tricky. E has always been so advanced verbally, we have sometimes tended to forget how young he still is developmentally. And of course, every child is different on that scale, too.

      As you say, there will always be challenges, no matter what the age of my kids… I guess I’ll just hope for different ones, to keep things interesting. 😉 Thank you for reading.

  2. Heather Allen says:

    I feel for you Diana…and I’m right there with you on the lack of patience. It’s certainly tough to come home after a long day of work to be the good mom all the time. I often feel guilty when I should want to spend my evening with the girls (especially when I have such limited time with them through the week), but most nights I can’t wait to get them to bed so I can relax and have some peace and quiet. I too need to commit to “finding my best” – that’s a great way to put it!!

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Heather, thank you. It’s good to know we’re all going through it together. I’m sure our kids are all going to come out okay, right? 🙂 And you can’t fault yourself for wanting to have some peace and quiet. We all need that sometimes.

  3. Mama says:

    Oh, my. I can fully understand how you feel. It seems forever-ish, but really it will get better. And don’t beat yourselves up for being human and not saints! When someone makes us mad, we get mad. This is probably a good thing for kids to learn!

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      I think that’s true… I remember being aware that my parents had limits (and knowing it was a good idea not to cross them!) and that was good.

  4. A Pea says:

    I would just like to say, that it takes an incredible amount of self awareness and compassion to even recognise this stuff in yourself (not to mention sharing it with your internet audience!!). I think you’re an amazing mom, Di. And also, for the record, I see myself in E lately. The perfectionist, the grievances with normal human behaviours that are not perfect…. the finding of things to pick on in circumstances that are otherwise normal and fine….sometimes even adults forget to be cool. Thanks to the supermoms (and dads) of the world, many of us get to grow up ok. You’re definitely a supermom. love you lots!! xoxox

    • dilovelyadmin says:

      Aw, A Pea. Thank you for your caring words… And I honestly, I think you’re one of the coolest people ever (as a kid, teen, adult, all of ’em). I’ve never thought of you as grievance-y or nitpicky at all. I love you lots too and hope to witness your supermom powers someday! xoxox

  5. emerge says:

    Oh my, I have heard him say those things to you, and it is just always awful and uncalled-for, and I can’t wait till he grows out of it either. BUT – and this of course doesn’t help with the frustration and abused-feeling-ness – I know that he KNOWS BEYOND DOUBT that you are absolutely his rock and his source and his everything, and that you will always love him unconditionally. And that may have something to do with why he takes things out on you. I mean, it’s not fair, but it sort of makes sense in a twisted way. His life is SO GREAT that maybe he has to make stuff up to be mad about and take it out on the people who’ll always forgive him. But I hope he gets a new hobby soon! The Return of Sweet E will be epic.

  6. emerge says:

    P.S. Yay! You used that suitcase pic :). I need to remember to get that from you – and so many others that I took with your phone! I think at your house I take more pics with your phone than with my camera, doh.

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