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They warn you about toddlers, don’t they? The “terrible twos,” they call them. Willfulness and tantrums and an inordinate fondness for the word “no”, and you as a parent have to get through it as best you can.
And they warn you about teenagers, too. In fact, it’s sort of the same set of stuff: willfulness and tantrums and an inordinate fondness for the word (or the deed) “no”, and you as a parent have to get through it as best you can.
Nobody warns you about what they are like when they are seven and eight.
Then again, maybe I’m just lucky. I managed to survive years seven through ten with my elder daughter, and without resorting to homicide — although I was sorely tempted on several occasions.
Now that the younger one is getting to that age, I look at the older one and try hard to keep hope alive.
How can I possibly be complaining about sweet little eight-year-old girls? I hear you ask.
They are sweet. They are perfectly charming to everybody except the people they live with. Perfect strangers have been known to walk up to me and tell me how lovely one or another of my daughters is, how helpful around the house, how polite and considerate. After the first few times, during which I was inclined to argue that they must be mistaking some other child for my daughters, I realized my mistake.
At home, everything is horrible as far as they are concerned. They complain that their siblings won’t play with them. Then, an hour later, they are complaining that their siblings want to play with them. They have arrived at an age where they want to have a life, but the life they want would ordinarily belong to a sixteen year old.
They are just as bossy as they were at the height of five-year-old disease, but they are slightly less irrational, so that you’d think they’d know better. Since they try to boss people around who won’t be bossed — like their parents, who are are much too civilized to smack them for being so smart-mouthed — they are often frustrated.
“I hate my life!” says my seven year old daughter, Kimmie.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve contemplated suggesting suicide to her when she gets like that. I’m not proud of it but — there it is.
“Why do you hate your life today?” I ask her instead.
“I can’t do anything!” she snarls at me. “Everything I try to do gets all messed up! And everybody hates me, nobody will play with me! And I don’t have any friends– all my friends keep moving away! I hate my life!”
I sit listening to this diatribe and looking at this well-fed, well-dressed child whose parents love and care for her, and I marvel at her innocence. “I wonder what you’re going to do when you get older, and you have real problems?” I ask her.
“I’ll blow up the world,” is the highly intelligent response.
Knowing that there’s not much point in trying to reason with anybody who is in this mood, I just nod my agreement. “That’ll fix it,” I tell her solemnly before I return to my keyboard.
As I type, I can hear rude muttering going on behind me. Wisely, I don’t ask her what she is saying.
Neither of my daughters are what anybody would call even tempered. And if they are like this at the age of seven and eight, I shudder to think what it’s going to be like around here when all the hormones kick in.