I love babies. I could do another dozen kids from birth- age three, but once they hit preschool they slay me. I really, really sucked with both preschool years for my oldest, and I am going down in flames with his brother, too. Luckily, I only have a few weeks to go before Kindergarten magically transforms my insolent, pesky five year old into something more tolerable.
Tiny Pants had been a sweet, cuddly, agreeable child that played nicely with others and could entertain himself for hours, or he was, until very recently. He has spent his final summer before entering "real" school kicking his brother, harassing his brother, poking his brother both verbally and physically. When he got tired of that, he turned on me, his once-favorite person.
We started the day with him throwing a fit because his brother would not play what he wanted to play. He turned on me when I refused to buy him new shoes because he did not need new shoes. When I cautioned him about acting spoiled, he cautioned me back, saying, "You know what happened the last time you talked to me like that," which earned him a Time Out, one of the handful he has had in his life.
Right now he is sitting at the counter staring down a sandwich he requested I make him for lunch and them refused to take even a nibble of. I'm ignoring his complaints that, "Daddy lets me eat all-jelly sandwiches!" and "I TOLD you I didn't want a lot of peanut butter!"
I have this theory that children act out when they have some emotions going on that they need to deal with; I don't believe that they go through "bratty phases" or that it is normal for kids to act like little snots, but this child on this day is testing that theory. I tell myself that questioning authority and pushing boundaries is an important part of maturation. I tell myself that if he didn't feel safe he wouldn't act out. I tell myself not to shove the sandwich in his face and rub it around bride-and-groom style.
I had wanted to take him on a fun outing to break up the stretch of unstructured time today, but I don't know how to end this stalemate and I certainly don't want to reward his behavior with outings and new things from the store.
I used to avoid potential food stand-offs by playing short-order cook and making each child exactly what they wanted, and when they didn't eat it, i would make something else. A few months ago I got sick of it, just like I got sick of picking up after them. When they were old enough to do cannonballs and go to public bathrooms by themselves, I started teaching them independence, self sufficiency, and responsibility.
I no longer think it is acceptable to refuse to eat what you asked me to make you for lunch. I shouldn't pick up their wet towels and they are both big enough to work the water dispenser on the fridge. But I still get them water and pick up their towels and make them sandwiches and toast and all the things that I did with relative proficiency at their age, because I hate the stalemate. I know that the stalemate is something I need to learn to deal with.
Update: Tiny Pants is now curled up in a ball on his chair ignoring the unbitten sandwich. I still have no idea what I am supposed to do now.