This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and fills many hours of my thinking time -- the phases and stages of childhood. We all know the famous stages-- the terrible twos, the torturous threes. Coming into parenthood, I don't think you're really aware of the distinctness of childhood phases. I know I wasn't it. And I certainly didn't realize that there were so many of them. Sometimes it has seemed like a wall was actually erected in the center of my time. One day, my daughter is a two and the next day, a three with all news skills, habits and challenges.
That's not an exaggeration at all. You would think that you would see a child develop skills but often times it doesn't happen that way. They just wake up and those skills are there. And it happens so frequently too!
I remember a specific day when Maddie was three months old. Actually, it was this day:
It was about midday. I had been with her all day, giving her my full attention. And then I set her down in a bouncy chair. Maybe it was the way the light hit her or the angle I was looking at her, but I thought, 'She's not a newborn anymore. Now she's a baby.' And every so often after that, the same thing would happen.
I always considered myself to be predisposed towards motherhood. It's pretty much all I've ever wanted to do with any constancy. I read all the books when I was pregnant and have always enjoyed parenting books or other sources of learning more. I've never really felt clueless and have always adored playing with kids of all ages.
But the phases have been my one tripping block. The rapidity of change and the stubbornness of it all. (Mine or hers? Maybe a little of both!) There's something in my Type A personality that calls out to be in control and a phase really just juts you right out of that well-worn path and into the rough. It sneaks up on you like it's a problem to fix. I know there have been many a time when I have said to my mother, "We're having a problem with x or y behavior." And then a few months later, I have the epiphany, "That wasn't a problem that Maddie was having. She had changed! She was a bigger kid with different views, different needs, different skills. And I was still treating her like she was younger."
This popped up just a few months ago when I was finding that she was having tantrums for the first time ever. I searched for answers online, looked for parenting books on the subject, asked my mom for advice, puzzled and puzzled to find a solution. I started thinking about "What to Expect When You're Expecting." But what I'd like to see is "What to Expect When You Have a Four-Year-Old." Well, ta-da! They have those -- just by a different publisher. I quickly ordered "Your Four-Year-Old" and as I read the first chapter I discovered my problem was typical behavior of fours and surprise, surprise -- a phase. I was very tempted to order the whole series straight through until Your-Eighteen-Year-Old. But, I stuck with just the one book for now.
Though Maddie really does change phases on the actual day of her birthday (no kidding, I should have noticed this trend sooner and saved myself a lot of frustration), I am going to linger a little bit longer over the four-year-old phase. Somehow as she has gotten older the phases are stretched out more -- or perhaps, I've just gotten used to the idea of change.
I have found myself really struggling with this most recent phase. There's so much frustration involved in being a four-year-old! Everything changes about the way they play. I used to lead the way and plan out activities and experiments. Now Maddie will ask for a project but the truth is, she has her own in mind. (It's a wonderful change to have on my hands!) That's the reason that I have been blogging less and less. I've been flummoxed. I won't deny it, I've been struggling to find my parenting groove and done less educational play than I would like. Because I've been flummoxed (and also maybe mindless as I noted in my previous post!)
But this phase is also a great divide. When babies grow into toddlers and toddlers into preschoolers, there is such a flow to the transition. Because they are still your baby. Alas, preschooler to kindergartener seems to be a chasm. I may not be ready to jump just yet.