You can generally see it coming. G will take something you’ve said the wrong way, or someone will disagree with her, or one of us will refuse to do exactly what she wants and we know that we’re about to be in the eye of the storm.
When G decides to lose it there’s nothing on earth that will distract her. Heading her off at the pass is simply not an option. Anyone foolish enough to attempt to reason with her will be blasted with a stream of fury:
“YOU’RE NOT LISTENING TO WHAT I’M SAYING. TALK TO ME NICELY. DON’T LOOK AT ME WITH THAT FACE. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME. WHY AREN’T YOU TALKING TO ME? YOU’RE NOT MY BEST FRIEND!”.
The only thing we can do is silently carry her wriggling, screaming, contorted body upstairs, put her in time out in her bedroom for 4 minutes and cling on to the handle while she flicks the light on and off repeatedly until the bulb blows (Dh has been known to take the bulb out when he senses an outburst coming) with one hand and rattles the handle, desperately trying to get out, with the other.
As I hold on to the handle, my hand going redder with every rattle, I silently watch the clock. G has a hell of a set of lungs on her. She never goes quiet in those four, long minutes. Sometimes she screams louder and louder until she reaches a crescendo of sobbing and shouting.
When the clock ticks over I quietly open the door. G stands there, a red-faced, tear-stained, snotty mess. She breathes heavily, gulping back yet more tears. I get down to her level, look her in the eye and tell her to say sorry. G looks back at me with defiance in her eyes. Finally, when she realises there is no other option, she whispers an apology at me. I take her by the hand and we head downstairs so that she can apologise to whoever was caught in her wake.
After a few minutes everything is calm and it’s like the outburst didn’t happen. I marvel at the fact that I managed to stay in control and didn’t do the one thing that would be so easy to do but extremely hard to take back later – I didn’t hit her*.
G and I make cakes together and she loves licking out the bowl, often dipping a finger in before I’ve removed the mixture. She calls herself Mummy’s dancing queen as she throws shapes to Can’t Get You Out of My Head by Kylie. She draws an endless stream of pictures of Mummy, Daddy, R, her favourite characters, animals and soft toys. She can write her name without help. She can copy words and sentences that I write out for her, her nose almost touching the paper as she scrawls out the letters in her wobbly left-handed writing. She tells us that she dreams of blue and pink puppies, yet has to sleep on her left side so that she can look out for monsters. She’s brilliant at board games and quietly takes the spoils while her hyper-competitive sister sulks about losing yet another game of Guess Who.
G is fantastically bossy and acts like R’s older sister, the one minute between them often feeling like more like a year. She has a tremendous sense of justice. She spotted R’s best friend at nursery (A) kicking mud at her. R didn’t want to tell tales on her friend so G marched up to her keyworker and ensured that A was made to say sorry to R. R worries too much about what other people think of her. G doesn’t care a jot. She genuinely thinks that she is an additional keyworker at nursery and takes a register each morning (they now print out a list of names for her) and has a little notebook in which she writes everyone’s lunch orders.
G is incredibly confident and believes that everyone in the world is fundamentally good. She is absolutely fearless and doesn’t mind making herself look silly. She is a bit clumsy and falls over quite a lot, but she picks herself up and only makes a fuss if it really hurts. She is brilliant at putting outfits together (we call her Gok) and loves clothes shopping with me. She has excellent taste and selects outfits for R and herself. She’ll even dress R if her sister is in a contrary mood. This morning she laid out a t-shirt, boxers and socks for Dh, all perfectly co-ordinated.
G has a quirky worldview. We do a letter of the week and while we were queueing in the supermarket last week I asked the girls to think of things beginning with D. Without pausing to think she said in an extremely clear voice ‘DEAD’. I thought I’d misheard her so I asked her to repeat what’s she’d said. ‘DEAD’.I stifled a laugh and asked her to think of something else. G thought for a moment: ‘DYING’. I asked her if she meant ‘diving’. Apparently not**. The woman behind us in the queue waving a bunch of daffodils around in an effort to get R to notice an object beginning with D had to hide her face to mask her giggles.
G has a tremendous imagination. She takes R with her to another world, where sealions play with Sleeping Beauty and her toy doggy has a whole life of his own. I asked her once if she wanted to be a sealion trainer when she grew up. She fixed me with a very particular look – a ‘How stupid ARE you?!’ look – and replied: ‘No! I want to be a sealion’. As she colours in, she sings made-up songs to herself. She makes up games for the other children to play at nursery. She has a very slight lisp and people comment on her sweet little voice – when she chooses to use it as opposed to her usual bellow.
We all joke that she’ll probably win an Oscar one day…but will take Aunty J to the ceremony because she’s G’s idol. That, or she’ll be running the country. People underestimate G. They think she’s silly and fluffy but she’s got a mind like a steel trap. It all goes in and bits of information reappear at the oddest moments. I was told about space and flying to the moon over breakfast the other week. When A was our letter of the week she was most insistent that Owl began with an A and got incredibly cross when we kept correcting her.
How do we solve a problem like G?
I joke occasionally that we should just send G to school now, because she seems more than ready for it. While I don’t think she’s a genius I do think that she needs to be stretched a bit more, hence the letter of the week. I’ve also got the Oxford Reading Tree phonics books, which she refers to as her reading books. She’s nowhere near reading yet, but both girls seem to have inherited Dh’s practically photographic memory and can recall whole sections of books on only a second read-through. She also likes flashcards so I’ve bought a couple of sets and she likes (I know!!) me to test her on them.
When G is on-song she’s such a lovely child. A bit Lola-ish at times but basically very sweet. When she’s in Jekyll mode I want to walk out of the house and not come back. I honestly thought that once the terrible twos were out of the way we wouldn’t have to deal with tantrums any more. Yes, I was extremely naïve and stupid. Now the tantrums have context and guilt and wordplay and layers.
G is like this now. What ON EARTH is she going to be like as a teenager? A couple of our friends are also going through this with their preschool-age daughters. One phoned me up the other night and we compared notes. I tried (probably in vain) to offer some crumbs of comfort:
- You always take out your frustration on those you love the most
- They’re going to be strong, confident women who won’t take any shit from anyone.
I didn’t say it at the time, but there’s a third:
- No matter how awful G has been during the day, when she snuggles down in bed with her doggy, she always tells me she loves me.
*I haven’t ever hit R or G. Believe me though, there have been times where I’ve briefly considered it as an option. When the red mist descends I go into a different room to the girls and take out my frustration on an inanimate object.
**We’re waiting for her to become a goth or – heaven forbid – an emo.