The Pre-Schooler Rollercoaster

No one in my family has slept since last week when it occurred to my three year old that Princess Jasmine, (Aladdin’s paramour), had a pet tiger. Somehow, in the middle of the night every night and for several hours, it became urgent that Lucy warn Jasmine that her pet tiger could in fact eat her. It never occurs to her during the day, but then I suppose that’s how the mind of a three year old works.

So every night for the last ten days we have alternated taking her back to her bed, reassuring her that Jasmine is just fine, and asking her to go back to sleep. What follows is usually a few long hours of intense negotiation, even more intense tantrums, and some form of sleep deprivation torture. It’s been a little bit like singing a lullaby to a tiny despot in full arm waving rant mode.

Imagine our utter delight last night when our little miss decided to allow us a good 6 hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep. I went in to her room first thing to give her a cuddle and congratulate her on staying in her room, (because it’s important to give not so benevolent dictators positive reinforcement when they do the right thing), and offer her the incentive of a Freddo Frog after school if she continues such lovely behaviour.

I was met by a disaster of epic proportions – not as bad as when my then three year old son woke up early, climbed the built in cupboards and found some sudo crème to smear all over his walls, bed, face and hair, but a disaster all the same. Her room looked like it had been hit by a cyclone. Every toy was on the floor, every book was open and her bed covers had been ripped off the bed leaving poor princess teddy lonely and cold. Further proof that the sound of silence coming from a pre-schooler’s room, even when it means their parents get a few precious hours of sleep, is not always a good thing.

“Lucy did you wake up last night?”

“Yes Mummy. But I didn’t wake you.”

“That’s nice, I really appreciate it. But what did you do all night?”

“My dollies and I decided to have a party.”

“I see. And how is Princess Jasmine today?”

“She’s good. Why?”

“Are you still worried about her pet tiger?”

“Oh no. I like tigers now. I think I can train Raj.”

Though I’m not sure how long she was awake, it was clear the game was very intense. And hopefully the troubles with Princess Jasmine have flown out of her little mind the same way my instructions to eat her dinner do each night. She was back to her charming, giggling self and we started the morning with a smile instead of a tantrum.

I asked her to tidy up her toys, (which she miraculously began to do), and left her to wake up my son. He is usually cheerful in the mornings and a big help in getting himself ready while I am rushing around with his occasionally, (read often), moody sister.

I started on his usual toast and a boiled egg for breakfast but he scowled at me and sighed loudly for effect.

“What’s up?”

“I don’t want that for breakfast.”

“What do you want?”

“I don’t know. But it has to start with L.”

“Okay. How about Lunch for breakfast? I can make you a sandwich and put it in a lunch box.”

“That’s lunch. Lunch and breakfast are different.”

“Well a boiled egg has L in it?”

“Yeah but it’s not at the beginning.” (More dramatic sighing.) “Well, if you can’t manage something starting with L, how about something ending in L.

“Okay. What about cereal?”

“Fine. I’ll have Nutrigrain.”

“We’re out of Nutrigrain. What about Cheerios?”

“Mum I HATE Cheerios!”

“You had some for morning tea yesterday.”

“They don’t have an L in them.”

“Neither does Nutrigrain. What if I cut your toast into an L shape?”

Sigh. “Nice try, but that’s not how it works.”

Over the next half an hour he continued to roll his eyes and sigh as I proceeded to get everything wrong. He melted down over being the worst reader in the world because he couldn’t spell Parasaurolophus, (I’m not sure I spelled it right myself), and then because I wouldn’t let him wear his map of the world board shorts to school. Mostly because its 12 degrees and raining outside. All while I ran around madly trying to shepherd two pre-schoolers into a car with packed lunches and brushed teeth, and get myself suitably attired for work.

This is a snapshot of an hour in our house, and as things go, it was a pretty mild morning. But it never ceases to amaze me being a parent of small children how quickly things turn around. Just as my threenager turns a corner, my almost five year old is skidding towards the road rails. Who knows where that will lead, I’m ducking for cover and hoping for the best. Maybe I’ll even take in some of the view as we spin out of control and away from our pre-determined route.

The very best advice I got when I had a newborn was this;

“Don’t stress. Whatever is bothering you will be gone in a few days. Whatever wins you have probably will be too. Don’t get used to anything. That’s part of the fun.”

I appreciated the advice back then, but I truly value it now. So far, parenting is an up and down game, and the pre-school years have had some of the steepest challenges and without a doubt the greatest rewards. It occurs to me, of course that they may in fact be a glimpse into the future and the teen years to come. Lots of eye rolling, parties behind the parents’ back, messy rooms and impossible requests.

Hopefully, he will want toast and boiled eggs again tomorrow morning and the weather will be nice enough for board shorts. Maybe he’ll learn how to spell Parasauro-what’s-his-face. Maybe he’ll ask for something ending in Q for dinner tonight, who knows? I’m off to buy some Nutrigrain just in case he wants something that ends in L, as little sense as that makes. But then, very little about parenting actually makes sense and in most cases there is no time to do anything but act on instinct. So all we can do is sit back and enjoy the oncoming traffic, and I think that is the greatest challenge, and possibly the most fun.

Meanwhile I would appreciate it if Princess Jasmine could put Raj the tiger on a leash so we can all continue to get some sleep.

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