Somehow we missed the terrible twos with The Dormouse. Oh, I'm sure I complained about it back than, but my selective memory has forgotten all that and caused me to believe that she never threw a fit, never sassed, never acted like a child.

I really wish I'd had this blog back when The Dormouse was born so I would have written down things that I need to know now, like how long was it before she got onto a three-hour feeding schedule - because The Caterpillar is still nursing every two hours and I feel like if I turned my head just right, my brain would gleefully leak out of my left ear. So the blog would have been helpful to gauge how things are going now.

I do vaguely remember complaining on the phone to my mother about this conversation when she was two:

Me: "Do you want milk or orange juice?"

DM: "Milk."

Me: pours a glass of milk and hands it to her "Here you go."


So I'm sure there were times when she was a handful. I just don't remember it being quite as bad as the last two weeks, where she has worked "bratty" into an art form.

I'd like to blame it all on the new baby - as does everyone I talk to - but I don't really get the sense that competition or jealousy have a whole lot to do with it. I actually think it has more to do with the fact that she turned four and moved up into the four year old class at preschool and she thinks she's hot stuff. Plus, there are a whole lot more unsavory behaviors to pick up from a room full of four year olds than a room full of three year olds.

Sometimes, when I'm singing to the Small One and trying to get her to sleep, I'll have to give some verbal instruction or reprimand to the Large One. Not wanting to break the rhythm, because I've been rocking this child for lord knows how long and I'm damn sure not going to stop and lose all that ground I've been gaining on the way to sweet., sweet Silence With No Baby Screaming now, I often "yell" at The Dormouse by incorporating what I want to say to her into the song I'm singing. Something like this:

"Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top
When the wind breaks, the cradle will rock
Clean up your room or I will get mad,
You'll be in time out and be very sad."

My grandmother used to do this when kids and grand kids alike were little - I think it's genetic. Anyway, I did this the other day and The Dormouse became indignant and incensed:

"Momma," she scowled at me, pointing her finger, "DON'T sing me what to do."

I'm not quite sure how to deal with the new found animal that is my older daughter. I know she's individuating, testing limits, etc. I also know that this is a phase she's likely to grow out of. But in the midst of whatever fit we're dealing with at the moment, I can't shake the image that's in my head of us doing this dance until she's twenty-one - only it gets worse the older she gets. I'm not sure how to handle this, since she rarely wins one of these fights and she really does hate the punishments we enforce. She just doesn't seem to remember from one moment to the next what will get you thrown into the time-out dungeon.

Another time, she did end up in time out after a screaming fit. We generally put her on her bed (I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that, but there are few other options in our house) with no toys and I set a kitchen timer for the appropriate amount of time, whatever that may be. I dragged all kicking and screaming forty pounds of her to her room, unceremoniously dumped her on her bed, then set the timer and announced, "When the dinger dings you can come out." Then I went back to enjoy dinner with the rest of the family.

We sat, eating in silence, then heard a four year old voice from the back of the house, in her best impersonation of a kitchen timer, say, "Ding!"

The KingofHearts looked at me and I said, "Do you suppose she really thinks we are that gullible and will go let her out of time out because we think the dinger dinged?"

KoH: "I wouldn't put it past her."

To her credit, she didn't push it any further when we didn't respond. I suppose she thinks it was worth a shot.

Part of the problem here is that she really is so well-behaved most of the time. (I know, I know, I'd complain if I was hung with a new rope. But it's kind of true. ) She is such a mature child most of the time and her vocabulary belies someone with much more age and self-control, that we often forget that she is just a child and we should expect child-like behavior from her sometimes. A couple of years ago, I taught her to say, "I'm just two, mommy," when I got angry with her, hoping that I'd be reminded to have more realistic expectations. But that doesn't seem to work as well with "I'm just four."

I fully admit that this is more a me problem than a her problem. So I'm asking you, oh knowledgeable Interweb, how do you handle a kid who's being bratty just for bratty's sake? There's got to be some deep, dark secret someone is willing to pass along to me.

Because I don't think I can make up any more songs.