“Count to four, mommy!” she screamed at me, as she stormed through the living room. She plopped down on the chair, hands itching to throw something. Her feet drummed against the floor and the chair legs, full of restless energy and frustration.
I could have disciplined her for her tone. Her attitude. Instead, I asked her to ask politely instead of scream and then helped her count to 4.
Not counting, but calming
She can count to four on her own, of course. She’s almost six years old and can do academic work grades ahead of her own. She wasn’t asking me to count numbers, she was asking me to help her do her deep breathing to calm herself down. It’s something we’ve been working on – taking control of her raging body and forcing it to calm. My girl isn’t calm or ladylike at all: she’s a flash of lightning and a summer storm.
All of my kids are intense. They’re intense in different ways, but my younger two really struggle with controlling their emotions. After I wrote that sentence I laughed, because all little kids have trouble controlling their emotions. It’s normal. What my kids experience is NOT normal, and I don’t know how to describe it. All I can really do is describe some of the things that have happened.
My daughter, in the middle of an emotional storm, threw herself on the floor screeching at the top of her lungs. She wouldn’t stop. The dentist pulling my oldest son’s teeth was just as frustrated as I was but neither of us could do anything because I was helping hold my son still.
My youngest son, frustrated because he couldn’t articulate what he needed, stormed off and tossed a dining room chair into the wall. Then he crossed the family room, throwing every single toy that was in his path as I chased him down. He didn’t stop until I swooped him up in a bear hug as he physically fought to get away.
My daughter, frustrated that I wouldn’t purchase the toy she was demanding, sat down on the floor in a huff and refused to move while holding my hand. I literally slid the child on her rear across the floor so that other patrons could pass. When she gets to this point emotionally nothing works. Nothing except helping her calm down, which isn’t always ideal especially if I’m dealing with another eloping child or emotional upset.
My youngest son, wailing like he was seriously injured as he held his head and staggered towards me. I’ve learned not to panic – instead I picked him up, rubbed his back a little to calm him down, and hugged him. “What hurts?” I asked – only to hear “I hit my head on the sofa!” in reply. I want to laugh. I want to laugh so badly it hurts, but I can’t! A few more minutes of cuddles and an offer of an ice pack later, he’s calm and ready to go play. No injury, no blood, not even a bump.
Are they toddlers?
It sounds like I’m describing toddlers, right? She’s almost 6, he’s 4.5. Not toddlers, not even close to toddler age. Physically they’re older, but emotionally they’re younger than their ages. It’s called asynchrony, and it’s one of the joys of living with gifted kids.
Everything is an emotional emergency. Everything is worthy of screaming and panicking, with enough flouncing and tears to fill a dramatic theatre role. There is no such thing as a calm and measured response unless you’re counting mine. Otherwise it’s a constant roller coaster of emotions.
A little positivity
For all that it’s frustrating and for the love of little oranges, will they just SHUT UP for five minutes! I’m actually proud of them. They’re learning to control themselves, to calm their bodies down. Obviously we have a long way to go, but it’s encouraging. For a five-year-old to recognize that she’s out of control and ask for help to get back in control is amazing. Even if she’s screaming for me to help her calm down, it’s a step in the right direction.
For someone who has her own share of emotional intensities, this isn’t fun to deal with as a parent. I’m betting it’s even less fun as a kid, though.