I think I might have been a better mother from the very start had Blueberry been my first child. This has nothing to do with personalities. It just so happens that since Blueberry is so verbal, she explains things to me that I wish I had known when the other 2 were her age. She basically verbalizes all those things that young children typically express by throwing tantrums that mostly just confound us parents. When Blueberry was a toddler, for example, she rarely threw tantrums because she could verbalize her needs. Instead of pointing to a piece of fruit and hoping that the nearest adult could understand what she needed, she would just yell out (in the voice of an octogenarian who smokes 2 packs a day, I might add), "I want that plum!" She could tell me what hurt and where and often times exactly how it felt. Once, after she'd accidentally consumed some gluten, she told me her tummy "felt like it had a mouse running inside it" and that she "just wanted to hit someone and scream at them." Gluten affects her moods, you see. This I know because she has told me so. Among her first sentences was the one that has helped me understand her in new situations: "I feel shy." She frequently whispered that to me when new people tried to talk to her. This allowed me to meet her needs and prevented me from trying to get her to smile at or talk with the new person.
I wish I had been so privy to the inner workings of Rhubarb and Eggplant when they were younger. I probably would have known how to meet more of their needs.
This is on my mind because yesterday Blueberry answered some burning questions of mine: As kids get older, do they really use tantrums to try and manipulate the situation to get what they want or are they just still struggling with their emotions? Is there always, as Alfie Kohn would have us believe, an underlying issue causing kids to act out? Or do they sometimes just try and work the system?
I believe Blueberry has blown the 4 year old cover. As we were biking home from a choral festival, Blueberry eschewed her large tubs of snacks and started screaming that she wanted some sour cream and onion rice crackers. I let her know that her tub contained plenty of good snacks so we would not be stopping the bikes (we were in traffic) to get out the crackers. She threw quite the fit (not having experienced these fits from her when she was younger, it has been a tough adjustment for me). Finally, after a good amount of tantrumming, she yelled to me, "If you just give me exactly what I want, I will stop screaming!" A-ha! So she WAS trying to manipulate the situation with her screaming. She wasn't just tired or uncomfortable. She had a goal and she meant to achieve it by screaming at me.
Now, having affirmed this, I have no judgments about it. Truly, in a world where you are smaller than most everyone and have less power than most people and cannot do most things on your own, screaming at someone to get them to give you what you want is a pretty impressive method of getting your way. I certainly appreciate it over, say, sneaking the thing you want. Really, it just is what it is.
But now I know for sure.