My daughter, Jai, is quite a part-time job. Coming up quickly on 20 months old, she has developed a quirkiness that has been surprising and entirely distinctive from her big brother, Jrue. Recently, that particular eccentricity has given way to a moodiness that I’m sure I’ll recognize during her future pre-pubescent years and, again, during those wretched teenaged ones. When she starts in on specific behaviors, I just want to look her in the eyes and ask some pertinent questions.
“Jai, when you do that inconsolable crying and run away down the hallway, how do you expect any of us to help try to solve the problem?”
As her newest performance trick, Jai will randomly burst into tears and take off, full-speed, distancing herself from everyone. In attempts to console, we then must chase her or coerce her to come back towards us. Each time she does it, I envision an upset 13-year-old who was just told that she could not go out to the movies with the grades she is bringing in or the 16-year-old whose father just told her that she needed to get a job if she wanted to buy $200 shoes. I flinch when she does it, not because I cannot mentally handle those sparing moments, but because it is apparent that the expectation is more attention-seeking than something actually being wrong. Usually, the culprit is a small entity, but her reactions are so over-the-top dramatic.
“Parenting expert and psychotherapist Alyson Schafer says a drama queen is usually a kid who uses his or her emotions to manipulate, and whose emotional reactions are disproportionate in intensity to the situation,” says writer Kristy Woudstra for Today’s Parent. Looks like we may have a “drama queen” in the making. As the baby girl in the family, who could blame her?
“When you pick out trash from the can or dirt from the ground or, uh, anything, and stuff it quickly into your mouth, do you ever consider food safety, or are you simply attempting to complete a taste-testing in a timely manner?”
We have a running joke in our home: Jai likes all of her food “seasoned with floor.” A piece of candy can hit the kitchen counter, get kicked out to the living room carpet, and collect several lint balls on its way to a rested position. Jai will run for it and suck it more quickly into her mouth than her next breath. It’s become quite…psycho. We are constantly yelling, “Take that out!” or “Show mommy! Show me what’s in your mouth!” while squeezing her cheeks together. It has also become a bit scary because she has zero idea, and zero frank cares, what is dangerous about eating the tip off of a marker or consuming an ant hill outside or biting the hooks off the holiday ornaments.
It seems as if this may be a good period in Jai’s history to potentially introduce a “lovey” of some type for her to bite on…or try to eat…as needed.
“Jai, when you refuse to smile at me, do you do so intentionally, just so that I can try harder to make you smile? What’s your agenda, my dear?”
It never fails to amaze me how serious of a demeanor my daughter sports. Many times, she half-smirks at me out of a probable pity, as if she knows that “this poor lady is trying all her might to elicit some level of apparent joy from me, so here goes.” I initially believed that she just wasn’t a “morning person,” which is understandable. Then it evolved into Jai not being a “people person,” followed by her not being sociable at all. It’s still difficult to adjust down from the level of friendliness we were used to with Jrue…I had adjusted to not having to make excuses why he didn’t wave back because he usually waved back. Jai will stare directly at someone greeting her, as if she doesn’t comprehend the language, and all I can do is shrug. There’s no making excuses for her exceptionality.
“Ma’am, are you really ready to go potty, or are you just playing with us?”
Some weeks back, Jai began to remove her diapers once they were loaded. It’s an on-off obsession for her; sometimes, she removes a soiled diaper and skirts into the room where I am located, completely nonchalant to my confused shrieking at her sudden nudity. During other times, she doesn’t seem to mind the poop at all and will push her stinky bottom into anyone’s face in attempts to grab their cell phone. Our first sign when Jrue was interested in the potty was the diaper removal stage, thus, our excitement that this is happening here before age 2 with Jai. Of course, we recognize that our children are, again, so different in temperament and preference, but we still hope that we are facing the last months of the diaper expense. (Diapers are not getting any cheaper. My God.) However we get there, I’m noting the possibility of purchasing a potty-training doll for inspiration…just because dolls are fun.
Jai will probably ignore that doll.
I know we’ll have more questions for our little girl in the coming weeks. She’ll probably just stand there and stare at us, her face giving away all of the annoyed reproach her mouth cannot yet formulate. We look forward to experiencing that same look, patented by teenagers across the world, for the rest of her life, I’m sure.
Woudstra, Kristy. “Raising a drama queen.” Today’s Parent, Mar. 14, 2013, https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/raising-a-drama-queen/. Accessed Nov. 26, 2017.