Saturday, January 15, 2005

Small Bodies Emit Scary Noises

Of our two children the 5-year-old has always been the calm one. The reason for this, I think, is God sends you the easy child first in order to persuade you to have another. THEN He chuckles knowingly, practical joker that He is, and sends you "the handful." In our case the 3-year-old is more like a sack-ful, or a a body-ful, as you can't drag him through a crowded parking lot using only your hands. They are both sweet children (when not in the presence of certain Evil Toy Idols), but the 3-year-old is far more likely to go off like a toddler grenade if you push his buttons or (gasp) pull his pin. For example, when he was a bit younger, between the ages of 6 months and 2 years or so, he used to GROWL at us when he was displeased. I did not know toddlers growled. I thought that was only for older children, and usually after a trip to the zoo. As an aside, we do NOT have a dog, and haven't come in much contact with dogs of any kind. So it isn't like he's got a four-legged hairy creature setting a feral example for him. I should probably point out that Hubby and I don't communicate this way either. We mostly just shout things like, "I can't HEAR you through the wall," followed by "Where are my DREETS?" and "WHAT?" "DREETS!" Eventually we find his car keys in a toy bin, or under a couch cushion, or in my case NEVER because they probably went out in the trash. Anyway we always felt the need to explain to people that our toddler was going through some kind of weird phase, because we hadn't adpoted him from Mowgli, Tarzan, Bilbo Baggins or any other forest-dwelling creatures. Also as a precaution we would tell people to keep their fingers away from him when he was growling, and not try to feed him anything unless he looked happy. The growling thing faded away after he was two. We decided once he acquired pretty good language skills he didn't need to rely on primitive instincts. Well lately a new noise is emerging, and it's equally odd. He is now HISSING at us. And believe it or not, I think the reason is that he actually has more self-control than he used to. Now when he gets angry his body goes into this aggressive hunch. His hands retract into claws. His cheeks sort of puff out like one of those frogs whose heads swell up when they're threatened. His eyes become slits. We see teeth. Then the weird hissing noise begins. It starts low and then picks up steam. He begins percolating. I look over at the 5-year-old, who has just taken a coveted Rescue Hero from the 3-year-old's play arena, where he has half a dozen of them set up in some kind of dramatic rescue. "Could you put that toy back, please?" I say. "I think your brother is going to explode." "But he isn't USING this one," the 5-year-old whines. "I think he was part of the action adventure," I say. "Put him back NOW." The hissing has gotten a lot worse. The 3-year-old sounds like a tea kettle on high. The claws are opening and closing, and he is edging closer to the 5-year-old. "Now, now, NOW," I implore him. "PUT IT BACK." The 5-year-old drops the disputed action figure, less due to my exhortations, and more, I think, because the hissing has gotten so loud. The 5-year-old of course can hold his own in a wrestling match with the 3-year-old, but there could be scratches. The hissing sort of scares me, but in a way I think it is a good thing. It means the 3-year-old KNOWS he should not attack his brother, and this is his way of showing restraint. The hissing just shows what's going on internally in the war with his emotions, and serves as an early warning system that a tantrum is about to erupt. Previously he would just launch himself into his brother without the intermediary hissing step. So for now, I guess, I think I'm okay with it!

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