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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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« Why you should not fear Five. | Main | It'll all be better soon. Right? Right. Right! »
Monday
Sep172007

An open letter to five-year-olds.

Listen up, jerks. You may think your place in the household is secure, but your parents have had it with you, and are seriously considering some drastic changes. Like maybe a move to a Preschooler-Free Household. Yeah, that's right. One of these mornings you might just find your Thomas Suitcase all packed up on the doorstep. Your parents will tell you there's an AWESOME SURPRISE waiting for you outside, and once you're out there, oopsie, the door locked behind you! And why aren't they answering the door? And what's that cab pulling up the driveway?

Oh, don't give me that look, with the big wet eyes. All right, probably they won't do that. Or definitely. Definitely they won't do that. Okay? Pull yourself together. But sometimes they dream of it, and do you want them thinking of you like that? No, right? You're staring at me blankly, so either you agree or you don't understand a word I'm saying. While I have your attention, here are some behaviors you might want to avoid in the future:

1. Whining. Bad idea, short stuff. I don't know when you first learned the super-smartastic lesson that making a sound like the air being slowly let out of a balloon will cause your parents to finally see your point. In fact, all they can hear is EEEEEEEE. All they can think is "Where's that suitcase of his?"

2. Talking. As in, that much. Yes you're witty and brilliant and yes your parents sometimes enjoy hearing of your Lego Batman Adventures in Prehistoric Space, but the occasional pause would serve you well. For instance, when your mom is calling the bank and she gets one of those automated voice-activated menus. The kind that respond to YES and NO, not MOM HEY MOM LISTEN HOW BATMAN EXCAPED THE ROBOTRONIC DINO-RAPTOR.

3. Behaving in a nutty fashion. News flash: sometimes your parents think you're a complete loon. Like when you're tired but instead of sitting quietly or GOING TO BED LIKE YOU CLEARLY NEED TO, you leap from room to room, alternately wailing piteously and cackling with mirth. Then when your parents sensibly try to direct you upstairs you engage in multiple wacky pratfalls until you finally injure yourself. And blame your parents for your injuries.

4. Baby talk. There was a time when you talked like a baby, and you're not in that time anymore. You can't fake it. It's not charming when you try. You like to combine it with the whining. No one else likes it. See how your mom is shuddering? Okay. Let's move on.

5. "Again!" Here's the thing: if something happens that was fun, we get that you enjoyed it. And that you wish you could freeze that moment in time and replay it as many times as you want. Unfortunately, you cannot. So when your mom hangs you upside-down by the feet and you're greatly amused, and you ask for it again, maybe she can do it one or two more times. But after the fifth time, her spine begins to give out. And when you're issuing threats and caterwauling because you can't do that fun upside-down thing a 37th time, you've pretty much sapped the fun out of the experience, and also caused your parents to think twice about ever engaging with you, in any way, until the end of time. Let it go.

There are 17 other behaviors we need to address, but this is a good beginning for now. If you make an honest attempt to improve yourself in the ways I've outlined above, your place in the home might remain secure. Of course I can't promise anything. And no, you can't have a cookie. No, I said. Not now. No. No. Okay, just one.

Reader Comments (76)

Oh dear lord. I am on the fence about having a baby, and this might just have pushed me off. Is this stuff CONSTANT?
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSooz
Greeeeeeeeat.

Declan just turned 5 last week.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteraimee/greeblemonkey
Can we just all agree that baby talk is not good at any age? Thanks for the laughs.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. G.
Just when I was happy to be over the bottle washing years.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMom101
Yes, yes, YES!! My daughter won't be 5 until Dec. and there's already the whining, and TOO MUCH talking, and the 1-year-old-baby-freakout-sessions, and the REPETITIVENESS!!!! OMG! Save me!
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
If the preschool child has a baby sibling the behavior described in #4 spreads out into all aspects of life. The baby bro is constantly chewing on things? I MUST CHEW ON THOSE THINGS ALSO. Like spoons, toys, a shirt sleeve, etc. Also, the baby likes to bite and chew on Mommy's shoulder? Me too! I'm so funny! The baby gets to be spoon-fed by Mommy? Then I insist on being fed in that manner as well! Ha-ha!

There's nothing worse than a lanky, kicky 3.5-year-old insisting on baby-style assistance/behavior. Except maybe the whole refusing-to-listen/going-limp-whenever-asked-to-get-dressed-or-go-anywhere behavior combo.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterS-Way
If the preschool child has a baby sibling the behavior described in #4 spreads out into all aspects of life. The baby bro is constantly chewing on things? I MUST CHEW ON THOSE THINGS ALSO. Like spoons, toys, a shirt sleeve, etc. Also, the baby likes to bite and chew on Mommy's shoulder? Me too! I'm so funny! The baby gets to be spoon-fed by Mommy? Then I insist on being fed in that manner as well! Ha-ha!

There's nothing worse than a lanky, kicky 3.5-year-old insisting on baby-style assistance/behavior. Except maybe the whole refusing-to-listen/going-limp-whenever-asked-to-get-dressed-or-go-anywhere behavior combo.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterS-Way
It can't still be this bad at five. I don't believe you. I can't hear you. Lalalalalalala
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAll Adither
This is hysterical! Definitely a must-read for all parents - thanks for putting those feelings into words that we often feel guilty for feeling. I have already forwarded to all my friends with 4-5 yr olds, and am working on additions to your list.How about "Incessant NEVERENDING Questions?" We know you're curious, and although we don't REALLY want to know all of what's rattling around in that developing brain of yours, we are proud of your intelligence. But if we have to answer one more question about why (insert bad guy's name here) did (insert some bad deed here) to (insert main character of story here), we WILL stick the above-referenced fork into our ears.We call for "question breaks" all the time, but they rarely work...
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Broderhausen
Aargh. My 2-year-old is already exhibiting some of these charming behaviors. "Again" he says after I read a book to him. Um... okay. So this will go on for years to come? I hope there is good stuff, too.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPamela
I tell my daughter that Mommies have magic ears that don't hear whining.

She has yet to be convinced.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica
I'm with you on every point but the baby talk. Thankfully, my 5-year old does not do that one. But everything else? Right with you. Yesterday, my husband and I actually had the conversation about whether or not we could lock him out of the house for the afternoon, just to get a break from the nonstop commentary.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLora
For those who are wondering if this goes on forever. Yes. In some form, yes. Maybe the baby-talk goes by age 12 at the latest, but the rest. The whining is slightly different, but it's there. Even if you succeed in modifying the tone, the intent is there. The talking, oh the talking. Every single thought that enters the head comes out the mouth. Nutty behavior - still here. More to impress friends now, but just as annoying. And don't, I mean EVER play a game with your kid. Never. Because if you do, you will be asked every single day 3 times minimum if you'd like to play that game again (So the Again clause changes slightly too, but it's still alive and well).There's really no hope. They go from this constant annoyance directly into the 13 year old "you're not actually trying to talk to ME are you? And expecting me to listen?? God." phase. Which in the universe's great wisdom is a very, very welcome relief. For a short time. Then you actually miss the little buggers.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersusies
18.

That's when you can actually put them out on the sidewalk and lock the door.

It's also about when they start turning into adult human beings you can have a conversation with.

You can be friends with your adult children. Some of them, anyway.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine
This.Is.Awesome.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteramy
I wonder what our little darlings would write in an open letter to all the mommies?
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca F.
I thought maybe the boy children whined less than the girl children.

Drat.
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdorothy
Heh. My son is exactly the same, and he's six and a half! Boys, huh?
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Hey! I just wanted to pitch in here that it honestly does get better!!! But I did indeed laugh my ass off. This was the most fun yet. Thank you. Give it a little more time.

Signed,mom of almost 20-year-old daughter:)
September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKeri
This is why grapes are grown and turned into wine. Good red wine. Or bad. One glass. Or two. Almost every night. Or every night without fail.

It's the REWARD, dammit. Must have a reward.
September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
I told my 3 year old, under my breath, as I was buckling him into his car seat the other night, that we might as well just "take you straight to whiner island". Of course, since he was in the middle of a whine, I didn't think he even heard me. As we pulled up at home and he woke up with a start he mumbled anxiously "Did you take me to whiner island?"

Yeah. Whine until my brain explodes, and then make ME feel guilty.
September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJenni
You know, you sort of figure that if you just don't respond to the whining then they'll learn to stop. Except that they don't. Instead they seem to view it as a personal challenge of some sort and they keep going and going until you snap and rip your own ears off your head to toss out the window.
September 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersherry
good one. seriously.
September 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentershannon
You just described my 6 1/2 year old, too. It's gotten a little better over the past two years -- but not a helluva lot. Now there's just more talking and negotiating and procrastinating and... and exhaustion on the part of her parents.
September 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteriheartnewyork
You mean.. mine's not the only one engaging in these behaviors?!I knew there were a million good reasons for hard liquor. You listed one through five.
September 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPretty Lush

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