Fast forward to December 14th-ish. I am slowly losing my mind with each Christmas decoration that is pulled from the Christmas tree and smashed on the ground. Melissa attempts to blame the cat each time and it's driving me insane.
Listen--the cat is part of the problem, no doubt. She's the equivalent of 150 human years according to cat time, but it doesn't stop her from wandering all casual-like under our tree and batting at stuff hanging from the bottom. Every other morning I'm picking up the wooden toy horse ornament or the crocheted gingerbread girl and sticking them back on the tree. Sometimes I have to wipe off the cat puke first. And that's always nice.
There are three key words in that last paragraph I'd like to draw your attention to at this point: bottom, wooden, and crocheted. I don't have a great many ornaments. But the ornaments I've placed toward the bottom of the tree, right at 3 year old girl and cat eye level, are ones that (a) don't matter much to me and/or (b) are practically unbreakable. Because, I don't know if anyone knows this or not, but I do like to think of myself as pretty clever during brief moments of sheer clarity, or at the very least intensely pragmatic. So as I decorated, I said to myself: "Self, make sure you put all these wooden/crocheted/unbreakable ornaments at the bottom or this could get ugly."
Pragmatic be damned. So far, to date, I have swept up broken, shattered, jagged remnants of the following: one heart ornament a friend from long ago gave me--I've lost touch with the friend, but I'm a sentimental psycho, and so I was deeply saddened to the point of teary eyes when it shattered all over the wood floors below it (because I'm so very dramatic with symbolic messages the Universe tosses my way now and then).....two cheap ceramic snowmen holding cheap ceramic candy canes I just really, really liked, I don't know why......and one "World's Best Teacher!" ornament that simply will not glue back together no matter how frantically I try (let's all pause for a moment of silent reflection as we offer pleading prayers to the Universe that It was not sending any cosmic symbolic communiques with that one).
I don't know how Melissa gets to them--honestly, it's nothing short of a Christmas miracle. They weren't at the top of the tree, but they also weren't at 3 year old level. She's like a Christmas tree ninja. I suspect most 3 year olds are, and having wood floors only exacerbates the problem. I really prefer wood floors to carpet, 11 months out of the year. Carpet involves lugging out a vacuum cleaner and dragging it around every week, and cat puke is practically impossible to get out, and cat hair is like glued into it forever. I love having wood floors. Love, love, love. But in December? Oh man, how I long for carpet.
In addition (and more concerning), The Infamous Christmas Tree Debacle of '11 has also advanced warned me: basically I'm raising a 14 year old in a 3 year old's body.
How do I know? Because the last time Melissa got caught manhandling the tree I snapped, and I snapped really hard. Go ahead, judge me; I do not care. I'd had quite enough of the tree manhandling that had been going on that day as it had reached a zenith of really ridiculous, outrageous proportions. And so I snapped. I snapped and it was not pretty.
And here's another thing about my little Christmas tree ninja: Melissa's in a weird phase right now (and there are so many of these I hear, from the time they turn one until they're packing for college) in which she slaps when she gets mad. She slaps at objects, she slaps at walls, she slaps at herself, she slaps at thin air. I'm not concerned about the slapping or her slapping at any of the the above--you wanna hit the sofa? Go for it, kid. Here's a pillow, too. It needed reshaping anyway.
But she's also slapping at other people, and we simply can't have that. She generally doesn't slap hard, just hard enough to express her "you are not the boss of me" attitude. But we don't hit other people, and we don't hit each other in our house. I think people who go around slapping and hitting each other when they're angry have childhood wounds in desperate need of healing. That, or they need a larger vocabulary to express their feelings (which is why 1 year olds bite and 3 year olds slap, of course).
This time however, she did slap pretty hard. She slapped me, and there was a definite SMACK sound to the slap.
I put her in time out. She was all indignant about it, and now who wouldn't be? You're already so mad you're slapping and making satisfying SMACK! sounds, and suddenly someone's taken away your primal rage outlet and plopped you in, essentially, a padded cell void of things that are satisfying to whack. So I parked her little indignant, slap happy butt in her padded cell/aka our time out step, and she sat there and cursed me out the only way a 14 year old girl trapped in a 3 year old body knows how to do:
HER: I'm! Not! Going! To! Time! Out!
ME: Yet here you are. 3 minutes, m'am. I'll be back.
HER: I'm! Putting! YOU! In! Time out! Mommy!
10 seconds pass
HER: You're in! Time out! Mommy!
1 minute later...
HER: You're JOINING me!
HER: I hate! Time! Out!
and so on and so forth until 3 minutes were up.
When her 3 minutes were up I walked over and asked if she understood why I put her in time out. Here's where the 14 year old totally reared her sassy little head: "Yes," she said, "Because you used your mean voice at me. And I hit you. You don't! Use! Your mean voice at me, Mommy! And I mean it!"
So yes. You see what I'm dealing with? A 3 year old who possesses the reasoning abilities of a wayward teenager. Because I used my mean voice, she just had to slap me. Mommy made her. Because people who use their mean voices just need a good slapping.
I laughed that one off this time, because she's 3 and it's pretty cute. I did let her know in no uncertain terms was she to ever, ever slap at anyone, even if a mean voice was used. We don't hit, ever. But I did heartily chuckle at her while letting her know all of that. But I chuckled in secret, where she couldn't see, and I chuckled in a sort of nervous way. I can tell: in another 10 years, this is going to get tricky; there's an ability to process and analyze I'm almost positive I didn't even develop until my mid-20's. I could be doomed.
But I'm also very impressed at the abstract reasoning ability my offspring is utilizing. Most child development researchers will tell you it's all concrete thinking until about age 10. And I've been given a child who, clearly, could make Jean Piaget scratch his head.
Which brings me back to my first seasonal craft project: Obviously, little Miss M does not have enough to do. And so we went to Michael's craft store and picked up some craft glue and a whole lot of felt. I cut a tree out of green felt and some tree decorations out of other felt colors. And now? Melissa can decorate her own tree to her little 14 years-in-a-3 year old heart's content:
I'm fairly certain this is the look she aims for each time she attempts to re-decorate our family tree. It's avant garde, yes, with a touch of irreverent whimsy. But I have real Christmas tree ornaments that whimper whenever she walks by; I've sworn to protect them. And anyway, we're a pretty modern family and all, but we're just not an avant garde Christmas tree family at the moment. But we do have a tree ninja. (The Dora pj's are just her weekend ninja uniform. She has others.)