Baby cussing, we'd call it. My daughter was about eight months old when she first start learned to give her big brother the business. Strapped into their respective carseats, they couldn't actually touch each other -- a good thing, since Christopher was not nearly so articulate, and probably would have clobbered Sarah.
Five years have passed. Sarah can now run verbal circles around her brother -- and is nine times out of ten the one who will pull the first punch. Christopher is far more even-tempered and gentle with his sister than her behavior toward him would suggest. Even so, the drama flares several times a day.
"M-o-o-o-o-m! Sarah's eating caramels again!" (This is a test. If I respond to this with relative indifference, this is his cue to beg for some candy, too.)
"M-o-o-o-m! Sarah took off her clothes again!" (If she had her way, she would run around with tights pulled up to her pits and nothing else, all day, every day.)
"M-o-o-o-m! Sarah's dancing in front of the TV again!" (She waits until his favorite show comes on, then pirohettes repeatedly in front of the screen, blocking his view, chanting, "Aren't I pretty?"
Sarah is far less articulate about alerting me to the cosmic injustices that Christopher inflicts upon her little world. She has perfected a soul-piercing shriek that can be heard for several counties, and either hasn't figured out or can't be bothered to regulate the decibles to reflect the seriousness of the episode. Whether her brother has drawn blood or just a little magic marker on her arm, it's the end of the world as we know it.
Last night I saw something on "Supernanny" that gave me a clue about this, however. The mother on this particular episode was a hyper-perfectionist -- all three girls had to be dressed in immaculate matching outfits, complete with hair ribbons, before venturing outside to ride their bikes. (Me, I'm happy if they're just covered). Her emasculated husband cowered in one corner, knowing that he would be yelled at if he picked the wrong outfit for the girls.
"You need to take some things less seriously, to have fun with your girls. They need to have some time every day when you focus completely on the moment, on what they want to do. Then you may find it easier to manage them the rest of the day." (I'm paraphrasing this, of course -- but that was the gist.)
As I think about it, I realize that there's a lesson for me here, too. Yes, I need to step away from the keyboard sometimes. However, I also need some quality time with my Father if my behavior is going to be managable the rest of the day. Too much drama is sometimes a symptom that a child is not spending the time she needs with the One who loves her best.