Benjamin has been talking a lot, lately, about what he’d do if he had a freeze ray. (I blame Despicable Me and one of the Cars games he plays on the iPad.) His focus seems to largely be on freezing people in the way of something he wants. He’s threatened to freeze Liam so he doesn’t play with his toys, me because I said I wasn’t going to download a new game he wanted, and his toys (again, so Liam can’t play with them).
At first, I was kind of horrified — how could he want to freeze ME?!? And poor Liam?!? — but then I realized that he doesn’t know that something like that would actually harm the object of his freeze ray. Obviously, he’s voicing a frustration, and I’m pretty grateful (and impressed) that he’s planning to use an imaginary stop-you-in-your-tracks weapon, rather than actually lashing out. (He is, after all, only 4.)
So, I tried to help him put words to his feelings, and whenever he makes the freeze ray statement, I started responding with, “Wow, you sound like you’re pretty frustrated. Are you angry with me/him/this situation?” And mostly, he says yes, and I felt kind of like Super Mom.
Today, he woke up from his nap and was very loud and impatient with me, resulting in him waking Liam up from his nap, which did not make me (or Liam) very happy. B was impatient because he wanted to play a game on the iPad, and I have a policy of no iPad/iPhone games for the first hour after waking (after a nap or in the morning, because I got REALLY tired of having B get up super early so he had time to play Angry Birds before school).
Anyway, he was not happy with me. He’s not really been into games lately, and either he forgot the rule, or he was hoping I forgot. He was nigh on hysterical about it, which did not improve anyone’s mood. As he started to calm down, he made the freeze ray comment again, and I responded as I have been. He wiped the tears from his cheeks, looked me in the eye with a stern expression, sniffled, and said, “No, Mommy. I’m not angry with you. I say I’m going to freeze you because I want you to know how powerful I am.”
Simultaneously, my heart broke a little and I was stunned and amazed. How hard must it be to be 4 and have so little power? How frustrating must it be to not be able to control, well, just about anything? Of course he wishes he could freeze the things he wishes he could control! And, how cool is that? 4 years old and able to articulate and express the difference between anger and frustration at feeling powerless? I know many people who spent years in therapy to get to that point (and many more who can’t).
I am so proud of Benjamin. What an amazing heart and mind he has. He knocked my socks off with that today. I will no longer try to label his frustration as anger, and I won’t let my feelings be hurt when he wants to zap me with his freeze ray. I’m also considering it my personal mission to find him some ways to be powerful. It’s hard to be a little guy.