“What is WRONG with you??” is exactly what you really want to say a lot of the time when your kid is a lawless little darling like McDiesel. It’s pretty much a reflex. So it’s the hardest thing to stop saying. And so we all say it—me, Husband (Number One), big brother—even though we shouldn’t.
For instance: in the space of forty minutes (and probably less) the other afternoon, McDiesel dumped a big box of packing peanuts all over the garage (undermining attempted organization in progress), a mug of hot cocoa (almost full) all over the kitchen table and rug, a just-opened twenty-pound bag of Iams (mini chunks—worst case scenario—and completely full), and then a brand-new bag of birdseed (also completely full) all over the sunroom floor. (Still have no idea where this bag materialized from but do know I hid it somewhere—proactively—to avoid just such a mess). Packing peanuts might have been any kid, but by the birdseed “What is WRONG with you??” was all I had left (as I— smelling like dog food and still holding table cloth, sponge, and paper towels all dripping with cocoa—looked incredulously at pile of birdseed on rug).
It’s the same for meticulously crafted Lego Jedi Cruisers in shambles (out of the blue and in the middle of playing happily with big bro) and sandwiches floating in the fish tank and sharp objects hurled at your face. Not to mention shattered flat-screen tvs, laptops, and nerves. “What is WRONG with you, what is WRONG with you, what is WRONG with you??”
Of course this is neither a productive nor a loving question to shout at a four-year-old. (What are we doing to McD’s self-concept? His self-esteem? So far, these seem invincible. [Anxiety in check.] Are we reinforcing his oppositional defiant tendencies? Unwittingly encouraging them in our exasperation, frustration, and blind fury? All evidence points to Highly Likely. [Anxiety spirals.])
Plus the question makes no sense at all. We all know what’s “wrong.” It’s purely rhetorical and makes everyone (excluding McD) feel bad.
What if the question weren’t rhetorical? What if McD looked at us and said what’s wrong with him is ADHD (textbook and emphasis on HD), with a side of oppositional defiance (the real kick in the pants), some sensory integration glitches, and (probably) as yet unidentified food sensitivities? What would we say then for shouting at him and holding it against him—a little four-year-old? What if he shot back at us, “What’s wrong with YOU?”
The other day he came close. I’m ask-shouting (flapping my arms and thus spattering cocoa all over the pile of birdseed), and he shrugs and smiles and says (matter-of-factly) that his hands just felt like spilling stuff. Point McD. Cannot argue with the facts, so simply start mopping up birdseed with sopping table cloth, sponge, and paper towels.
Do not think he could have articulated what’s “wrong” with him with more eloquence or insight. Resulting guilt so overwhelming it’s almost (almost) enough to make me think before I ask again.
But then he dumps the 18-gallon storage tote (full enough) of Legos.