Parenting

Avery the mischief-maker

Tracy's mild-mannered daughter is showing a bit of a naughty streak — and Tracy sort of likes it (except when she doesn't).

Oh, she's an angel all right!

She used to be so easy, this second-born child of mine. A stranger once said to me, “Your daughter has the eyes of an angel.” It’s true. And they seemed to match her personality. I’ll never forget when she was a baby how she’d sit in her bouncy chair while Anna and I played and at some point, I’d look over and she had just fallen asleep on her own. I’ll never forget when she was a toddler, I’d say, “Don’t do that, Avery,” and she’d stop. (Really.)
 
This may be a bit of a rose-coloured view of history (because, of course, we had plenty of normal, every day kid stuff), but she has been a surprisingly agreeable little girl. I don’t know exactly what’s happened over the past six months — maybe it was just bound to happen at some point — but Avery has transformed into a total troublemaker. As is her style, she does all her mischief with a sweet smile on her face, which is both endearing and infuriating. Often, I can’t help but laugh behind my hand (except the times when it’s really, really not funny — more on that later). More often, my thoughts range from What has gotten into this kid? to Wow, I didn’t know you had it in you.
 
I’ll give you an example: Awhile ago, I was getting ready for a night out with some old friends. Sean and Anna were out somewhere, so it was just me and Avs hanging out in the upstairs bathroom (I actually dug out the curling iron!). She helped me choose jewelry and gave her two cents on which top to wear. Then she wandered into her room to do something, come back, etc. She went downstairs and I continued on, happy that she was entertaining herself and giving me this time to get all dolled up. Eventually, she returned and asked if she could watch TV in our room. I put the TV on and she snuggled into our bed.
 
About 10 minutes later, I went downstairs for something. On the kitchen floor was our Easter egg-dying kit. She had spread out all the parts on the mat in our kitchen and, with scissors, cut open two of the liquid dye packets and poured them out on the kitchen floor. Then, apparently, put the scissors back where they belonged and wandered back upstairs to watch TV.
 
Perplexed and perturbed, I marched up and confronted her with the dumb question: “Avery, did you get out the egg-dying stuff?” She just looked at me with those angel eyes. “Did you?” I pressed. She shrugged her shoulders and gave me a little “Who me?” smile. This is her M.O.: Charm them into forgetting they’re mad. I guess it worked because all I said was, “I guess we can’t do the Easter eggs now,” to which she said, “OK Mom,” and turned back to the TV.
 
But this is the kind of stuff she does now. It’s causing a problem when I’m refereeing arguments between her and Anna because Avery lies. I used to feel certain I could tell what really happened, but now she looks at me (insert “it wasn’t me, Mom” plus the smile and eyelash batting) and suddenly I’m not so sure. Did she or didn’t she? Then I have to give them both time-outs, which I hate, because it means they know I don’t know what happened and I like to give them the impression that I always know what really happened. 
 
A few weeks ago she was upstairs with two of her friends (one is four, the other is two). Again, I stupidly thought silence equaled content kids. When I went to check on them, they were colouring all over Avery’s stuffies with markers. Not the washable kind. I don’t even know when she took them up there because markers had been banned from her room. Why? One night before I went to bed I saw that, sometime after lights-out, she had coloured all over her legs and arms with marker. 


 
Clearly a pattern is forming. Last weekend, the kids were taking a sun break on our shady front porch. They brought out their colouring books and crayons and were getting along shockingly well. We popped out to chat every now and then as Sean and I got some things done inside.
 
Suddenly, Anna yells, “Mom, wait until you see what Avery did!” Uh oh. As I speed-walk towards the front door, I see Avery standing there, a coy smile on her face. As you can see from the photo above, she decided to practise her letters on our front door with orange crayon. It was bad enough that she did it (she’s almost four and knows better than to brand our door with a scarlet letter!) but that smile infuriated me. When I was angry about it, she gave me this “oh well” shoulder shrug and walked away.
 
I got angrier and she started bawling. And bawling. She must have cried for half an hour simply because I reprimanded her and told her she had to clean it up. I’m sure the entire street heard her. But eventually, she calmed down and we scrubbed it all off. There’s still a bit of orange tinge that I can’t get off, though.
 
So, times have changed. In the early days, a silent Avery meant all was good; now, it elicits a more panicked “Have you seen Avery?” because we can’t predict what she might be up to. I love her, but the girl cannot be trusted. Don’t people always say to watch out for the quiet ones? Maybe she’s learning the thrill of misbehaviour in her late threes and needs to get it out of her system before she turns four. Let’s go with that. And I hope it stops at this pretty innocent level of troublemaking. 
 
Is this typical second child stuff (Anna never did this kind of thing) or typical of a certain laid-back temperament? Do your kids get into a lot of mischief? And I’ve got to know have any of your kids stuck something up their nose or in their ear? I’m sort of waiting for this to happen with Avery!