You always hear about the terrible twos- how your toddler suddenly turns into an unrecognizable creature who screams, cries, falls to the ground in utter devastation at the drop of a hat. Then comes the threenager whose list of demands changes with the wind- she liked oranges yesterday, but when she came home from school today, she explained, “Mom, I was not happy with you at lunch today. You know I don’t like oranges anymore.” No, no I didn’t know that, sweetie. I must’ve dreamt that you sat at the table yesterday devouring an orange from the huge bag of Cuties I just bought at the store. Forgive me for thinking your tastes would remain consistent for 24 hours.

Terrible twos and threenager years are no joke. But we survived (at least with the first one. Verdict’s still out on that second one. No telling what her next two years will bring). But the past few months, I have encountered a new phenomena: the Frightening Four and a Halfs.

I can’t even tell you how many times in the past few nights I have thought, “Who is this kid in front of me, and what did she do with my sweet, well-behaved princess?”

Exhibit A: Beginning Sunday, I realized a peculiar situation regarding my bathroom toilet paper. Every time I went to the restroom, the toilet paper, plastic rod, and extra rolls of toilet paper were nowhere to be found. The dispenser sat empty on the wall laughing at my perplexed face. I soon discovered that all missing elements had been carefully tucked away behind the toilet. My initial thought was, “Hmm…that is a weird place to put the toilet paper. My husband must have caught our dog eating the toilet paper or something, so he hid it where Kourt can’t get to it.” And then I snapped the rod back in place with a fresh roll of toilet paper and went on with my day. This happened, no lie, 6 times before I became suspicious. Then, one night it clicked. Every night before bedtime, Aubrey has to go potty in our bathroom. I was getting dressed for bed when it dawned on me that she was taking longer than usual. Aha! Light bulb. I opened the door of the bathroom and caught her in the act. She was the culprit! I hadn’t even thought it might be her because she just wouldn’t normally do something so mischievous. Hmph… now I know better.

Exhibit B: Wednesday night, as we were winding down for bedtime, she asked for a drink. I told her she could have some water and handed her a cup and walked away- leaving my complete trust in her. Fast forward about an hour to the time we finished our nightly routine. I walked to the kitchen to turn out the lights and stumbled upon the squeeze bottle of Crystal Light Peach Mango water flavoring suspiciously sitting next to Kourt’s water bowl. The water bowl had a pretty orange glow coming from the usually clear water. I called my suspect in for questioning. “Aubrey, did you do this?” Her head shook side to side as her big brown eyes grew even wider. “Are you sure? Remember to be honest.” Again with the denial of the crime. One final plea, “You know you will be in more trouble if you fib, right?” “I know, Mommy, but it wasn’t me.” Let me spare you the details– it was her.

Exhibit C (I’ve saved the strongest evidence for my finale): Friday afternoon after a long week at work, I’m driving home enjoying the peace and quiet before I arrive at my house full of loud screams and bickering sisters. Ding! One new text message- from Aubrey’s PK4 teacher:

Please speak with Aubrey about not taking her shoelaces out of her shoes at nap time. It only makes her cry when she cannot put them back in place. Also, please help her complete the stapled set of class work she did not complete when it was assigned.

Utter devastation, disappointment, and embarrassment flushed red through my face. My Aubrey? Really? She didn’t complete her class work? (At that point, the shoelaces were the least of my concerns.) When I got home, she was perched on the couch watching videos on the tablet. Stripping the tablet from her hands, I marched her into her bedroom to discuss her choices at school that day. Come to find out, it was way worse than I suspected. She had actually been hiding her incomplete class work in her desk, telling her teachers she was finished, and even sometimes asking for MORE WORK! She painfully sat at the kitchen counter and completed every last page of that incomplete work (10 papers total). She cut, colored, traced, and glued until her little fingers bled (not really, but you would’ve thought they did with that little diva). The socialite preschooler had to spend an entire week without a single playdate. We skipped family dinner at my brother’s and an extravagant birthday party. It was torture- for her and her parents. I even leaned down in church that Sunday and whispered, “You need to talk to Jesus about your lying. Pray about it.”

The only way I can make sense of this phase (oh God, please let it be a phase) is to think that God is easing me into the whole “discipline” territory with Aubrey and paving the way for that second child of mine because I have a pretty strong inkling that Maycee Jo is going to give us a run for our money. Who knows what she will do with her shoelaces…webthompson_family_12-27-16__9