Sophie the Mood-Changing Chameleon

If Sophie were a mood ring, she’d turn different colors with dizzying speed and without any warning. While she’s always been my happy-go-lucky little girl, her generally sweet disposition camouflages glimpses of something more sinister.

We’re used to moodiness, having lived through many of Chloe’s unpredictable phases over the years. But witnessing the changing tides in Sophie’s demeanor has given me whiplash. For example, she’ll often wake up in a great mood and turn sulky a few minutes later when I tell her she needs to get dressed for the day.  If she has trouble zipping up her winter jacket as we head out the door to the bus stop, she’ll start groaning in frustration and give me the evil eye as if I somehow willed her jacket to give her a hard time.  When she hops off the bus in the afternoon, she’ll greet me with a smile. But as soon as I ask her how her day was, she’ll turn sullen as she recounts the latest shenanigans at school.

Sophie will complain that she doesn’t get to spend enough time with certain friends and in the same run-on sentence claim those same friends are annoying for all sorts of arbitrary 8-year old reasons. And yet when she has the opportunity to get together with those friends, she jumps up and down with glee.  On the home front, she tells me she’s brushed her teeth when I know for a fact (bad breath does not lie) hat she has not gone near her toothbrush or her toothpaste. Sophie has turned the tables on Chloe and acted like a jerk to her big sister even when Chloe’s made concerted efforts to be nice to her.  When I called her on the carpet for it, she huffed and puffed and would have blown the house down, except she’s not the Big Bad Wolf, she’s just Sophie.

I know Sophie is no different from most other kids when it comes to this behavior – she’s definitely not unique in this regard. But boy is it frustrating! I haven’t quite figured out the cause of this phenomenon, but I have my suspicions:

(1) With anecdotal evidence gleaned as a mom of two girls, I believe hormones are at play.  I recall that Chloe also went through a similar phase at about this age and I have to wonder whether Sophie has officially entered the realm of pre-pubescence and all of the complex personality traits this stage entails.


(2) She’s tired. We’ve allowed her to stay up a bit later and she has been staying in bed a little longer in the morning, but I still don’t think she gets enough sleep. This would surely cause her to emulate Oscar the Grouch.

(3) She’s seeking attention. What kid hasn’t tried copping an attitude in order to get mom or dad to baby her and make her feel special? I’m studiously trying to take the opposite tack, however. If she moans, I groan in my head and ignore her.  When she realizes that I refuse to play her game maybe she’ll stop acting like a brat.

(4) She’s as sick of this winter as I am. I doubt this is the primary reason for her behavior and I’m probably just projecting my hatred of this weather onto her.  God knows, I’ve been moody, too. But we’ve all been cooped up more than usual this season and I am reasonably certain that a little more sunshine, higher temperatures and melted snow will go a long way towards changing all of our outlooks for the better.

(5) She needs to be more physically active.  This is ironic coming from a mom whose only sport as a kid was tennis.  Which was a half-assed effort on my part, to say the least. I’ve been trying to convince her to join a group called Girls on the Run.  Although running is indeed involved, it’s a great organization that was formed to help girls build their self-esteem and gain confidence, and learn to treat each other with respect. But when I bring it up, Sophie looks at me in horror as if I’m Medusa (except I’m obviously not because she doesn’t turn to stone when she gazes at my face).  I’m not talking varsity sports here, for crying out loud.  Just something to compensate for the cookies she loves to eat.

Sophie is only 8 years old.  If her mood swings are a preview of what’s to come, we’re in for a mighty long decade.

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