When I decided to write a bit about “the terrible threes,” I had to think for a few minutes before writing this post: whether or not I feel comfortable calling my kid terrible, like some newly anointed member of a terrible gang called “The Terrible Threes.” Then I told myself, “It’s not him. HE is not terrible. It’s the age.” But then I thought, “No, no, it IS him…at this age.” That thought was quickly followed by, “Ohhhhh $hit! What am I gonna do?”
It’s tough sometimes to be a parent and to search for the right words– the right ways in which to describe things, trying to be as honest as I possibly can, without sugar coating because my kid is the absolute sweetest, cutest thing ever. But let’s call a thing a thing here: lately, his behaviors have been pretty darn terrible.
Word choice aside, here’s a piece of the new human we’ve seen in our home:
Everything is a battle. LM1 doesn’t want to take a shower. He’s mad I didn’t make a meal for dessert ( I don’t get that one at all– but he wanted chicken as a dessert to his steak, and I didn’t have more chicken). Then he doesn’t want to eat veggies at dinner, he doesn’t want to wear pants, he doesn’t want to go to school. Any of these items have easily and quickly become grounds for tantrums, which is super annoying to watch, heart-wrenching to feel, and deafening to hear. LM2 and I sometimes cry, ourselves, simply because the fight is so hard.
Hubs and I are using time out. We are using quiet alone time to settle down. Some days it feels so exhausting to have to do so much for so little. Each tantrum will surely spar another within a few hours or less.
I’m praying this is just a phase and that things will dissipate before they escalate. Of course, my mind is doing what it usually does: run around in circles, planning for the worst. I’m imagining that he will become compulsively defiant. I’m imagining he will become violent or aggressive with words or hands. I’m imagining he will not grow out of this phase or ever learn how to behave. He will become worse and worse until he’s become a kid no one wants to be around.
As a result of my (irrational) fears, I have started to compulsively watch episodes of Supernanny on YouTube, searching for advice and commentary on the tantruming patterns of three-year-olds, like he’s some kind of chimp scientists studied in a lab and then fed bananas to after he finally “got it.”
I am a crazy person, worrying and thinking that if I plan and learn it will somehow soften the blow of a bigger reality that haunts me: what if I have a bad kid? I’ve heard of them. Bad apples, they’re called. I tell myself he doesn’t even like apples and we’ve already dropped him before, so how can this be?
Then I tell myself I’ve officially developed what I call CLS (Chicken Little Syndrome) and the sky is falling and maybe I should just have a glass of wine and pull up a chair to grab a view of the onslaught of chaos.
After he falls asleep at night, the house becomes quiet and everything settles down into its rightful place. I play soft plinky, planky stream music, mostly featuring a lute or a harp, or some kind of American Indian flute-sounding thing. In the peace, I tell myself this will probably pass, like the days when he thought it was hilarious to throw noodles on the floor. It will pass, like the days when running into the street without looking was exhilarating.
I take a deep breath and remind myself that the only thing falling is me: off my rocker.
I have the glass of wine and decide tomorrow will be a better day. I will be stronger and better prepared. We will encounter challenges together and work through them together. We will more than survive because none of this is really a big deal at all.
With that mindset, the next day was better. The threes are less terrible. They’re not yet terrific, but something tells me that if I make up my mind that they ARE terrific, they will become terrific all on their own.
Today I am smiling. LM1 is smiling. Everyone is smiling. And we are settling into peace before bedtime, searching for it throughout the day.
And it is slowly working.by