Last year, when I would encounter people who said, “Terrible Twos are nothing compared to the Rotten Threes,” I would roll my eyes and say, Not on my watch. So help me… Two was a real trial for me. I barely survived.
Well, now I am on the tail end of Three. Little Guy is officially 3 years and 9 months old, and he’s just as nonstop as he’s always been. What’s changed since he was a two? He has a lot more to say. Constantly, he’s requesting. Sentences start with “I want…” in the same sing-songy tone all the time, and Daddy and I repeat over and over, “You mean, May I please…” We wait for politeness before we get up to fetch. Sometimes he draws out the correct way to ask for more milk until it takes 30 seconds to complete the sentence accurately. With a twinkle in his little blue eye, he acts like he can’t find the right words. He’s playing me. He’s playing so hard! It’s infuriating. He still has tantrums, too. Sometimes those can go on for 45 minutes. I want to throw objects because I’m so over it. But, that would mean you were sinking to his level. And by now, in my exhausted head, this has become a chicken and the egg sort of question. Who starting yelling first? Who started throwing first? Who stamped their foot first? It’s quite possible that he learned all of these moves from me last year, when he was two. Back then, I was beside myself with embarrassment at the things that would happen in public, and in private, too. I felt put upon and pitiful. I felt so, so, so ill-equipped to raise a little boy.
Somehow, I managed to get through it, as all my friends insisted I would.
Then the baby girl started to walk.
This was a few weeks ago. It’s the cutest thing, and when your second child hits one of those milestones it brings back joy and pride mixed with experience. Ahh yes, I remember now! I realize that despite my every attempt to be a laid back parent the first time around, this was near impossible. My daughter gets a mommy who takes 99% of things in stride. Plus, she’s just a different baby. I never had to sleep-train Lily. I’ve never worried that she was getting dirt in her mouth, or that her teeth were coming in too soon or too late, or that she would rather eat Cheerios off the floor than strawberries off her food tray. She is go-with-the-flow, and she has been this way since she started growing in my belly.
The minute that Lily could waddle over and snatch a toy away from her brother, while he was playing with it, was when the shit really hit the fan for me. I would try to tell him that she was going to take a turn and then he’d have it back. Sometimes he would scream and then she would scream, and above the shrieking I’d have to remove the toy from the room so that no one was enjoying it. Sometimes I would encourage Jimmy to move his legos to the dining table so that little hands couldn’t rip apart his creations. Sometimes I would say nothing at all and just let chaos ensue.
It seems that having a baby sister has finally caused Jimmy to get territorial and moody. Things are unfair and we can’t really have a sophisticated dialogue about it. Instead I have to referee, and no one on earth hates to referee more than me. I have said to many folks that the boy thinks that we are equals. I try different ways to show him that I’m the boss, that he cannot tell me what to do. This does not stop him from trying. And what I am learning is that a lot of children like mine will try and try. They’d rather get a negative reaction than no reaction at all. It is the parents’ job to stay strong and not to cave. Stay strong and be prepared for anything, all the time. Seven days a week. I have never had to use my improvisational skills like this before. Coming up with answers to requests that won’t incite a riot is HARD. I try to avoid an altercation because that’s what most people would do. Who wants to fight? Who wants to tell a child to stop throwing toys “or you’ll lose them all for a whole day”. Who wants to say, “stop hitting the walls and calm your voice…or else you’re going into the carseat until you cool off?” No one. If there were a magical spell I could cast that would make him understand that he cannot act like a maniac, I would cast it. Alacazam!! Instead, staying calm myself seems the only (and last) course of action. And as his fourth birthday approaches, I can see myself laughing at these days, for they will be in the past. And maybe my daughter will give me grief when she turns three as well. It’s too early to tell. Meanwhile, I can share a good anecdote of the defiant, spirited child with the best of them. My boy has a big personality!
But the love is still there. The love I feel as a parent makes it all worth it. No mother is happier than about 15 minutes after her kids are asleep for the night. That is when the world seems right. That is when I feel blessed and peaceful and grateful.
And I do. I promise you, dear reader. I feel grateful.