Having a three-year old is like walking a very wobbly tightrope, it is quite possibly my least and most favourite age, where one minute you are dealing with a breakdown of epic proportions over something as trivial as which jocks to put on, and the next they are telling you they love you and love spending time with you.
Over the past month I have found myself googling more about behavior and mental health than I think I ever have in my life as a parent. Don’t worry, according to my research, Leo does not have a psychological condition, he is just a normal little kid trying to work out how to deal with this world around him and all the emotions that it brings (although some days I still question if I should have things checked out…just in case). It is a rollercoaster and I now finally understand the term “threenager”.
There is always something; the newborn haze, terrible twos and now threenagers. (Apparently there is also a thing called a ‘fournado’ but we will deal with that when we get to it.) Basically, this is parenting, each stage brings its own quirks and none of us have any idea what we are doing or how we did it once we are through it. Each stage just comes and goes, we survive, our kids survive, and we just do what we can while we can, whatever works.
Now as I am typing this, using the word “threenager”, as if Leo has developed this terrible sulky teenage-esque attitude and behavior, of course he is behaving perfectly, sitting next to me colouring nicely, while his sister sleeps peacefully in her room. You would look at this picture and think I have it all together, this is easy and I am creating this vision of a hard to deal with child when really, I have an angel.
But that is what it is like.
Most days, in fact probably 80-90% of the time, I have this angel. A beautiful boy who uses his manners, who does what he is told, who is a good helper, who plays nicely with his sister and is happy.
Then there is the other 10-20% of the time, it’s amazing how this small amount of time can cloud a whole day of beautiful behavior, but it does. This 10-20% has led me to say things like “this is my least favourite part” and “I don’t know what to do anymore”. Where I usually have a boy who uses his manners I now have one who yells “NO!” and tells me his manners were given to another little boy at preschool. Where I usually have a happy little boy, I have one who tells me he is sad and annoyed at everything and there is nothing I can do about it, I have a child who tells me he doesn’t like me under his breath and who thinks my cooking is yuck (these are the ones that hurt the most). A child who cracks it any time we try to go anywhere, then when we do get somewhere he spends the first fifteen minutes sulking, turns out to realise wherever we have gone is not that bad, and then cracks it to an even greater extent when we leave. It makes becoming housebound seem oh so appealing, but anyone who has spent a few days housebound with two children under three knows that is not the best option for anyone.
The thing that we probably didn’t think too much about when having our children so close together was the fact that we will get through each hard part with one child only to have that exact part following close behind with the next child. In some ways it is good, meet the time of adversity fresh and prepared, knowing that it is all just a phase, a phase that is not full-time and a phase that, in the scheme of things, doesn’t last that long. But on the days where we are really being pushed it makes us wonder what on earth we were thinking in having three children under four.
Fortunately, I think we are at the back-end of this phase. The difficult toddler fights are around less and less, and Leo is returning to his sweet normal self, who causes me to google less and enjoy him more. We still have our moments. I am practicing new tactics of dealing with tantrums, they don’t bother me nearly as much as they once did and in the moments they do bother me, I remind myself of the time Leo came home from preschool, ran to the kitchen and yelled excitedly “Yay! You bought weetbix! And milk! You replenished everything! This is the best day EVER!” No adult would ever react to me getting groceries like that, and it’s one of the many reasons, that even in their really difficult and testing moments, three-year olds are still the best thing to happen to any household.