Oh, Hello Thunderous Threes
Parenting is tough. I honestly think it is the most difficult job I have ever signed up for. You don’t get to “clock in” or “clock out” and you don’t get any time off. Not ever. No rest. No day off. No vacation. You work round the clock 24/7. And you are at the demands and needs of your child. All. The. Time. That is difficult for the healthiest of individuals. Now imagine you are a parent that suffers from depression; or a parent that suffers from a chronic physical illness; or a parent, such as myself, that is a cancer patient/survivor. The hours, the demands, and the needs are often daunting and sometimes gruelling. But as parents we push onward, and guide our children, battling through our own sadness, pain, and fear.
I love my child. He is my everything. He is my joy, my pride, my son. I will do all I can, and give all I have, to ensure his safety, happiness, and comfort. He is irreplaceable, and he is wildly fun. But, he is wild. Very wild. He can go from calm to crazy in less than a second. It’s incredible to witness, and so exhausting to parent. But, we are in the midst of the “thunderous threes” so I guess it is to be expected, this energy, this wild and uninhibited display of emotions. It’s difficult to deal with at the best of times. You change your tactics several times throughout the day to avoid the yelling, the time-outs, or the tears. It doesn’t always work. In fact it rarely works. My son can scream for an hour – full on scream – and nothing I do can calm him. Today, for example, he screamed, cried, kicked, hit, and screamed some more because he couldn’t have the red cup for his milk (we tossed the red cup because no amount of washing it was getting it clean). This colourful display of raw emotion occurred at 8:40AM and lasted for about a half hour. It’s wearying. Often I end up in tears, and then I feel like such a failure as a parent and a person. There is no reasoning with a 3 year old.
When you are touched by cancer, so much about your ability to cope, to thrive, and to function is altered because you emerge from the darkness of the disease an altered person. You are not the same person you once were, and who you are is still evolving. Because cancer demands so much out of you, it takes time, patience, and healing to learn how you have changed, and what elements of your personality have changed. But when parenting a terrible two that suddenly morphs into a thunderous three you are challenged beyond your current abilities. You are forced to be present at every single moment. You can’t reflect on your own experience, and you can’t take time for yourself to figure out what is now different within yourself. You know something is, but reflection and mindfulness is not a luxury you get as a parent to an active and thunderous three. You wake up in the morning, exhausted and drained, perhaps a little stiff and sore in the area where you were operated on, but yet you hit the ground running. And that high-energy push ends the moment you tuck your weary mind and body into bed … hoping your child will sleep through the night so that you can too.
I know I am painting a rather bleak picture. My mind has, of late, been in a darker than usual place. But I am human. I can only handle so much. And I am not ignorant to the knowledge of how lucky I am. I have a beautiful child who is full of life, love, and energy; I have a loving husband who has stood by my side through all of this; and I have an amazing family, incredible friends, and thoughtful acquaintances. I am very fortunate that both of my cancers were treatable and that my survival rate is high. I thank God everyday for my blessings. But knowing and feeling all of this does not mean that – as a parent – I cannot also feel defeated, exhausted, and completely drained. And I do. My most recent surgery was almost 16 months ago, and I am still battling through the physical limitations and the pain that resides as a result. I still battle the demons in my head – the fear and anxiety – and I am frustrated that, 16 months later, I am still waging this war when, technically, I am free from the bonds.
The thunderous threes challenge the best of us and defeat the strongest of us. But it is a phase, and I am aware of that. How does a parent survive it? By forcing oneself to take time away from the situation, that is how. I leave the room. I remove myself from the wild child. I write. I sing. I cry. I try to find healthy ways to release the flood of emotions that get thrust upon me when my child is having a day riddled with crazy tempers. And I remind myself that if I can beat cancer twice I can get through this. But most importantly I refuse to go through it alone. I reach out to those willing to listen. I lean on others.
Surviving cancer taught me that there are many gracious and loving people out there who want to help. You are never alone. To be alone is a choice you make. As a parent, you need a village around you. It’s the same as battling and surviving cancer, or any debilitating disease. Rely on that village, lean on it for support and strength, and when you are strong enough, give back to the village… Suddenly the thunderous threes seem a little more tolerable knowing that I am not alone, knowing that I am part of a village.
Oh, Hello Thunderous Threes. Published by Crystal Joy Hall