The Tempestuous Threes
And so we find ourselves in the midst of the tempestuous threes. The turbulent and tumultuous emotions exuding from our darling little 3 year old every minute of his waking hours are exhausting, frustrating, and sometimes a bit embarrassing to cope with. Though I know this is yet another phase, another developmental leap that he is making, it can almost drive a parent to want to leap… like off of a roof or something (well, perhaps not, but almost).
My child has always been full of wild and reckless energy. He is quick, quick-witted, comical, and silly. He is full of thoughts, questions, ideas, song, dance, and play. He is also full of piss and vinegar. He can demand – oh how he can demand – and he can really yell. He’s good at it. His most recent rants are “BECAUSE I WANT IT!!!”, which is supposed to make my husband and I give in, which we don’t, so he yells harder and louder, demanding, demanding, demanding!! Also of late, our darling little boy will yell at strangers. People, usually seniors, who lean into him and say “Hello, aren’t you cute.”, will elicit a response [from my son] of “NO SAY HI!!! NO SAY THAT TO ME!!!”. This is where the embarrassment sinks in. Mortified is the more accurate emotion I feel when this happens. I find myself apologizing profusely to the injured soul for my son’s atrocious reaction, then scolding my son for being rude to a perfectly polite person. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, except I’m on my son’s ride and not mine own, so that is scary in itself. He’s driving, but we are fighting for the control, and most days I feel like I am losing the battle.
In the peaceful seconds of my day, I reflect on the moments where my son has acted out and I question why? Is it just a normal phase? Will it pass? Is it our fault? Are we too hard on him? Too soft on him? Have we spoiled him? Have we overcompensated in some way because I was sick with cancer and we felt/feel guilty that it has impacted our lives, and inevitably his own? Can he sense the guilt I feel as a mommy, unable to parent him in the physically demanding ways I would have wanted? I can no longer toss him into the air and catch him. I can’t swing him in my arms for longer than 2 seconds. Sometimes I can’t lift him at all. I tire easily, far too easily. I’m always saying “gentle baby” when he is rough-housing with me, scared he will unintentionally hurt me. Caution, caution, caution. All because of cancer. Can he sense all of this? Does it cause him to act out? I don’t know. But kids are pretty darn smart and rather intuitive, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is impacted from my cancer recovery, and he just doesn’t understand what it entails, and why he feels what it is that he feels; and sometimes, I can’t either.
Mom guilt is a dangerous path to traverse; I’m constantly stepping onto that path, skipping along down it, then abruptly realizing what path I am travelling on, and then desperately try to get off of it! Mom guilt sucks. Big Time. Guilt is inevitable when parenting. I’m learning this. I’m learning that you have to pick and choose your battles with your child. I’m learning that playing the “tough cop” happens more often than playing the “good cop”; but, I am also learning that by being a parent to my child, I am giving him the best gift I can. I am helping him understand boundaries. I am helping him learn social graces. I am helping him understand disappointment. All in gentle, guided, and supported ways. You can’t always have what you want. It sounds cruel, but it is true. And when I watch my son from the sidelines I know that he is happy. He plays well with other children and he plays well on his own; he is curious, mischievous, creative, and clever; and he laughs and smiles more than he scowls or cries. I see all of this and I marvel at him. I marvel at the beauty that is him.
So yes, the tempestuous threes are trying and tough, this I have quickly realized, but I know we will survive it, and I know that this phase will pass. The most important lessons I’m learning through all of this is to remain connected with your spouse. Make sure you are both on the same level of understanding/discipline/gentleness/patience so that you can successfully parent through this phase as a unified unit. It will make it easier for everyone involved in these turbulent times.
Also, for sanity’s sake? Maybe keep a bottle of wine at the ready…
The Tempestuous Threes. Published by Crystal Joy Hall