I’ll bet the world laughs every time a kid turns three.
August 10, 2012

One of Charlotte’s more recent loves is blowing in peoples’ faces.

I am not exactly certain where she picked up this little gem, but it is every bit as irritating-bordering-on-infuriating as it sounds.  More than once, I have caught myself closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and reiterating ONCE AGAIN that hey, guess what?  I STILL DO NOT LIKE YOU HUFFING AND PUFFING HALF AN INCH FROM MY EYELIDS.

Also, what do you mean “why?”  BECAUSE IT’S HALF AN INCH FROM MY EYELIDS, THAT’S WHY.  And I’m pretty sure you have to listen to me because I gave you LIFE, child.  Life.

There are so many wonderful, wonderful aspects related to parenting a child Charlotte’s age.  Her unbridled exuberance, her compassion, her fascination with the natural world, the silly things she says, her cocoon of make-believe…really, what’s not to love?

But increasingly, much to my surprise, I find that what I am most enjoying about this stage as a parent is the challenge.

I know it’s controversial to say, but as a whole I felt that the first two years of parenthood were not as difficult for me as I had anticipated.  It was not until this past year that parenting began to give me a run for my money.  The last few months in particular have been more trying than anything I’ve experienced prior to this…but if I’m honest with myself, I’m really enjoying the tricky bits.

It’s like being promoted to a job that you are not completely qualified for.  It’s terrifying.  It’s concerning.  It breaks your spirit and you want to give up.  But more than anything, it’s exhilarating when you finally conquer that shit.

Periodically, I catch myself complaining about a behavior (BLOWING IN MY FACE EVERY TWELVE SECONDS FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER) that I find upsetting.  Or I notice that I’m rolling my eyes because IT’S AN EFFING SPOON, SUCK IT UP, thereby making my daughter feel like I’m minimizing the gravity of her emotions.  Or I hear myself losing patience at having to repeat something for the thirtieth time in two minutes.

For a moment or two, then, I feel ashamed.  I worry that I’m failing my child by not being more patient, more consistent, and more respectful of her needs.  I feel terrified about how she might reflect upon my choices one day.  I feel like a piece of me is broken, just a tad, because this is motherhood and it’s always come very naturally AND WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME NOW, WHY IS THIS NOT WORKING?

But eventually, something clicks.  It always does.  Charlotte takes a deep breath…and then turns around and blows on the window instead.  Or she comes to me without prompting (or punishment) and apologizes for kicking the wall when she felt angry.  Or she takes an impromptu nap just when I think I cannot possibly soldier on.  Or she wakes me up in the morning, kisses my nose, and tells me she thinks we are going to have a beautiful day.

I cannot help myself.  When those moments come, I feel an overwhelming sense of victory, of OH YEAH, I CONQUERED THAT SHIT, HEAR ME ROAR!  And I find myself thinking that this three-year-old business is pretty freaking awesome, after all.

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  1. By on August 10, 2012

    I could have written this.  My son turned 3 in May.  His antics have really sped up since he sister was born last week.  I still have my hair but not sure for how long.

  2. By on August 10, 2012

    My son turned 3 yesterday, things are rough right now. Yesterday he told me “Daddy and mommy are in my heart” I have NO CLUE where he learned it, but I may have cried a pregnancy induced hormonal tear….. or 30. Then thought, that makes it all worth it.

  3. By on August 10, 2012

    Honestly, I find the most difficult part of parenting, at any stage (although so far I’ve only experienced 0 - 2.75 yrs), is the fatigue / exhaustion. I think I can handle most challenges when I’m well-rested; but if I’m tired, I’m less patient and less level-headed about how to handle a situation.

    Sarah: you may equate it to the fact that Charlotte is 3 years old, but you should also take into account the fatigue you are experiencing with the pregnancy. I bet it would be “easier” or less challenging if you were at 100% capacity. :)

  4. By Sarah Christensen on August 10, 2012

    MC - I would definitely say that the fatigue is making it worse, but I noticed that the challenge increased before my pregnancy too.  I think alot of it has to due with the fac that we are, for the first time in Charlotte’s life, setting up rules.  (All books, toys, and shoes must be put away before leaving the house, for example.  Twice I’ve called off plans because this hasn’t happened.)  While I think we all benefit from the increased structure, I do think she pushes to see where we will bend and where we will not.  I’m guessing that this is pretty normal, but it does feel very trying when I’m in the midst of it.

  5. By on August 10, 2012

    I hear ya. Because of my (undiagnosed) OCD, I implemented rules like that very early on, so that challenge happened a while ago.

    Also, and don’t ask me how they do this, James’ “teachers” instilled similar rules/values through the Montessori method (his daycare provider continues to do so). So it reduces the work I have to do at home.

    One thing she told me she does when he doesn’t listen is have him hold her hand. For example, if they’re having story time and James is running around goofing off, she’ll tell him that he has to sit next to her and hold her hand during that activity because he’s not doing what he’s supposed to. Very strange, but it works. Toddlers don’t like having their freedoms taken away.

    So rather than call off your plans (which is a real pain), try having her hold your hand next time while you complete the task together. And tell her next time it will be “her work” (as they call it). Win-win!

  6. By on August 10, 2012

    Oh yes, another tip (not that I’m an expert, but I found what works for us) is to do a countdown. Whenever there’s a transition activity (like from playtime to dinner, or leaving the park) I give James a countdown starting with 10 minutes, down to 5 and 2, or whatever I feel like. I don’t necessarily time it, but I have him repeat the timings after I announce them so I know he’s acknowledged them. It’s kind of a commitment on his part too which is why there’s very little resistance from him once we have to leave. A little thing I added recently is having him tell me what time it is. For example, after the countdown for dinner time I don’t tell James it’s dinner time; I ask him “James, what time is it?“ and he says “Dinner time!“. He’s telling ME what he’s doing next, so I’m not the one telling him what to do…

    Also, I created a song for tidying up (it’s called “Toys Away”, original). I only use it for tidying up before nap and before bed. It’s dumb but he sings along to it as he puts his toys away. He got so used to it that all you have to say is “James, what time is it?“ and he says “Toys away!“ and he starts singing the song and putting his toys away LOL

    It doesn’t *always* work, but I think it has about 90% success with us…

  7. By Julien on August 11, 2012

    I remember when R (one of the boys I nanny) was going through this stage when he was 2.5 when everything had to CRASH!  ALL THE TIME.  I remember we were sitting on the floor playing with duplo and he was making so much noise with it.  I got feed up and picked up the box and just shook it and I made a whole lot of noise with it.  He stopped and looked at me with a really curious look on his face.

    Then I felt really, really stupid.  In the end, it’s just some noise and he out grew it.

  8. By on August 20, 2012

    Thank you for this post!!! I am in the middle of teaching my 2 year old daughter to use the toilet (which actually hasn’t been as trying as I imagined), but the endless tantrums about other things has been difficult for me. I feel as though mothering has also come very easily, so much so that we dove right back in and got pregnant with our son when Juliette was just 7months old. Now, with a one year old and a two year old, I am faced with a short temper, and two children who feed off my frustration. I always thought I was a laid back mom (and my midwife constantly praised me on it during both my pregnancies), but I haven’t felt like I have been lately. However, I read this post the other week and it seriously changed me. I realized I was the one who needed the attitude adjustment and not Juliette (or Rayne!) and have made a real effort to parent with compassion and patience. The last week or so has been the best in the last year! Juliette and I have communicated well, and although it has often taken longer to get things done, it still happens and we are both happier and having more fun. :)
    Thank you again. All the best.





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