A Rough Patch

T and I are going through a rough patch. I’m not saying we are going to break up, but I have had moments of wishing the era of very bleak orphanages still existed. I kid, I kid…sort of.

One of the things that is helping me get through this period in our relationship is the realization that all three year olds are evil. On top of that it seems that all children born in 2009 are, shall we say, “spirited”. I know quite a few kids born that year and I can’t think of a single one who is easy. We have friends with a three year old and two older kids-they told us that the older ones were nothing like him at three. They were experienced parents, thought they had this whole thing figured out until dun dun dunnnn…child born in 2009 terrorizes family! It’s not that bad, of course, but those ’09ers are…challenging. Do you guys know an easy kid born that year? If so can we introduce him/her to T? Anything for a positive influence!

Every three year old has their own particular brand of awful, it’s what makes life interesting. T’s starts with the fact that he is so verbal. Don’t get me wrong, it rocks that he is verbal. Dude’s first word came at 9 months and he hasn’t shut up since. I don’t think he’s some genius because he happens to be an early talker-I mean, I totally think he’s a genius. Just in the normal required by law way that all parents think their kid is special and brilliant, not in the I-have-some-bizarre-expectation-that-he’ll-be-attending-Harvard-as-a-10-year-old way. But the thing about having a great communicator is you get lulled into believing he is rational and emotionally mature enough to make better choices.

This morning T shut C’s fingers in a door with malice and aforethought. I was wrestling with packing tape on a box that needed to be mailed and told T to go pee because we needed to get ready to leave for school. C followed T to the bathroom and T wanted privacy. That’s what he says, “I. NEED. PRIVACY!” Only he didn’t say it this time. He just got mad and shut C’s fingers in the door. I lost my shit all over T. I mean, yelled so loud that he started crying. Usually he is totally relaxed about me yelling at him, but this time he knew I meant business. After I made sure that C’s fingers weren’t broken and gave him some good cuddles I moved on to T.

He was still weeping, so I hugged him and told him that I was probably the most angry I’d ever been at him, but I still loved him. I would always love him, no matter what. I asked him how he would feel if someone closed his fingers in the door. He said bad. I asked what he would do. He said he would close their fingers in the door. I told him to hold on, I said we don’t want to hurt back, we need to get help. He should let a grown up know, or come get me. I pointed out that I was really mad when he did it to C, but my response was not to then close his fingers in a door because I would never ever hurt him. He said oh. Yeah. So I asked what should happen if someone closed his fingers in the door. He told me if I did it I should get a time out. I replied that was a good plan, but reminded him I really was never going to close his fingers in a door on purpose. No matter how mad he made me. I held him, I comforted him, I talked to him. But man, I was still so mad at him.

And for once I felt like completely losing my shit on him was a great choice. When he hurts C, or anyone, he needs to understand it is a great big hairy deal. He needs to understand that I will be furious. He especially needs to be jarred enough that he will stop what he is doing that second, which he totally did. And after I run damage control on the injured party I will comfort him and talk to him about it.

Listen, even if he wasn’t a verbal three year old I’d freak if he shut someone’s fingers in a door. But the problem is because he can express himself so clearly I expect more out of him. This morning he wandered into the bathroom while I was in the shower. “Mommy?” he called to me, “How are you doing today?” I explained that I was well as I chuckled to myself. “And how was your school yesterday? Did you play with your friend?” We weren’t talking about the fact I had school yesterday. His grasp on time, on events in my life that are separate from his own, his desire to communicate, all of it delights me. And I find myself taking it for granted. Which leads to me expecting a level of emotional sophistication that is completely unreasonable.

Today I really needed the break from him that school provides. I explained to his teacher what happened and asked her to watch to make sure he wasn’t aggressive towards the other kids. And writing this has helped me cool off. I know he isn’t a psychopath. No wait. I know is IS a psychopath, but no more than every other three year old in the world. He is testing boundaries, he is frustrated by the existence of his brother especially now that C wants to do exactly what T is doing every second of every day. And a lot of the time he is able to use his words-he calls us for help when C is pissing him off.

Last Friday he threw a whopper of a tantrum when it was time to leave school. Sadly for me he did it when all the other mothers were there for pick up. He flopped on the floor like a fish as I tried to stuff him into his jacket. Then he did the dead weight thing and wailed his heart out. All of the other kids were acting like perfect angels. I couldn’t even make eye contact by the time we left. I know all kids throw tantrums, it still sucks balls in the moment.

The next day he and I were driving in the car together and he said, “Mommy? Yesterday I was so angry. I didn’t want to leave school. I wanted to be with Addy.” Addy’s his favorite pal. You know what? I was so fucking proud of him for being able to tell me how he felt that I didn’t care about the tantrum anymore. He is trying. I am trying. We both mess up sometimes. We will get through this three year old bullshit. My smart mom friends tell me life gets much easier when they hit four. I can’t wait. I bet he can’t wait either.

 Teaching a kid to be a decent human is a fucking insane amount of work. But he’s worth it. He’s also a hell of a lot of fun and a mostly a really sweet kid. 

Did I mention he’s a hell of a lot of fun?

I believe the one on the far right is going to be our Christmas card this year.
Photos by Ellie Leonardsmith.

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5 thoughts on “A Rough Patch

  1. 09ers rule and are incredibly hard at the same time. I mean, this intense independence, quickness and intellect is going to take them very far in life. They just might rule the world one day… that is, if we don't kill them first!

  2. Karen, three sucked for us, too. Gavin just seemed to get so much more reasonable when he hit four.

    But the challenges just change a little bit — now the big thing does when he's disciplined is exaggerate his response. He'll intentionally push Sam down or hurt him in some way because he's irritated with little brother. I yell. And he pretends to cry. He's not really crying, just trying to fake the reaction enough so that I am fooled into believing that he's sorry.

    Raising two boys is an adventure, that's for sure.

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