In the Throes of Three–by Jamie
I can’t help but wonder why every mom refers to the second year of her child’s life as “the terrible twos.” When Jayda was two, she was pretty wonderful. Sure, she threw a tantrum now and then, and she certainly didn’t have a handle on the concept of sharing, but the only thing “terrible” about her was her sleeping habits. Otherwise, Jayda at two was quite easy to parent.
But then came three. About two-and-a-half months into Jayda’s third year, I’m realizing that this is the age that should be labeled “terrible.” Or at least “temperamental.” And certainly “trying.” In short, my normally sweet and loving child has been driving me nuts this year.
When something goes wrong, or doesn’t go Jayda’s way, she bursts into hysterics. My normally loquacious daughter suddenly stifles all the amazing words she knows and simply sobs and screams—inconsolably. The circumstances can be as minor as me flipping on a TV show for Jayda that she doesn’t particularly like, or giving her a lollypop in a flavor that isn’t her absolute favorite. And her outbursts click into high gear when I insist on serving her a “dinner” food for dinner (in lieu of the cookies or ice cream she’s requesting), or refuse to give her a “treat” after dinner when she’s already eaten several during the day. Oh, I’m such a bad mommy.
So bad, in fact, that last week, for the first time ever, my normally-adoring daughter snapped, “I don’t love you, Mommy!” And when I reprimanded her for something else she did later that day, she turned her back to me and muttered “I’m not talking to you, Mommy. And I’m not looking at you!” Where did she get that sass? I responded calmly that I didn’t want to look at her either, and wisely gave myself a “time-out” and left the room before I throttled her. This resulted in even more hysterics from Jayda as she followed me out of the room sobbing—with a glare in her eye to keep me away. The stand-off ended with me opening my arms to her and my little girl running into them with tears streaming down her face. After a long, tight hug, she even told me she was sorry.
I guess three is an age that’s all about “testing.” Throughout her short life, my smart little girl has been doing lots of listening and observing, and she’s really learned what gets my goat. She knows what makes me angry—and what words will hurt me—and she’s testing out her smarts. She’s also completely egocentric, and wants immediate gratification all the time. Combine all of that with the fact that she’s accumulating language and life experiences faster than she ever has before—and it’s clear that Jayda’s developing too fast for her own good (or my own good!) in many ways. She knows so much…but she’s still so immature. Thus, I’m learning that while my little girl may spout out big, nasty words pretty easily these days, fortunately, she doesn’t truly understand their meanings…or the repercussions of saying them. And she doesn’t have it in her to hold herself to the ridiculous insults she makes in anger. Most of all, Jayda still needs my approval—and my hugs—and I’m happy to give her both. But the trying time between Jayda’s tantrums and our affectionate make ups, is enough to drive this mom insane.
This weekend, at a cocktail party, I started venting about the challenges of parenting my three-year-old, and I was comforted by several moms around me who nodded their heads in agreement that three was a very difficult age. But then two moms of much older kids chimed in, “just wait—four is even worse. Little girls get really sassy then!” I can hardly wait…