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Surviving Age 3

For those of you who have made it past age two with your children, am I right in saying age three is for the birds?? I mean, seriously, between the meltdowns and the striving to be independent, it’s some serious stuff we’re dealing with here. When we hear “it takes a village”, that isn’t a joke. As a mom to just one mini, I can’t say what it’s like past age three but I can look back and tell you that age three is a whole lot harder than age one. I sailed through age one. Age one had all the firsts: first laughs, first roll overs, first steps, first food, ect. Most of the firsts are fun. They bring joy. They bring us moms to that heart-warming confidence that yes, we did create a miracle, all is right in the world and nothing will ever change our minds of that.

Until they turn three. Three is the game changer.

After talking to a few moms, I realized I was getting the same report: “It happened either a couple weeks before their precious 3rd birthday (that we just so happened to spend weeks and weeks pinning, planning and prepping for, only to make all the other moms hate you in their jealousy) or, it happened the day they turn three.”

If you’re a mom with a 3 year old, you know what I’m referring to when I say “it”. And if you aren’t a mom that’s ever had a 3 year old, just wait. Soon enough, you’ll know what “it” is.

Creeping in over-night, probably when the entire household is in their deepest sleep with drool on the pillow, it enters your sweet, kind-hearted, loving, precious, almost-3 year olds entire being, and when they wake up, they have changed into this tiny, fit throwing, meltdown-ing, independent striving, strong-willed, over-reacting, chicken nugget eating, babychild (yes, I just now made up the term, babychild), that will make every mother think back to the day her child was conceived and say, “what the hell was I thinking…I’m never having sex again”.

So maybe I’m being a tad bit dramatic, but I guarantee there’s at least one mom out there nodding along with me.

I seriously don’t know what causes them to change over-night, but they do! They start needing to do everything on their own. They want to get in the car themselves, they want to buckle themselves, they want to fix their own drink, their own cereal, they want to undress themselves, they want to feed the dog themselves, and Lord help us, they want to wipe their own butt. But what happens when you try and help to move things a long a little faster in hopes of avoiding disaster? You get yelled at. “I DO IT!! I’M A BIG BOY NOW!” Rest assured, when your kid turns three, you can add at least 30 minutes to your get-ready-and-out-the-door time. With them wanting to do everything on their own, the length of your day actually just got longer.

What about the meltdowns, or picky eating? My kid acted as though he was near death because I wouldn’t let him smear Vicks vapor rub on the dog. He literally fell to the floor, screaming and crying because he couldn’t use vapor rub as lotion. And let’s not even get started on the infamous “If you don’t get up off the floor of Target right now, I’ll drag you out of here and you won’t ever see the ever-so-dreaded toy isle again.” My son started off as a picky eater but just as I felt we were nipping that in the bud, he turned three and everything I thought he loved, went out the window. I see this with others as well. They’ll demand goldfish on the hour for an entire month and then the one day you voluntarily give them a snack cup full of tiny, crunchy orange fish, they lose their shit and act like you just served them asparagus with a side of escargot. {Enters mommy thoughts: “Am I actually witnessing this…they said being a mom was rewarding…where is my wine and snickers…crap, it’s only 10a.m.}

Whether you’re a stay-at-home-mom or not, we all get large doses of this behavior and it’s completely mind boggling to me. You’ve been raising and loving this child from the second he/she was born and now they are like this little 32lb monster running around, making you want to pull every last strand of hair your out. One by one. And you actually like your hair.

I’ll be the first to admit, I have struggled with this change. I don’t have a lot of patients at the end of my work day and dealing with these shenanigans has absolutely made me question my ability to mother. I’m constantly asking other moms what they do or how they handle certain things, and a lot of times, there’s just not an answer. “It’s a stage”, they say. “They’ll grow out of it”. While I’m sure that’s true, it doesn’t help me deal with the next 24 months of mine and Kaleb’s life. Lately, I’ve really tried to come up with a game plan or other alternatives, if you will, to lesson some of these hair-pulling times. I’ll share with you a list of things I’ve tried that have helped at least take the edge off some days. Anything is better than nothing, right?

· Puppets. Believe it or not, puppets have helped Kaleb express himself. We started doing this in child therapy when my husband passed. We were trying to teach him the difference in emotion: sad, mad, happy and sick. When our littles are upset, it’s just natural for them to start crying and whining and as parents, we sit there and try to figure out what’s wrong. Well, we used puppets and make-believe stories as a way to teach Kaleb there is a difference between being sad, mad, or sick. After he caught on, he was able to do it himself. He used the puppet, came up with a character name and ended up telling me he was sad because he missed daddy or he was mad because I didn’t let him have ice-cream for dinner. For whatever reason, he, and I assume most kids, have difficulties telling their parents what their sour mood is about (or they just don’t want to), but if you make it fun with character puppets, they think it’s a game and you can get them to open up. I purchased most of my puppets and finger puppets from Etsy.

· “Kaleb, you have 2 minutes.” This is a phrase I use multiple times in a day. While he might not know how long 2 minutes is exactly, he knows that whatever he’s doing will only continue for a short amount of time and then that’s it. Sometimes it’s used when he’s playing toys, sometimes it’s timeout, sometimes it’s used during bath time. I noticed that he handles things so much better if he’s given a fair warning. And as a side note, if I need 2 minutes to be 5 minutes or 30 seconds, he’s still not old enough to know the difference and I definitely use that to my advantage.

· Eating. I feel like this is such a touchy topic with parents in general. We all want our kids to eat healthy, of course, but there are some that go to extreme in making sure that happens. I say, you win some, you lose some. Kaleb goes to a daycare 5 days a week where they feed him breakfast, lunch and snack and the menu follows the USDA daily food requirements for healthy eating. I know he’s getting nutrients at school, and I try to do my best in the evenings but there are days I don’t win that battle. He gets daily vitamins (I may or may not have told him they were candy) that are filled with fruits and veggies, to insure we are covered. He’s healthy and growing at a normal pace so I’m not too worried.

· The independence. I battle with this because I feel like we’re always in a hurry, which is mostly my fault. It drives me bananas that he wants to get in and out of the car himself because it feels like I’m in the driveway for hours, watching and waiting for him to complete this task. I don’t really have a solution for this other than, he says he’s a big boy so I remind him of that when I need help carrying in groceries or something of that manner. When it’s time to get dressed/undressed, I tell him 30 minutes ahead of time because he’ll either get distracted or sometimes it takes that long to figure out which is the front of his Toy Story underwear. They so badly want independence, which is good, but I guess what makes it so hard for us parents is that in reality, they still need you there almost every step of the way, providing assistance in a way that makes them think they did it all on their own.

Age three isn’t all bad, of course. There are absolutely so many fun times which help tremendously, but those tough times? We moms need to stick together send encouragement. Get your wine; get your snickers; turn on Thomas the Train and re-group! We grew these babies in our uterus for crying out loud, we can do this. Power through and pray for enough strength to make it 24 more months, they say that’s when it gets “better”.

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