My middle child is three years old and this has been the hardest year of both of our lives.
I think about how with my first child, my daughter, I dreaded the terrible twos and thought to myself how lucky I must have been to escape this phase with only a few bumps and bruises! My daughter was an anomaly I think. The kids who memes are made of. You know, the one that says something like “My well behaved first child gave me the courage to have a second, and my wild second child taught me not to judge other moms.”
My son, at two years old, was not so bad. Sure, he had tantrums, but nothing too out of the norm. He also still took naps back then, which was nice of him. He was in preschool and was well-loved there and at home. He also listened a little bit better and had a little less of his current strong will.
My son, the three year old, has tested me in ways that I cannot explain. He screams in my face at the top of his lungs for seemingly no reason. He needs things to be just his way, even when he cannot communicate what that is. He fights bedtime. Every. Single. Night. He is a grump in the mornings. 1, 2, 3 is not magic for us. He resists consequences in ways that make it almost impossible to enforce. He runs from you when he knows he is in trouble. He is also sweet and kind and loving. He will give his sister the last of anything she asks of him.
I ask my friends if something is wrong with him. I inevitably get the answer no. They say “he’s a boy.” Or “he’s the middle child.” Or “he has had a lot of transition this year.” All of which are true. But some days I wonder.
He makes the terrible twos seem like the terrific twos. He makes all the ideas in my head of being a good mom shatter away.
But in this season of motherhood, I try to remember that other moms are going through this, too. Other children are hard and strong-willed. Social media doesn’t often post pictures of the hard days and tantrums.
I often try to think of the social emotional gains that come with the age of four. Increased language skills, increased reasoning, more ability to complete tasks independently. With this I think we ease out of the really tough age a bit, into a new season (also tough but maybe in a slightly less maddening way).
In this post I offer no solutions, no interventions, just solidarity. If your three year old is a strong-willed force of nature that makes you cry, I am here with you momma.