So apparently having a 3-year old is similar to having a bi-polar, schizophrenic, acrobatic, menopausal, actor with Tourette’s living in your home and eating all your food. Who knew?
I never once remember seeing that in a baby book. Some days, I feel like I need a hostage negotiator just to get my son to put his pants on in the morning. Or walk down the stairs. Or pick up the grape he just dropped on the floor. Three-year-olds (and as I’ve been told, many more ages to come) are intense.
You know how you feel when watching those action films with the helicopter scenes and you suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath? That’s how I feel the majority of my day. Is he going to wake up from his nap content and ready for a snack and a snuggle? Or will he wake up screaming and throwing all of his books down the stairs because I wasn’t instantly at his bedside the moment he awoke? Intense.
Frustration isn’t a strong enough word to describe the fits of rage that James goes into over what seems to be something so small. A piece of his train track won’t go together right. A toy dinosaur keeps falling over when stood up. A piece of his puzzle won’t snap in place. Like the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil, he goes to work destroying the toy at hand and sometimes the surrounding room.
Now to be fair, the tantrums throughout the day aren’t the only things that are intense. There’s a surprising amount of good intensity with this Ginger of mine. The way his eyes light up, eyebrows raise and sharp gasp of excitement when he hears we’re going to visit the planes at the airport or the trains at the train station. The way he flies across the room and throws himself full force into a hug takes my breath away in more ways than one. His happiness and joy are equally as intense as his anger and rage. It’s also equally contagious. I heard a pediatrician say once that toddlers ride a rollercoaster of emotions all day long and that we parents shouldn’t ride that rollercoaster with them. With an intense child, however, that’s easier said than done. When James is happy, everyone’s happy. When James is mad, everyone’s mad. Add “dictator” to that description at the beginning.
I realize that all kids are different, and a lot of this behavior is normal, but this is my first time ever being a mom of a 3-year old, so it’s all new and terrifying and exciting to me. I stay up late poring over articles by other moms who have weathered this storm to get ideas and advice. I’m usually not a big parenting book person, but “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has more highlights and dog-eared pages than any book I own.
So here lies the conundrum. How do I, a fully matured adult woman, keep myself from falling into the intensity of my children? As much as I absolutely love to be on top of the happy mountain with my kids, enjoying their excitement and enthusiasm, it can be jarring and disorienting to suddenly be plummeted into a their valley of anger. One minute my son can look up at me sweetly and say “I love you Mommy,” and before I’ve even had time to open my mouth and respond, he’s turned around and knocked his brother down.
I’ve learned an important thing about myself as a parent. I thrive on peace and control. When my house is in order; when we’re on time for things; and when the kids aren’t screaming or throwing my life into turmoil, I feel fine! But that sure isn’t a realistic state of being for a mother of toddlers. So I’ve been working on creating little bubbles of peace and control in my day, something to grasp onto and hold tight when the rollercoaster begins.
Sometimes that peace is the quiet 5 minutes I have first thing in the morning, when I read a devotional, or a chapter of a book, or just daydream on Pinterest. When the crazy begins, I grab a hold of that peace and serenity from the morning, sometimes closing my eyes to remember it. Other times it’s something as simple as enjoying a couple sips of hot coffee (probably re-heated 2 or 3 times) while the boys play quietly or nap. Though I can’t have peace and control all the time, I’m learning to use the tiny glimmers of it throughout my day to keep me going. It’s a new way of life for sure, but it’s helping me learn to appreciate this intense job called parenthood.
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.