I vividly remember the day I plopped my cherub-faced angel baby down on the doctor’s table and pleaded for him to help me get my baby back. What seemed like overnight, she went from a calm complacent baby to a whiney demanding toddler. He looked at me with a smile and said, “Welcome to the terrible twos. It will last about a year and a half. You will make it through.” No way, it was way too early for this. She was only 17 months. What this very knowledgable man failed to mention was that immediately following the “terrible twos” were the threes.
Being a “threenager” is Hard
When I first heard the term threenager, I chuckled to myself. What a clever little term. Having worked with teenagers, I got what people meant. But, when I hit this stage with my child, I laughed to keep myself from crying, losing my mind, or both. A profound sense of independence marks the threes, and with this new sense of autonomy comes testing all the boundaries. A threenager is full of drama, demanding, and has an attitude for miles. This stage of life is not for the faint of heart and might leave one questioning their parenting skills.
The Ferocious Fours and Fives
The fours are better, they said. It gets easier as they get closer to five, they said. They are liars. I am calling them out right here and right now. These walking, talking, imitating, tantrum-throwing, stubborn little beings are no less challenging in the Ferocious Fours and Fives than in any previous stage of life. They are more verbal and willful and again can leave one questioning whether they should have even reproduced, to begin with.
But here is the thing…
There are no terrible twos or threenager or ferocious fours and fives. There is just life, and it’s hard.
The hard truth for any Mama wishing away these trying times is that there is always going to be the next stage of life to maneuver. It doesn’t get any easier than it is now and as they grow life becomes more complicated. These little people are trying to figure out their place in this big world. What seems like irrational behavior to an adult is actually a huge deal in their young minds. They aren’t just “doing things for no reason.” From their perspective, there is most definitely a reason, whether they feel out of control, ignored, jealous, or any other cause is usually unknown to us. But, they are feeling it, and when they do, they act out these feelings. This comes in the form of a tantrum, defiance, sobbing, or even aggression. When their tempers skyrocket like a firework on the Fourth of July, it’s their way of letting us know they don’t understand and they can’t cope with their current situation.
As adults, we sometimes sarcastically say something along the lines of, “Oh, it’s so hard to be a kid.” The truth is that it can be hard sometimes. Learning the rules of being a good human being is no easy task, especially when you don’t fully understand the game. Kids rarely do something for no reason, and part of our jobs as parents is to get to the bottom of what is causing their reactions.
I have been guilty of overcorrecting and being overcontrolling of my child’s behavior. Mistakenly I thought that if I were just strict enough or tough enough, she would magically turn into this super obedient child. Wrong so wrong. Now I am working towards trying to understand her needs while still giving clear boundaries and expectations. Because truthfully while she is trying to figure out this world, I am still learning how to be her Mama.