What in the blue blazin’ does everyone mean when they say “The terrible two’s are the hardest!”?! Two, with both of my kids, was magical. I remember Pierson was beginning to verbalize his needs and wants so expressively; he began vocalizing his deep love for Mimi and Pa Pa and Uncle Nate in Michigan. He was friendly, sweet, obedient and our biggest challenge was trying to convince him that pooping on the potty didn’t need to be terrifying. And here is Reese, a full time ‘mommy’ with her baby dolls, enthusiastic, hilarious and also SO obedient. Pierson wasn’t yet trying to boss his little sis around when he was two, he wasn’t overly whiney, his temper tantrums were just so so–life just wasn’t all that hard.
Enter three and a half.
When toys became boring. Nothing kept his attention. We told him no, and life as he knew it was over. Reese wasn’t allowed to stare at him the ‘wrong’ way. He wanted to be alone, yet he didn’t know how to be. He would go from mid- happy conversation to flat-out sobbing, hysterically. Giant tears flowed from his big brown doe eyes multiple times a day. Food became yucky. How dare us serve him Mac n’ Cheese, his once favorite dish! Ice water instead of sprite? Oh no, we DIDN’T!
Life. It just got hard. The trenches were deep, and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to climb my way out. Who was this kid? Where did my sweet baby boy GO? Was this going to be our life from now on? Were we going to permanently have a whiney, argumentative, moody child? There were too many days I got home from teaching – mind you, where I re-direct, repeat myself, and teach other children how to love and be respectful all day long – that I just felt like crying myself.
One day, in particular, stands out to me: I asked him and Reese to please sit on the couch on opposite ends and wait for me to look for the paint supplies he had been crying for. They had been trying to kill each other the moment I walked in the door, fighting for my undivided attention, and wanting snack after snack. My heart was so tired after a strenuous day in the classroom, neither child would obey me, and finally the last straw broke. I had sprinted to the basement to frantically find the paint things we hadn’t used in months–
Reese! Don’t DO that!!!!
Pitter patter, pitter patter…
“What?!?” I sprinted back UP the stairs. “Manny SCRATCHED me!” he wailed.
“Well if you hadn’t gotten OFF the couch and angrily sprinted past Manny, he wouldn’t have swatted at you!!” I angrily replied.
I could feel my blood beginning to boil. I was livid that Pierson disobediently got off the couch to tattle on his sister. I was mad at our moody cat for swatting at my son. I was so defeated that every day was becoming a battle for me to simply just survive. My toddler was winning and I, I was failing.
“GO to time-out,” I said. But it wasn’t to them; I was the one needing it. I sat myself in the yellow time-out chair, and as tears started to roll down my face, I counted to ten, like I instruct them to do. Slowly, I got up from the chair and walked into the living room, where both children were sitting on opposite ends of the couch. I sat between them and asked for forgiveness as I had lost my temper. I said a quick prayer out loud and asked for more strength, to give us joy this afternoon and to please help me learn how to deal with this new stage of life.
The ditch remained deep for quite some time. My husband suggested I take Pierson on a date, just the two of us, because I needed to learn how to love him again. It wasn’t that I didn’t adore my child, but wait… it kind of was. I didn’t know who he was, what I was missing, how to help him be consistently happy again. I could feel my confidence slipping; I began to doubt my ability to Mother this three-year-old.
And then one day, a couple of months later, the sun broke through. The cobwebs were cleared from my eyes, the haze of dust I was squinting through completely cleared. My once happy and carefree boy was himself. His laughter was contagious, his smile more beautiful. The tears lessened, and I started to hear a lot of: “Okay, Mom,” and “Sure, Mom,” and “I love you, Mom.” Medicine to my soul, a warm cup of tea to my icy heart. His voice was rich with a newfound maturity, and I recognized the kid that I had birthed three years prior.
There was no magic pill, no innovative toy that he fell in love with, no specific discipline–he just snapped out of it. I prayed for patience, daily (okay, hourly). I had to work extra hard to come down to his level and speak rationally and loving, all the while firmly. I was the one he was looking to when his emotions were hay-wired, I couldn’t be emotionally unstable too. One night recently, my husband and I talked about the drastic changes Pierson had gone through and he said, “We have to remember when Reese turns three, this was just a phase.”
Just a phase. Have you noticed how every sleep regression, every food avoidance, everything we as moms tend to deem tragic–is all temporary?
For almost two months I didn’t really think I could climb myself out of the hole of frustration I had fallen into. But my son helped remind me that though the three-isms are really stinking hard, this too is quite a magical age. At the end of the day, Pierson was still Pierson. Whatever season and phase he enters, I know the HEART of this young boy will stay consistently loving.
Being in the trenches with a threenager is sometimes beyond trying, but hang on tight because I promise that ALL of you will climb to the top bigger, stronger and more loving than ever.