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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my daughter and her endless argumentativeness, and how 3 years old has to be the toughest age imaginable.
I tend to forget a lot about my children’s specific behavior once they move on to the next phase in their development. Like I’ve been feeling there has to be something special, something different about little Adele that makes her so difficult to handle sometimes, or like I’ve done something wrong with her, or stood too long in front of the microwave whenever I was pregnant, thus somehow making her little temper stronger than it otherwise would have been.
And then I remembered writing a column almost exactly two years ago about how tough it was dealing with my then-3-year-old son.
OK, then. Apparently amnesia runs deep.
I just went back and read it, and that column was all about talking back and anger and extreme emotions and doing anything for any kind of attention, either positive or negative.
And here we are again, two years later, with another 3-year-old who runs the gamut of emotions throughout the day, wanting to do everything the older people are doing, refusing naps and refusing assistance because “Adele do it!”
It’s hard not to be stuck in the hard times, to focus on the negative aspects and the frustrations that come with being a mother of small children. And when you have more than one to deal with at a time, it can be physically and mentally exhausting.
But reading that column I wrote about my son, I realize I could have easily written the exact same one for my daughter. And in a strange way, it makes me feel better — like yes, it’s insanely difficult now, but it’s normal, at least in our family, and at some point it all will be easier.
She doesn’t want me to help her with anything now, and some day I won’t have to insist on her letting me. I won’t have to endure the tantrum that occurs when I assist her putting her shoes on when she wants to do it herself, or when I buckle her car seat for her without giving her the chance to try.
So I am relearning how to mother a fiercely independent 3-year-old. And, unfortunately, it is slow-going. But I feel like we’re getting somewhere. I back off when it isn’t essential I hover. I let her do more things herself — such as dressing or getting a cup of water. And the more I step back, the calmer I am, the less she fights me.
And it makes me wonder, now, if maybe it wasn’t her who was fighting so much. Maybe I’ve been the one fighting her and her independence. Three years old, man. Three years old. The toughest age in our lifetime. A time of being constantly controlled and smaller than so many people, a time when your physical limitations can stop you from doing everything your little brain tells you to do.
I am trying to be more understanding and patient. And it’s better. Still horrible, just not as horrible, you know? But we’ll get there.
Jaime Thomas is a stay-at-home mother of two who lives in Elizabethtown. She blogs at jaimalaya.blogspot.com and can be reached at email@example.com.