My kid will turn three in under a week, can you believe it? I struggle to.
Kayla is a happy, sweet little person. She loves to cuddle and kiss and say ‘I love you, Mama’, which obviously melts my heart. She and I have a blast together, and that’s a good thing, considering she’s home with me all the time. Honestly, I adore her and being her mom.
Sure, not all of it is unicorn farts and rainbows. When she was a baby, she had colic (though mild compared to what other babies experience) and serious sleep regression. There were times when I cried just as hard as she did, because we were both exhausted and just wanted to sleep, but somehow, she couldn’t.
In the toddler years, we’ve actually had the minimum struggle. She went through this patch earlier this year, when she had about five (hundred) meltdowns a day, but the phase passed quickly – as in, within two weeks.
People will tell you about the terrible twos and, as I said, we had a minute where the twos were terrible. Kayla has the ability to shriek like an off-key opera singer, and shatter every shard of glass in a kilometre radius. Still, the baby years (when shrieking was a thing too) and the terrible twos didn’t prepare me for what was to come in any way.
We have episodes now – epic, like Star Wars – and the Imperial March starts to play whenever her mood shifts into Sith mode. No, it doesn’t play literally, but it should. The episodes usually leave me feeling like Han Solo, frozen in carbonite. What can one woman do against a hurricane-shaped like a little girl anyway?
As moms, we get judged a lot, especially from other moms. ◄ Saddest thing ever. This makes people less prone to share their war stories, just to escape the judgement. Meanwhile, many of us crave that feeling of solidarity, because it’s much easier to cope when you know someone else experiences the same struggles as you. I guess that’s why I’m writing this post.
I love my daughter more than I’m able to express in words. Being able to see her grow up and spending so much time with her is truly a blessing. I love the moments we have and I treasure them, so please, don’t take this wrong. (See, that’s me already defending against the coming judgement from sanctimommies.)
But Kay and I are both people. We have moods and those moods swing, like those little assholes in the playground who hog the equipment. Sometimes, one of us just wakes up in bad spirits, and that impacts the rest of the day. At this stage, anything can flip the tantrum switch, even her hat dropping (literally).
Those of you who know me, know that I don’t handle conflict too well. For the most part, her moods rage and I plead, because I don’t know what else to do. I’m not a yelly kind of person and I admit that I struggle with the discipline part of being her mom. Sometimes, the most I can do is let her cry it out and explain afterwards why the world didn’t end over the raisin that she stuck up her Lego. Because, yes, the tantrums are mostly over trivial things like that.
Sometimes, the meltdowns will be over more complicated matters. Like I didn’t let her run over the road, into oncoming traffic. Or I couldn’t carry her all the way to the train station (she’s a tall, growing kid, and I’m not strong enough to carry her anymore). Or she wanted apple juice and we only have grape juice in the fridge, which she now refuses to drink, even if she’s thirsty.
She challenges every ‘no’, which are obviously only said for her own safety. In the past, she simply accepted everything we said, but now she questions. This isn’t a bad thing at all, don’t get me wrong. The problem is just that with her questioning and defiance, she doesn’t understand all of the complicated reasons behind certain things. Like pulling the emergency stop lever on the train in a non-emergency scenario isn’t only against the rules (law, maybe?), but it means a massive fine. What’s money to a three-year-old anyway?
This stage has been by far the most challenging in my parenting experience, up to now.
Usually, the tantrums don’t last long. The Force stabilises and she goes back to Padawan state quickly. Sometimes, though, the meltdown will last for the better part of half an hour, with her shrieking over something that she no longer remembers.
I’m telling you all of this, because I want you to know we’re all in this together. I hope you’ll be there for me in return. We need to stop judging our fellow moms (and fellow humans) and offer more support. Every family is completely unique, after all, and nobody but the members of that family understands exactly why they raise their kids like they do.
Obviously, my message today isn’t to ignore blatant abuse or serious stuff like that. I’m just saying that maybe the reason that the kid isn’t potty trained by age 5, or still in a stroller by 4, or still sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed by 8, is a good one. Maybe those folks could do without your judgement and could use your help instead. I know I could use some help when my kid melts in the mall and refuses to get up, let alone take another step.
In my house, the threes will pass. Probably like a kidney stone. Then the fours will bring something new.
As difficult as every stage may seem, it’s still perfect in its imperfection. After a meltdown, little arms still fold around my neck. A wet mouth still slobbers a kiss onto my cheek. And a small, high voice still says, ‘I love you, Mama.’
And I love her, every glass-shattering, kiss-slobbering inch of her.