“Three” Is the New “Two”
I’m rerunning this post that was originally published over at Mama Eve. We’re nearing the end of Kieran’s three-year-old self, and I still don’t have all – ok, even half – of the answers about these curious three-year-old creatures.
I do find it highly amusing that I wrote this post at the very beginning of my pregnancy. In fact when I wrote it – when all of the nightmarish stuff in the first paragraph was going on – I had no idea I was pregnant yet. Now that it’s been about 39 weeks, we’re dealing with a whole new set of three year old emotions, those of an almost-big-brother who is trying to process the incredible changes that are about to take place in our family.
And still, I am so glad that we practice gentle parenting. Because through all of the normal stressors that accompany preschoolerhood and pregnancy, my focus has been on connection with Kieran. And that connection makes those hard times a little bit easier, and it makes the easy times especially sweet.
I have a confession to make to my fellow gentle parents. I find the “three-year-old” age much harder than the “two-year-old” age.
Holy. Night. Dear readers, I have been at my wit’s end this past week – what with the smoke damage to our house, the resulting stress from the clean-up, the hotel, the not having a kitchen (a.k.a. the crap food) for over a week now, the Carnival of Natural Parenting, other deadlines and activities that fell right in the middle of the mess, and the fact that our three-year-old son, Kieran, has been just as stressed about everything as I have been. Suffice to say that I have had several parenting moments that I would not want televised.
And it’s not just the stress and the lack of routine (although those two have played a large part in the past week’s frustrations), it’s the very three-ness of Kieran.
Do any of these sound familiar to other parents of three year olds?
- The not listening.
- The stubbornness and the agenda that just happens to be the exact opposite of whatever I wanted to do.
- The nothing-pleases-me-ness. For example, if I change my mind to go along with Kieran’s plans? He suddenly changes his mind to want something else.
- The constant whining and crying. Oh for the love of everything holy, the whining!!
- The attempts to control everything in his environment. “Don’t look like that!” “Don’t hold my hand!” “Sit over there!” etc. etc. etc.
For a few days there, I thought that perhaps we had everything about this gentle parenting gig wrong. That there was something fundamentally wrong with my child. That maybe if I yelled at him or slapped him around a little, he’d get in line and the rest of this third year would be easy. (Ok, I didn’t think that – but doesn’t it sound silly when you say it out loud?!)
But here’s the thing – I had simply forgotten that three is a pretty . . . difficult . . . age.
And then today, my dear friend Acacia (of Fingerpaint & Superheroes) loaned me Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy by Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D. I read the first chapter, and then I excitedly texted my mom, sister, and husband – all of whom have been on the receiving end of my Kieran rants this week – and I said, “I’m reading a book about three year olds, and it sounds like she wrote it while standing in a room with Kieran!”
In other words, my child is not a brat. He’s not being ruined by gentle parenting.
It feels so good to read that Kieran’s behavior, that my frustration – they are typical.
And it was a nice reminder that part of gentle parenting is being gentle with myself – to recognize when I need breaks (particularly amidst stress!), to not feel guilty when I need someone to take Kieran for a few hours so we can both decompress, to find new ways to connect to my three year old, ways that are sometimes vastly different from how I connected to my two year old. And most of all to remind myself that this too shall pass; this three-ness, this newness.
So . . . four year olds are easier . . . right?
- Well, according to Your Three-Year-Old, the really frustrating behaviors are those of a “three and a half year old,” who is in a state of “disequilibrium.” By the way, as with any parenting book, take what works for you and leave the rest. Bates includes some discipline techniques that will likely not resonate with every gentle parenting or consensual living family. ↩
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"“Three” Is the New “Two”"
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