It’s common knowledge around here that three year olds are….
challenging assholes. I realized not too long ago that I’m still suffering PTSD from my second son’s three year old year. My first son, Finn, had all sorts of little…inconveniences…in his third year, but Roan put them all to shame. Oh MAN! Did he TORTURE us! It was so bad I even bought a book called “Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy” and the best advice they could give was to hire a babysitter as often as possible until their fourth birthday. I swear, my husband and I have never looked forward to a birthday as much as we did Roan’s fourth and oooohhhhh…we par-tayed! And truthfully, like magic, Roan changed overnight. There was even a night shortly after his birthday where as we lay in his bed to go to sleep he said to me “Mama, I’m sorry.”
“Sorry about what?” I asked.
“I’m sorry about all the stuff,” he said, and I knew he was apologizing for his whole third year of life. I was immensely touched and humbled and then said “Me too,” because truthfully, I wish I had been able to handle it all a little better.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) I get a chance to handle it all a little better as my third son, Kai, gears up to turn three in exactly a month. I have to admit, that since Kai turned two and a half and started showing glimpses of three-year-old terrorism, I’ve been DREADING it. As a family we’ve all been dreading it, for three of us CLEARLY remember Roan’s third year. I’ve often had fantasies of going to sleep and waking up when Kai turns four. I’ve also been asking him “Do you think it’s possible that you’ll be the sweetest three year old in the world?” (He alternates between answering “yes” and “no”, which I’m guessing is pretty close to the truth.)
Oh HOW I’m praying, wishing, intending, invoking, and begging for a better three year old experience with Kai. But I realize (now) that the responsibility of this doesn’t lie with Kai. It lies with me. I have to acknowledge he is not Roan. He won’t torture us in the ways Roan did. Indeed he might find new and better methods of torture, but I should allow them to unfold naturally without putting scary expectations on them. I can’t fear Kai based on Roan. All that being said, Kai is already showing his crazy forms of unrelentless unreasonableness, which is proving to drive our family insane. So it’s time for a perspective change. Here’s what I know about Kai, the TRUE Kai:
*He is an exceptionally sweet and joyful soul.
*Often times he’s been such a shining light in darkness.
* He balances our family out and completes us.
* He’s fulfilled each of us in very special ways.
* He’s SO full of love and affection and fun and laughter. No one gives me 100 hugs and kisses and smiles a day like my little Kai.
He used to be like this all day long, but as he tips into his third year, the darker alter ego is coming out and that’s when I have to use my Mother Mastery, and realize that he’s just exhibiting his LIMITLESSNESS while also testing mine. As I said in the first segment of my Enlightenment series, it’s all about finding peace in the chaos. And in all truth, there is no better zen master than a three year old. Here are the lessons in LIMITLESS that Kai is teaching me so far:
* That arbitrary rules and norms are really not important ~ WHY should he just have one drink, when he can have 4 different drinks all lined up and enjoy each one? Really, who does this hurt? I can absolutely wash a couple of more cups in order to keep the peace. Who says we can’t have more than one kind of drink at a time?! Who?!
* Why choose between two different wonderful things when you can say YES to both? Along the same lines of above, Kai doesn’t feel the need to make a choice when he clearly wants it all. When I ask him “Do you want a hot dog or a burrito?” He says “YES!” and expects them both. And not only that, he’ll eat them both. Again, besides a little extra work in the kitchen, who does this hurt? We should absolutely say YES to all the wonderful things offered to us!
* If you’re having fun, it’s best to keep doing it over and over and over and over….etc. Okay, this is a tough one for me. We’ll engage Kai in something fun, like throwing him on the bed or racing him around the garden and while it’s initially fun for everyone, the parents start to tire and get bored after the first 15-20 minutes. We’ll keep going for another 5 or so minutes in hopes of satisfying him and deflecting the tantrum, but then it’s never enough…no matter what. So while I realize that Kai is trying to show me the limitlessness of my stamina….yeah…I just haven’t gotten there yet. Thankfully I have another whole year to master this…
* If you really want something, be persistent and relentless and uncompromising. When three year olds have a goal, they will do anything to accomplish it with a singular focus that is awe-inspiring, if also in fact, infuriating. They KNOW they can have ~ and SHOULD have ~ whatever they want and no one is going to stop them.
* Don’t let anyone dull your light. I think the biggest battles we have with three year olds is that they are doing their best to express their BIGNESS and often times we think their bigness is not safe, not appropriate, or not acceptable. I know Kai only yells at us when we’re trying to squash his expression of himself. No one wants to be told “No!” when they are exploring themselves in a new way ~ lord knows, nothing pisses me off more than someone saying I “can’t” do something. So, to the best of my ability and depending upon the situation I will do my best to let Kai explore his bigness and shine his light, without making him smaller or extinguishing his flame. We should all be able to be as BIG as we want.
And when all else fails and I just feel that Kai is being an asshole, I’ll cheer him on for being a three year old to the best of his ability. We’ve already tried this as a family and it really changes the dynamic. For instance when Kai says over and over and over and over that he wants to go to Grandma and Grandad’s house (who live 3 states away, by the way) we congratulate him for being uncompromisingly unreasonable and give him kudos for driving us insane. It may not change his behavior, but it makes us able to laugh at it. And maybe THAT is the only perspective change we need. After all, it’s only a year… Thanks Kai. I love you.