Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Stages and Phases

Long before I even considered having children I had heard about the "terrible twos".  Sitcoms portrayed out of control toddlers, parenting magazines offered tips on how to deal with this phase, and friends who already had children bemoaned how difficult their children were during this age and sighed with relief when their children aged out of that difficult stage.  I skeptically wondered if it could really be that bad but when it was our turn, I approached that time with trepidation.  The combination of health issues, two moves ---first to a new city then half way around the world to a new country---, and life in general meant that Sidney's first two years were difficult.  As his second birthday approached I was exhausted and filled with dread fearing what the coming year would hold in store for us. Much to my delight, Sidney's twos were pain free. Yes he was a toddler, and a boy at that, but we experienced neither the craziness nor the horror stories we had heard about from friends.  I finally felt like I was getting into my parenting groove and maybe I knew more about being a mother than I gave myself credit for. I won't say it was easy but it certainly was better than I had expected.

My newly minted three year old during a happy day last fall

And then Sidney turned three and everything changed.  Gone was my sweet little boy and in his place appeared a moody, temperamental, and thoroughly frustrating pre-schooler.  One minute the sweet little boy I knew was there and in the next an angry and defiant child took his place.  I rationalized that Sidney was testing his boundaries but was it really necessary for him to test them every single waking moment?  Suddenly I was no longer allowed to pick out his clothes, rather he began to select his colorful, and completely mismatched outfits each morning.  (Note to self, only buy separates that coordinate). My once ferocious eater turned picky overnight and I was unable to keep up with his preferences.  Ketchup was a food unto itself for several weeks only for it to be banished from the table with a blink of an eye.  Plain pasta was acceptable but add a bit of sauce or flavoring, or even worse, have one food touching another, and an angry outburst with flying food would erupt.  Playing took on a whole new spin; matchboxes learned to fly and railroad tracks no longer stayed connected.  Sidney suddenly insisted that he control who does what, when and proclaimed that "he was in charge".  Sitting in the wrong chair in the living room created an outburst whereas not sitting at all could result in a complete meltdown.  On a regular basis he angrily points his finger and tells me to go into the kitchen.  (I have no idea where this idea came from).  The latest development? My boy who once loved his bedtime routine of brushing his teeth, taking his fluoride tablet and having an evening bath is now refusing all manner of personal hygiene.  And don't even get me started about the toilet training battle.  But then in the next moment my sweet little boy returns, he snuggles in my lap, and tells me he loves me.  His mood swings are reminiscent of a teenage girl.

Maybe Sidney is suffering from only child syndrome but more likely we are engaged in a battle of the wills with one very stubborn little boy and two equally stubborn parents.  I know (hope) this is only a phase that, like all the ones that came before, he will eventually grow out of.  At the moment, however, that time can't come soon enough for this exhausted mom.  As soon as I seem to get a handle on Sidney's current developmental stage it changes.  Yes, that is a part of the challenge of raising children, but no one ever warned me about the terrors of being three years old.  Sidney can't return to being two but perhaps we could fast forward to age four.  That is eight months from now and can't come soon enough.


  1. Oh god I hope that doesn't happen to me! We have been going through the terrible 2's since right after he turned 1. And it has gotten worse. I am hoping 3 will be better. Keep your head up. I hear boys are harder when they are young but are easier in their teen years. Let's keep our fingers crossed. :)
    - Jill

  2. Keep your head does get better!! I always found the 3's to be so much harder than the 2's. After 3 and a half - it got better month by month. I've been through it 3 times and I would not go back there! Tough stage! I have to say, I have found myself to better to handle them as they get older...but then again we are on the edge of teenager with my oldest just turning I'm sure I there will be stormy roads ahead! We are all in this together!

  3. None of my kids had terribleness as two-year-olds but they were all stubborn as heck and still are, in fact, so am I.

    When it flows through the veins, it is tough to stop it - I kinda learned to roll with it!

    Enjoy being a Mommy!!

  4. We have always said that just as we think we've mastered one area of parenting, the entire game changes. Once we realized that, it actually got easier. We stopped trying to act like we had it together in any area, and went along for the ride.

    I'm always having to remember that I'm dealing with a Child. They don't actually know a whole lot, although they think they do. We don't always know a whole lot either, but we know more. Age and wisdom can usually prevail. We try to stay calm.

    A Pediatrician helped me by telling me that in the first 2 or 3 years, a child learns more than he will all the years of his life put together. When put like that, it's understandable that some nerves will be fried and there will be periods of Overwhelm. Think of how frustrating it is to master something new. That is their entire world.

    So much love is in this mix. That remains the focus, and everything else seems to work itself out.

    Hang in there. Motherhood is the hardest job in the world that comes with virtually no training. It is also the most rewarding.