Come, Mommy

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Three Is Hard

One day earlier this summer Liam and I were up the street at the farm buying some veggies for dinner. While we were there we met another neighborhood mom (I'll call her Maggie) who was there with her twin boys, age 2, and her four-month old baby. We saw them there a couple more times, and she and I thought it would be fun to have a playdate. On Friday, they came over.

When I told Liam of the plan that morning he told me he didn't want them to come over, but couldn't give me a reason why. Thinking that he would change his mind once the boys arrived, as has happened previously with other playdates, I didn't give it any more thought.

I should have.

The family arrived at the door and Liam started screaming. In a matter of seconds the whole thing escalated to a purple-faced tantrum in which he kept sobbing and yelling that he wanted them to leave. He grabbed Maggie's hand and tried to pull her back out of the door.

I had no idea what to do other than take him into another room and try to calm him down. I told him I would talk to Maggie and see what we could do. Maggie and I agreed to give it ten minutes and see what happened. We attempted some small talk. Periodically Liam would scream out, "Are they gone yet?" Once he ran in to retrieve some especially important toys. Maggie asked him what would help him feel better.

He answered, "I want my Mommy to myself, and I want you and your children to leave."


After remarking on how well he speaks, and admitting to being a bit worried about having three-year-old twins on her hands, Maggie and her kids left. I felt bad, especially since they walked over in the heat. And a bit embarrassed. And a bit mad, since I had been looking forward to some adult conversation. And confused, since Liam's only had a tantrum of this magnitude once before, and that was the day after Kieran was born.

I spent the remainder of Friday and a lot of Saturday thinking things like "He's going to be a tantruming 3-year-old forever" and "I'll never be able to have anyone over again" and "I have to teach him to behave and soon!" Then this essay by Anna Quindlen was serendipitously sent to me by a friend.

In it, Anna Quindlen talks about how important it is to enjoy our children at each stage, because they grow quickly and soon all we have are memories and photos. So I got to thinking - what is a 3-year-old?

3 is a lot of baby wrapped up in a mercurial shell that looks an awful lot like a big boy, especially when you've got a baby brother in the house.

3 is easily provoked, and 3 doesn't yet have the skills to manage anger.

3 is realizing you have power, and learning how to use it.

3 is being a bit scared of that power.

3 is a lot of pressure. Adults expect you to go to school and use a potty, and maybe, just maybe, you don't want to.

3 is not having the choices you wish you had.

3 is sometimes way too big a job for such a small and inexperienced person.

3 isn't always bad, though,

3 is fun because you can teach your baby brother to sign "I love you!"

3 is exciting because on your next birthday you will be four! years! old! and will have a red fire engine cake!

3 is telling your Mommy, "The best thing about loving you is hugging you."

And 3 is almost over. November brings Birthday Number 4, and probably a whole new set of challenges.

(And maybe, just maybe, fewer tantrums.)

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  • What a great post! And may 4 be better for you...

    By Blogger chichimama, at Sunday, August 26, 2007 9:33:00 PM  

  • In November we are hitting 3...I'm scared now!

    By Blogger Christy, at Sunday, August 26, 2007 11:56:00 PM  

  • Great post! You hit the nail on the head. I've never understood why people talk about terrible twos so much. Three is the real challenge, and for exactly the reasons you mention. My oldest was "three" all the way until he started kindergarten at five and a half. :P

    By Blogger Julie, at Monday, August 27, 2007 7:15:00 AM  

  • Thanks for this post. I need to remind myself of all the challenges that being 3 presents -- for both my kids it has been much harder than 2.

    By Blogger Suzanne, at Monday, August 27, 2007 7:52:00 AM  

  • Three was definitely a lot harder than two around here with my first. And with child #2, the trend is continuing... great post!

    By Blogger Steph, at Monday, August 27, 2007 8:50:00 AM  

  • Liesl-

    What a great post- you captured "3." I found 3.5-4.5 really difficult. We've had other challenges since then, but nothing quite compares to that exploration of power combined with newfound verbal skills. (and all the other developmental challenges that comprise the transition from toddler to preschooler) : )

    I find it extra hard to listen when it's counter to my agenda- particularly my need for adult interaction. hugs to all of you guys.

    By Blogger amakice, at Monday, August 27, 2007 10:51:00 AM  

  • I've always found 3 to be a magical age...but some of that is "Black Magic". *grin*.

    Three is hard. It's more difficult to manage and diffuse, and sometimes more difficult to enjoy, than two. I think you are spot on with your analysis though. When we're able to look at things from their perspective, things make more sense...uh...kind of. ;) Liam is lucky to have you!

    By Blogger Jennifer, at Monday, August 27, 2007 6:11:00 PM  

  • oh liesl, my nose is all prickling up. what a gracious person maggie is to zip home without any hard feelings, and hopefully liam will feel differently in a few weeks.
    it's hard not to project our adult feelings onto our kids, and i know i still feel *three* sometimes.
    loads of love X

    By Blogger kate5kiwis, at Wednesday, August 29, 2007 1:27:00 AM  

  • And maybe, just maybe, by the time he reaches 7 1/2, you'll only see 1 or 2 tantrums a week! lol. Granted, Rogan's tantrums aren't as violent as they were when he was younger, but still a force to be reckoned with. I do think it will get better and he won't be so clingy once he gets into kindergarten. Well, maybe. It took Rogan 3/4 of kindergarten before he would finally go to the door and line up with the rest of the kids before school, by himself. *~*

    By Blogger Robbie, at Sunday, September 02, 2007 9:40:00 AM  

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