When De La Soul sang “3, that’s the magic number”, they clearly hadn’t experienced life with a three year old child. Magical is a far cry from where we are at right now. I just want to preface this blog with a note to say: I love my daughter very much. So much it hurts. My love for her will always outweigh any other emotion, however I am always 100% honest when I write so I want to kick this off by saying that there have been a few rare occasions lately, ok, ok, maybe not so ‘rare’ – when I have felt like I don’t really like her very much at all. There. Now that’s off my chest, we can begin.
(Rose, if you’re reading this, one day you might be lucky enough *snigger* to have children of your own, and then you might understand. P.S. Please stop straightening your hair, it’s breaks my heart).
I spent the first year of my eldest daughter’s life pretty much just adoring her. Minus a few tentative early colic-riddled weeks where I didn’t know if I wanted to run away or drink myself to death, I thought she was incredible. I marvelled at this tiny person we had created, watched her learn and grow and thoroughly enjoyed almost every moment we shared. Her second year was more demanding in terms of her development, but I helped her through different milestones, she took to speech amazingly well and I had a gorgeous balance of working three days and being with her the rest of the week. Her little sister came along when she was 2 years and 2 months and she adapted pretty well to being a big sister.
Now she’s almost three. And she can be a total arsehole when she wants to be – and that’s the hardest part – you don’t even know when it’s coming, it’s all on her terms. Some days she wakes up happy. Some days she wakes up mardy. And some days she wakes up with a chip on her shoulder the size of the Grand Canyon. At the moment we are together 7 days a week. That’s a lot of time to spend with anyone, let alone someone who thinks its ok to drop your earrings down the toilet and stick an unwrapped BabyBel cheese in the back pocket of your jeans when you’re not paying attention.
Discipline is hard. I’ve never been keen on the idea of ‘timeouts’, struggling with the concept of leaving someone so volatile alone when they possibly need the comfort of another (calmer) person, but when I can’t be that calm person, she goes and spends two minutes on the beanbag in her bedroom to chill out. I need the two minutes just as much as she does, if not more. I threaten to take things away (she isn’t allowed to wear her beloved dresses when she’s been naughty) and sometimes that has a bigger impact than others. She bit her baby sisters’ finger and wasn’t allowed to wear a dress until it healed. That hit home and she hasn’t dared to bare her teeth at another person since, thank goodness.
Sometimes I try to negotiate by mentioning things I know she enjoys, for example, “Do you actually want to go to Baby Gym tomorrow??” and when she responds with a nonchalant “No” and I know I’ve lost. I’ve considered trying to reward the good behaviour a bit more, but I worry that giving her stuff for being good might make her think she deserves treats for just doing what she SHOULD do so I opt for verbal praise which I know she loves. The main issue there is that it’s pretty difficult to find good behaviour to praise when she’s drawing on the kitchen chair with felt tip pen or wiping snot on the sofa.
Leaving somewhere fun (Nan’s house, play groups, even Tesco) can be absolutely fine. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by how happily she waves bye bye to Nan/her friends/the coleslaw aisle (cue: heaps of praise!!) and other times telling her we need to leave is like shaking the hell out of a bottle of pop and wondering when might be the right time to take the lid off.
I remind myself 14,000 times a day “she’s only/almost three” and I try to lower my expectations but she’s so damn clever I get the sense she knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s less calculating when she’s hungry or tired. Then she’s just an angry loose-cannon and you’ve got to be very quick to dodge the firing line. If I could offer any advice it would be this: Do. Not. Let. Them. Get. Hungry. A starving threenager is as potentially-destructive as a chimpanzee with a loaded gun.
Oh and speaking of Russian roulette, let’s talk about mealtimes. She could have lapped up carrots and peas like they were the food of the Gods one day only to look at me with an expression which can only be described as “What is this poisonous shit you’re trying to feed me?!” just a couple of days later. She used to be so good with food, she enjoyed a wide variety of things and often chose fruit over chocolate – and now? She’s even been known to refuse chicken nuggets.
Pre-school will do us the world of good. I’m convinced she needs a break from me, she needs to learn how to play more independently and we both need a breather from this cycle of ‘her being naughty – me telling her off – her kicking off in response to being told off and being naughty – me telling her off…’ I’m so fed up of being the Fun Police. I spend evenings willing her to wake up the next day in ‘Rose mode’ not ‘Demon mode’. Sometimes, she can be so sweet and kind. She recently wrapped her arms around my best friends legs and told her “you’re doing a great job” when she was having a particularly tough week with her newborn baby and both of our hearts melted. I want more moments like that and less of her kicking her sisters’ toys out of reach and pretending not to notice she’s done it.
It might have been naive of me to think I would only ever have empathy for my crying daughter but sometimes when she’s whimpering for either no reason or a totally ridiculous one I just want to roll my eyes and tell her to snap out of it and then I hate myself for feeling that way. Please don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a reason she’s so challenging. She’s trying to process so much information, trying to work out the ins and outs of life in general, she’s learning she has choices and options and she is starting to understand that with certain elements of her life she isn’t the one in control. She’s worrying about things and reading into little details more than I can even imagine, so she stamps her feet, screams and shouts and generally kicks off to show her frustration.
Well it won’t wash with me. I won’t give in. I have good intentions about the sort of parent I want to be and I am adamant I won’t waver. I’ve got 30 years on her and I will be victorious. Although right now it’s almost 11am, she’s laying in my bed with her dummy (which she isn’t allowed in the day time), watching TV (which I try to limit) and her unfinished cereal is sitting on the kitchen table (which I told her she must finish before getting down from the table). Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.