Thursday, March 13, 2008

The "Terrible" Threes

Someone once told me, "There's no such thing as the terrible twos...Just WAIT until they turn three!!". We are now beginning to see what that person meant here at the Pfaffl house! Phew! Landon is learning to be very sassy and stubborn. He has begun throwing temper tantrums and crying when we tell him "No". I can just see the wheels in his head turning as he tells me not to look at him before he messes with the computer. "Did you throw that?" is (more often than not) followed by his false-innocent, "NoooooooOOO....." and every one of my no's are followed by his now-famous, "You're not my best friend." come-backs. I tell him we're leaving somewhere and he either plays the "going limp" game in front of everyone or runs away to hide (soon to be followed by the going limp game if /when I catch him). I have recently found the one thing that's more difficult than a precocious almost-three-year-old....TWO precocious almost-three-year-olds!!!
We were at the little playground inside our zoo when the aforementioned incident happened. The playground is set up for pre-schoolers. It's covered in a layer of soft mulch and offers lots of safe play equipment for little ones, all surrounded by a wooden privacy fence and tucked away in the middle of our zoo. It has always been a nice, quiet place to let Landon burn off some energy, but lately it has felt like I have been the one burning the energy, running from one end of the playground to another, chasing my cheeky son. Today, I was sitting in the Adirondack rocking chairs with the other moms while the children ran around and played together. I watched Landon climb up the ladder to the slide and cheered for him when he came up with new (potentially dangerous) ways to come down. I watched as he tried to discreetly join in games with the other kids (glad to see him "putting himself out there", but sad that he's an only child....that's for another blog post entirely!).
I watched to see how he interacted with other kids, trying hard not to run to the rescue when he was ignored. Then I watched as another kid Landon's age picked up a huge fistful of mulch and threw it right into Landon's face. The other boy's mom and I exchanged a look that at least showed me we were in the same boat (and up the creek without a paddle to boot!) Apparently, I'm not the only mom dealing with the terrible threes! Before I could stop him, Landon had picked up his own fistful of mulch and threw it back at the boy. I was almost in arms length of Landon when the other boy's little two-year old brother joined in. All three of them were rubbing at their eyes and spitting out little pieces of wood, alternating between wicked laughter and accusing tears. We finally straightened everything out. The boys apologized to each other, hugged, and went their separate ways. I went over "Mommy's Playground Rules" one more time (the hundredth time, maybe?)...But, a few minutes later I saw the little boy pick up more mulch, sneak up to Landon and ram it right into his face again. I jumped up and ran to them, but not before a little pre-schooler smacking match broke out. They were swatting at each other and squealing and hopping all over the place. I had given Landon my warning and carted him out of the playground (as promised) faster than you can say, "Mommy Nap Time". He was, of course, kicking and screaming, telling me how unfair it was and that he didn't love me. I sat him down on the ground, made eye contact with him and had him talk to me for a minute about what was bothering him. I asked him, "What on earth possessed you to throw mulch at that boy?" and had a weird parenting moment when he told me, "The boy hit me and he throwed mulch at my eyes. So, I throwed mulch at he's eyes." I had seen the whole thing and I KNOW Landon didn't "start" it...and after hearing what he said, the "Mama Bear" in me had the silent urge to run after the "other mom" and say, "This was really YOUR kid's fault! HE started it!". Instead, I had to give him the whole "Just because someone hurt you doesn't mean you can hurt them. It is NEVER okay to hurt someone else." I could see the confusion on his face and I wanted to explain it to him in a way he could understand. I told him that instead of hitting someone, he should just tell them he didn't like what they were doing and come straight to me to tell me what was going on.
What do you guys do in situations like this? I guess i really want to know, what do you FEEL in situations like this? Any Mama bears out there? This is all just sooooooo new to me! He really has been a different kid lately (growing up, perhaps?) and it's been so hard to adjust to. I want to protect him from getting his feelings hurt, but I want him to be able to sort things out for himself, too. I want to make sure no one is physically hurting him, but if they do, I want him to know he can't retaliate...I want to raise him to be sweet and calm, but he is naturally a strong-willed, independent show-off. He's a boy through and through, all covered in dirt and bruises, doing anything for a laugh. How do I walk the line between letting him be "Landon" and letting him get away with too much? is there a simple answer to that question? Doubtful. Anyways, I know all of this is just a phase....and I love Landon no matter what. I still have the sweetest moments imaginable with him. he still give me the best hugs, kisses for no reason, and loves to be held and snuggled up. Three is the most challenging age yet, though. He is too big to be little and too little to be big, poor thing. He's trying to discover who he is and can't we all relate to that?


Sharon said...

Was that person me? ;)
They all go through it, and at least we know Landon is an incredible kid. :)

Sharon said...

Now that I had a chance to read this in full (meaning boys are ASLEEP!lol), I wanted to respond again.

What do you guys do in situations like this? I guess i really want to know, what do you FEEL in situations like this? Any Mama bears out there?

I would put myself in the Mama Bear category. I feel for Aidan in the same sense you mentioned Landon-being an only child and not knowing how to just "blend" right in always. Aidan's not an only child any more, but he was for 3 years, and Brennan has been too little to join him in play.

I lose my temper easily, and I get SO IRKED when I see other kids starting something (like throwing the mulch) and seeing their parents doing NOTHING. ESPECIALLY if it's an older child who has truly outgrown the play area. (like the toddler playground, or mostly scene at the mall play areas).

My intentions may be otherwise, but what usually ends up happening is I remove Aidan from the situation, but say something loud enough for at least the other child to hear me, and hopefully the parents. Like "well, just because that other boy started throwing at you doesn't mean you can throw back at him".

What I FEEL in these situations-probably what the boys feel, too. Angry, frustrated, and sad. I mean, we can play WITH our kids, but it's not the same as playing with another kid for them, no matter how great a mom we're being on that day.

Sorry this was so long. I had hoped to make it better for you and even helpful, but it doesn't seem that way. If nothing else, just know you're not alone!

Jennifer said...

Thanks for the comment, Sharon! It really does help to know other moms think the way I do. Sometimes I feel like other moms just aren't in "touch" with their kids as I am with Landon. It's so hard! I try to protect him, but still teach him not to be violent or rude, you know? It's hard when someone else's kid is being mean...Anyways, we could probably talk about this all day--To be continued! :o)

Kim said...

Ooooohhhhh, yes! 3 has NOTHING on 2!!! The time from 3-and-a-half to four-and-a-half kicked my butt big time! But you get where it's coming from...the whole transition from baby to big kid (they say it's the same type of turmoil teenagers go through when they transition to this is kinda like the dress rehearsal for that!).

I think my pitfall was worrying too much about what other people were thinking (as when he'd throw a full out fit in Target if he couldn't get a toy he wanted, or if we were with family or friends who didn't think we were firm enough with him when he "misbehaved"). I really saw his behavior as a reflection of how I was either succeeding or failing as a parent! And I used to fear that if I didn't correct it, that he'd be like that forever! So I definitely struggled with it a lot...and I was pregnant when it first really kicked in so I just had a much harder time dealing with it in my exhausted state!

But THEN I read the most wonderful book! It was wonderful because it clearly explained everything you'd ever want to know about the 4 year old kid and it described my child to a T! It's one of those developmental books, something like "Your 4 year old"'s a whole series with a book for each age. Barnes and Noble has it, if you want I'll try to find out exactly what the book is called and who the author is. Anyway, everything he's doing is totally normal and totally temporary!! YAY!! It just all has to do with this transitional stage. And it's all about shock value...the four letter words, the you're not my best friend anymore (this is one of Jack's favorite lines, too, along with the "Go see a new family!" whenever he gets mad at me!!), the aggression with other kids, whatever they sense has power, they use it! Just tell yourself, this too shall pass!

I'm now on the other side of this and I can tell you that almost-5 is a wonderful age! I wish I had known then what I know now...I like to think I wouldn't have reacted as negatively to it as I did if I had just understood where it was all coming from and hadn't taken it so personally. At least Sophie will benefit from it when she hits that tumultuous age :)

Good Luck!! You can totally get through this...and the pay-off on the other side is well worth it!

Sharon said...

Kim-If not for Jennifer, would you please post that book title/author for me? :) Aidan is 4 next month, and I've been going through SO MUCH. (but it sounds like you completely understand!) I'd love to find the same book.

It was also refreshing to hear you mention worrying about what others would think being the problem. I think that is MY biggest issue, too. I always kind of view you and Jennifer as the "super moms", so to hear you've also felt that way makes me feel a little better. :)

Jennifer said...

Yeah, Kim, post the book info for us! It always helps to have that little bit of extra encouragement during the tough times, whether it be from good friends who 'get it" or from books...Anyways, I agree with Sharon when she said it's hard for her to go up against other parents. I had a "disagreement" with another mom (who I can't name here) yesterday--I need to e-mail you both about that one! It is so hard for me b/c I am at home with Landon and I know him sooo well and then I hear from others how hyper or mean he is...It really gets to me!! So glad you guys know what I'm going through!

Kim said...

Hey guys! The book is called "Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful", by Louise Bates Ames. One of the best things about this book is that the author speaks admirably about this age! You can get it on used for like 2 bucks, but I also found it in Barnes and Noble & Borders new.