So….I am proud to say that I survived the “terrible twos” that everyone seems to rant and rave about. To be perfectly honest, the twos weren’t so terrible after all; a few short-lived tantrums here and there, a handful of embarrassing moments at the mall, a little sprinkle of defiance. But nothing outrageous. Nothing as heinous or gory as I expected. I have to say, I spent most of my son’s second year waiting for impending doom, thinking, any day now, I’ll be living with the kid from the exorcist. But it just didn’t happen. I thought to myself, how lucky am I to have gotten away scot-free, avoiding that dreadful, bratty phase that makes you want to gauge your eyes out.
I swear, it’s like my son turned three and a reign of terror, moodiness and drama has been unleashed.
Somehow I figured acquiring language and communication skills coupled with a touch of impulse control would keep the tantrums or “meltdowns”, as I like to call them, at bay. But clearly, this is not the case!
There’s a small brown spot on the banana. There is not enough milk in the bowl of cereal. The ketchup should be to the right of the chicken fingers not the left (how idiotic of me for not knowing this?!). It’s cloudy outside. The puzzle piece doesn’t fit. These are just a few examples of random, mundane things that can trigger my son and cause him to go from 0 to 10 in two seconds. As a parent witnessing the meltdown, it feels completely absurd that such nonsensical, irrelevant things could warrant such a gut wrenching reaction.
But after living with the unpredictability of a three-year-old for the past several months and feeling like I’m constantly walking on eggshells, I have realized that there is a self-centeredness, an almost narcissistic-like quality that is simply inherent to this age.
They genuinely feel that the universe revolves around them.
And in those moments, it truly feels that the brown spot on the banana IS the end of the world.
Lately, I have been struggling with how to deal with these daily meltdowns. I often want to throw my hands up in utter exasperation as I think to myself, “Here we go again! Another random, outrageous reaction to something so stupid!!” But on the other hand, I can’t help but feel empathy for my son. And it’s in these moments that my patience is pushed to the brink as I try my hardest to validate my son’s feelings, as irrational and crazy as they appear to be. It’s not always easy to do it with a straight face, but I try my best!
From my experience as a mom so far, I can say with confidence that age three is intense. Age three is frustrating. And dealing with a three-year old feels like a juggling act as I try to simultaneously attempt to incorporate validation, empathy, limit setting and boundaries.
But despite the fact that I am yearning for this “phase” to pass, I know my son will never be three again.
So for now, I guess I’ll try my best to put the ketchup on the right side of the chicken fingers.