It started with clumsiness. I should have clocked the constant falling over, the bumping into things, the general weeble-like tendencies and braced for the coming storm but like a numpty I thought 'ahh bless, he's having a growth spurt' and just wrapped him up in cotton wool for 24-48hrs until he learned how to walk on his new, slightly longer legs. I completely forgot that after the physical growth spurt comes the mental growth spurt. The mental 'I'm now going to push every boundary you've ever given me and I'm going to do it with a whole new sh&tty attitude you've not heard from me before' growth spurt. And this is the harder of the two, I find. This is the one I should have mentally prepared for, armed myself for, got more wine in for...
Honestly, on the whole, Toddler is a good egg. He listens, he's helpful, generally quite kind (when he's attentive enough to notice the child on the floor next to him...), he doesn't flip out when you tell him 'no' in a store...For the most part, I'm incredibly proud of him and his behaviour. We use 'three chances then you're out' in our house and he is rarely in time out these days, the mere reminder of time out is enough to help him correct his behaviour and we all carry on quite happily.
But this week has been whining, grumping, pouting, disobeying requests, pushing, refusing to help, stamping feet, slamming doors... you name it, we've heard it, at full volume, in public, with a tantrum to follow. Our newest addition is the cheeky, disrespectful attitude. 'I'm not going to sit here, I'm not going to sit in time out because I don't want to, nah nah nah nah' was actually sung at me at one point. I deserve a bloody medal for biting my tongue at that one!!
It has been exhausting. I have carried him into time out multiple times, he has refused his dinner more times than I'd like to count, Husband and he have clashed this weekend so loudly that at one point I was sure the neighbours were going to call child protection. All of these outbursts and tantrums have come with or been closely followed by genuine tears and real anger. It has been horrible to watch and must have been horrible to experience for him.
When he's like this I find the actual outbursts quite easy to handle (the cheeky sing-song voice part aside!) We have always tried to be consistent in our approach and so when I'm in the thick of it, especially when I'm out and about and the watchful gaze of randoms is making me feel totally on edge and panicky!!, I know the basic steps I can follow that will hopefully have some effect. I can stay calm, I remember to bend down and talk to him sweetly, I am clear and concise, I do not give him too many chances... All of that is fine and I have no problem following through with consequences. It's the aftermath I struggle with, it's the parenting anguish when he's gone to bed for the night that keeps me up and makes me worry. Have I been too hard? Would other parents have ignored that particular behaviour at that particular time of day? Was I being too strict because I hadn't had enough sleep or was feeling on edge in an odd situation? Am I doing what I think is the right thing but is, in actual fact, the one thing that will scar him for life and mean he needs therapy?
The other thing that causes me endless angst is the 'REASONS'. The 'REASONS' are the things that Mamas say when their child is misbehaving and in a terribly, judgemental, non-sisterhood way I think 'bullshit'.
Such as the following:
Random Mama: Ahh, he's never usually like this, he's maybe a bit tired?
Me: then put him to fucking bed.
Random Mama: He's just such a tactile little boy
Me: who is sitting on my kid's HEAD
Random Mama: He's obviously experiencing some disruption that he can't express
Me: Bullshit, he's 3, he's clearly just being a wanker.
(Disclaimer, I only ever think these things whilst smiling sympathetically and nodding in agreement, obvs!)
And the thing is, not only do I KNOW I'm being a grade-A bitch but I KNOW that these things are very valid and real reasons for a 3 year old being a little shit at the playbarn. They may well be tired, hungry, being affectionate and not meaning to suffocate your child...and they may well be dealing with something emotional that they don't even understand let alone have the ability to express. And when I've put my own Toddler to bed it is then that I start to panic, maybe he WAS just tired/sad/scared and I was a grade-A bitch to HIM?
It's never ending, the double-guessing, and it makes you want to lie down in a dark room for a very long time.
And how long do you keep on about these things? My own mother used to guilt trip me about things for what seemed like forever and it did nothing more than make me feel like I 'still' hadn't been forgiven, I 'still' had to work harder to gain her affection back, I'm sure it's partly why we're not as close as we could be now. I don't want to guilt-trip my Toddler, I don't want him EVER to question my love for him...but how long do you stay cross for so they don't think 'Mama is such a pushover, she's forgotten about the biting/drawing on the sofa/throwing a duplo at her head already'?!
God, it's so hard isn't it? I like to think that we're doing our best over here. We always try and move on when time out has been completed, we are working so hard on the positive reinforcement aspect of things, we hope and pray that we tell them enough how much we love them. I found these quotes on Pinterest this morning that I saved as reminders.
This message is important for Husband and I. We want them to be strong, independent, decisive men but in a caring and thoughtful way. We feel consequences like time out or extra privileges are a good way of instilling this message for the life ahead of them.
And this one was for the soft side of me. He's only 3, I need to be firm but do all things with love. I hope that way he'll always know that we were doing what we did because we cared for him and wanted to do the best by him because we loved him.
And if you love someone you shouldn't scream at them and throw a duplo block at their head!!