Why everything changes at age three

By Rebekah Schneiter,

Out Numbered Blog

Why is three so hard? My memory is not kind either, because unfortunately I’ve forgotten how tricky the other two boys were at this age. In the moment, I feel like A is my nemesis, my nightmare. He’s the one proving to the world that I am an unfit parent, mother. Hans tells me B and C were both rough at this age. I seem to have forgotten. I’m sure A is the hardest.

My nightly reading is a book titled, Knowing Your Three-Year-Old. I find comfort and encouragement from this read. My favorite line goes something like this, “The three-year-old sees his mother as his enemy at age three-and-a-half. This is a good age for the mother to enroll her child in preschool, to give her and her child a few hours off from each other.” Unfortunately it is hard to take this book’s advice since I am my son’s preschool teacher. Oh dear. We are doomed.

I have put all my faith, hope, and love into the fact that his 4th birthday keeps getting closer and closer. February, come quickly.

I try and remind myself that he is cute, sweet, plays well by himself, is smart, creative, and ingenious…focus on these things. But it is hard when he seems so volatile. I pleaded with his oldest brother to play with him and build a furniture fort with our little demon on a day when A was especially difficult. A was so excited, so giddy. He adores B. “Yeah, let’s build a fort B!” But something wasn’t quite right with the fort. A’s toes stuck out and were exposed to the harsh weather elements of our living room. Rage ensued. Couch cushions scattered. B looked for an escape.

“B, you don’t have to play with him.” Relief.

A was devastated, “But I wanted to build a fort.”

“Yeah, but when you get angry like that it is scary to play with you.” Tears. Favorite blanket, chair snuggle…calm.

At preschool last week we were at a total impasse. A refused to sit and eat his snack with the other children. He crumpled his pathetic body into the corner of the classroom. It had been a rough morning up to that point and it felt like my limit of tolerance. I was ready to call Grandma and send him home. I knelt down beside him, “Can you use your words and tell me what is wrong?”

“But I wanted to share my fruit snacks.” I wanted to cry. This stubborn tantrum came from a really good place. Here I thought he was just being obstinate, but instead he was devastated. I had no idea that the fruit snacks he asked me to buy him were supposed to be passed out and share with his friends. Sweet boy. “Let’s go get them. I think they are in your cubby.” Up he bounded, joy in his step…making sure each classmate got a handful of his special treats.

I have to remind myself to look at what is motivating the meltdown. Usually it is sadness, frustration, or disappointment…not pure anger…just miscommunication.

And then the memories begin to come back. B, at a young age had to sort out his feelings over his new baby brother, C. Oh the meltdowns! Whenever it was time to nurse this new intrusion, B, would wail and moan as he tossed and turned all over the living room carpet. C had certain expectations and desires at age three too. He threw a royal fit during his swim lessons when his instructor handed him the pink floating noodle. Wow, what a scene. I was at a total loss.
And guess what…C and B are very nice little boys. I always get compliments after play dates and birthday parties. No complaints from their teachers. They are kind and thoughtful; they communicate their wants and desires, and can balance their emotions with the world around them.

Still, I forget this, I forget how far they’ve come. It is always good to take time to remember. However, in this particular era, A is very frustrating, and I’m still looking forward to four…along with everyone else.

(I wrote this after a week of intense power struggles with A. This last week has been blissful. He’s been sweet and good at communicating. We’ve had special one-on-one times, like making his famous cookie pie and playing games together. But when I wrote this I was in a very frustrated state.)

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