I am the mom of a three-year-old daughter. I had infertility issues that made the wait for this sweet angel baby roughly 10 years, which basically means my husband and I are late to the parenting world. He is in his 40s and I’m, well, I’m not 21. My point…NO ONE in 40+ years ever talked about what life is like with a three-year-old. This girl of mine is something else!!! And while I would never trade her for anything in the world, I do find myself compelled to let you in on what life is like with preschoolers.
First, let’s reflect on what we hear about often – life with babies and toddlers.
Ahhhhh, the infant to pre-terror years. Sure, you are sleep deprived but with that comes a sweet angelic person who puts total trust in you. You’ll go without that sleep because, folks, let’s be honest, in our minds we are raising our own baby Jesus. There is NO ONE and NO THING more important than this baby! And that includes your beauty sleep! This baby is pure perfection – poop and all! No one can care for your baby like you. You are their mama and you are the answer to all they will ever need or want. Instantly, you know in your gut that you will move heaven and earth for this child and anyone in your way will be trampled upon.
No mama bear has ever walked the earth like the mama bear you are becoming. And there is good reason for this newfound awesomeness. The way your baby’s face lights up when they see you. The innocence in their eyes. That sweet sound of your baby giggling! Just writing that takes me back to how amazing infants are.
There is nothing like it! You are their world and they…are…yours.
Alas, they grow up. But because everyone has warned you about the “terrible twos” you are ready. “Game on you little fart” is your motto! You change your parenting style a bit as you are forced to recognize that while you are not raising baby Jesus you are raising an angel. Something kind of close, possibly…maybe?! Anyhow, you realize that you have to start laying down the law! Gosh darnit if my child will be the one in Walmart on the floor throwing a tantrum…wait, that was my child. At this point, you don’t even care. You are surviving! Battle has been waged and you have only four more months until the “terror reign” is over! And look at that face when I walk in the room…it still lights up. Life isn’t so bad with a two-year-old.
AND THEN THEY BECOME THREENAGERS! Get this in your mind right now, Mama, you are not raising baby Jesus or one of His newfound Guardian Angels. In fact, you don’t know what you are raising at this point so settle on one word – a human. That’s it. You are raising a human because in the world of a three-year-old what and who they are changes constantly! My daughter asked me the other day if I knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. I waited with baited breath for doctor, lawyer, heck, anything respectable that makes LOTS of money so mama and daddy can retire! She was filled with pride when she yelled, “SUPPPPPER GIRL” and ran about with her arms stretched behind her as her wings. What…in…the…world! She ran back to me and said, “Mommy, I’ll also be able to fly!”
Listen, you all: they not only know it all they know you don’t; they also know they need to tell you about life…sprinkled with a few questions here and there to complete their hypothesis. The sky can be blue as the day is long with not a cloud in sight, but if they are ready to wear their “designer” (their favorite character of the month) rainboots and matching raincoat then they will tell you that it is raining outside. It doesn’t matter that that raincoat has fleece on the inside and it is 90 degrees outside! To them it is raining and worth any and all heat exhaustion.
They never get tired! You just think you are sleep deprived when your child is two weeks old. A nap – are you kidding me?! We went on vacation recently and waited for the afternoon fatigue to hit. Threenagers comprehend now mamas. My daughter knew that sleep equaled no beach time. So she fought that fatigue like the super girl she is and she weathered the storm
See, no one tells you that while you are fighting tantrums at two you can say we are going to play later and mean next week. Embrace that! Because at three they know “later” should mean “later TODAY!” Think you are talking in code with other adults? Think you can have a private conversation on your cell in front of them still? Cancel ALL that! They know that when you say, “There are no floaties at this Wal-mart,” that there is another Wal-Mart and a Target and a Big Lots and a Dollar General around the corner! They also know that unless they begin to discuss this with you immediately and exhaustively they will miss out on swimming with their friends. When they were two they would sadly accept this truth and soon after move on to the next exciting thing.
Threenagers do not go quietly into the night.
Their level of independence is fierce. Remember how as an “infant Mama Bear” you saved the day – many times throughout the day even? In a threenager’s mind, they no longer need Mama Bear because they can do it themselves. You know this because you see water on the floor in front of and on the refrigerator door from the automated water machine. You also know this from the torn boxes of cereal and snacks where they opened it…destroying the box in the process. And you also know this when it’s time to get dressed and they are determined to pick out their clothes (fingers crossed that it matches) and put them on (please let the underwear be in the right triangle shape) with no assistance!
But there is something else that is not often discussed about life with a threenager: Their level of understanding. They understand even at their tender age what love is and how it feels. My daughter will ask, “Mommy, are you happy?” If my response is no because she has been disobedient, it touches her heart and we take the time to talk about it. How precious is that? Threenagers understand family. I love to hear her say, “We are Team Rodriguez and we are a family. My Mommy and my Daddy and me!” Threenagers know if you are present or not. “Mommy, you aren’t listening to me!” Yep, I’ve heard that a time or two…or ten.
While life with a threenager constantly keeps us on our toes it can also broaden our horizon and be rewarding; just as rewarding as that angel baby who lit up when you held them. Because even though they think they are independent, we know they aren’t. We know that we are needed and always will be; it’s just that the way we are needed changes. To put it gently: suck it up buttercup and roll with the punches!
I’m reminded of the logic of older generations who felt children should be seen and not heard. But what if we do see and hear them…even at three-years-old. That’s the beauty of life with a threenager that isn’t discussed! Hearing them opens our eyes to an excitement for life; a life with endless possibilities. There is no box to think in or outside of to them and it’s imperative that we never give them one. So, while we are cleaning up water spills and filling Ziploc bags with cereal, we are learning to foster their independence. We keep throwing more at them to learn and comprehend. Instead of killing their zeal we ask how can I light their fire even more.