"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

It's Hard to be Three

Tegan had a rough day yesterday. Truth be told, we all had a rough day. It's been hot, and hot + Phoenix + no A/C does not a happy camper make. No one slept very well the night before, and there was no reprieve from the heat - or the fatigue - during the day.

At three, Tegan's right between that age of needing a daily nap and, well, not needing a daily nap. Most days lately, she neither wants nor needs one, and gets along just fine that way.

Yesterday was not one of those days.

It started, innocently enough, with a homemade smoothie. She didn't like the cup I chose for her. I got her the cup she wanted, but she still wasn't happy.

"Everett has more than me!"

Everett, selflessly wanting to help, poured some from his cup into hers.

She lost it. "Noooooo.... Mommy, he poured his smoothie into my cup!!"

Well, he was trying to share with you, honey.

"I don't WANT him to share with me!!!!!"

That was about that the time that I berated myself for not noticing the signs earlier. She was exhausted and in need of a nap. Not only was she exhausted and in need of a nap, but she'd passed that point... that point at which I could no longer simply offer to lay down with her and have her happily snuggle into me and drift off to sleep. She was overtired now, and mad, and I would have to slowly, slowly wait for her allow me back in. 

And I'll be honest... the next several minutes weren't pretty. She cried while she drank her smoothie, and she cried even harder when it was gone. She didn't want Everett to be in the same kitchen - or universe - and she was suddenly very offended by the placement of her chair, and the table, and her cup.

I asked if I could get her a snack.

"Yes, but I don't want Everett to look at me!"

What can I get you?

"I don't want a snack!"

Are you tired? Do you want to go snuggle up with me in bed?

"I'm. Not. Tired." At this point, she got distracted by something in the kitchen, and started crying again. "No, don't dump out the bubbles!!" Everett was washing out the blender and was just about to pour its soapy contents back into the sink.

Did you want to play with the suds?

A nod. A small one, but a nod nonetheless.

I set her up at the sink and got her a big bowl. For a few minutes she played happily and calmed herself down.

Sort of.

Not five minutes later, she was done playing in the sink, and I helped her dry off. She asked if she could watch one of her favorite TV shows, and I turned it on for her. She climbed onto the couch, and when I went to sit down in a chair across from her, she patted the seat next to her saying, "Why don't you sit here?" So I did. She smiled at me as she scootched closer and closer, finally coming to rest in my lap.

Ten minutes later she was asleep, and she slept for over two more hours after I carried her to bed.

Moments like those, I think more than any other, challenge me to be a better mother.  It's hard to maintain patience and composure when your child is overtired and emotional.  It's hard to speak calmly when you're met with nothing but loud dissent.  But you know what?  I think it's even harder to be three.  I really do.  You're a small person in a huge world.  There is so much to do and see and try and discover, and there are frustrations at every turn.  You're tired, but you don't want to miss anything.  You're then grumpy, and you don't know why.  You want to be the big kid, but you also still want to be the baby.   Your needs and your wants and your desires change at a moment's notice, and it's scary and it's confusing and it's exhausting. Your feelings are strong, and sometimes overwhelming.

It's hard to be three.  And I think it's my job as a parent to minimize that as much as possible.

When Tegan got up from her nap, she was rested, refreshed, and once again looked like this:

Ready to take on another day, and to continue navigating the ups and downs of the world.  Together.


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