I wear many hats in my life (figuratively; unfortunately my noggin is too large for actual hats, but I digress). In the words of my dear friend Katie, “When you’re wearing your Mom hat, other hats simply don’t fit.” She’s right. I think about my sweet boy nearly every waking second. Even at work I often find myself checking my phone for the latest update on his adventures at daycare. I live for those texts. I count being a mom as the greatest “job” I’ve ever had, but this latest season of parenting often has me at a total loss.
We are raising a “threenager.” What’s a threenager you ask? Anyone sharing space with a three-year-old knows what I’m talking about. Despite their pint size stature and overwhelming cuteness, these little people can change moods at lightning speed; not unlike their more physically mature teenage counterparts—thus the term “threenager.” These sudden, and often dramatic shifts in mood are usually unfounded to the untrained eye. These mood swings are typically triggered by something so minute, so seemingly unimportant that half of the time you’ll never be quite sure what sent your sweet, darling little angel spiraling out of control.
You cut the peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a diagonal instead of into squares. OUTRAGE. Your adorable son is now prostrate on the floor kicking and screaming at the horror that is the sandwich you had the audacity to serve him. You lament, seeing the error of your ways and eat the sandwich yourself, quickly replacing it with another properly cut specimen, thus explaining the extra ten (or twenty) pounds you now carry around. Or … you attempt to swallow the laughter welling up inside over the completely absurd scene playing out in your kitchen. I’ll let you guess which reaction I lean toward in my parenting style, but let’s just say I’m familiar with both.
You have the gall to purchase Spiderman Bubble Bath instead of the “usual” Elmo line because it saved you $2. This sends your child over the edge of reason into the depths of insanity. The tears are so numerous they could fill the bathtub that is now bubbling with the impostor bubble bath. Your child won’t dare enter the water for fear that the “WRONG” bubbles will taint their sweet delicate skin. Instead they crawl naked behind the toilet threatening to stay there “forever” until you right this wrong. You have two college degrees, are a fairly successful adult, and this has you near the brink of insanity yourself … and all because you went with Spiderman over Elmo. Everyone knows Spiderman would dominate Elmo in a cage match, but in the eyes of your threenager Elmo reigns supreme. After he sleeps you will shamelessly dig the empty Elmo bottle out of the trash and fill it with Spiderman’s bubbles. A woman can only take so much.
Your handsome little guy has decided that the only way in hell he is going to stay in the shopping cart is if he is standing on the watermelon that you have painstakingly picked out of a massive bin of options because you are personally convinced it is the best melon there and all you’ve wanted all week is that damn melon and your kid is treating it like a soccer ball. You calmly tell him 4.5 million times to “GET OFF MOMMY’S MELON” before you finally find yourself nose to nose with this pint size prince whispering, “We do NOT negotiate with terrorists—SIT DOWN.” You can feel the glaring eyes of the sweet little old lady next to you who quickly reminds you that, “One day you’ll miss this.” I assure you lady—I will miss MANY things—I will not miss my kid manhandling my produce. Trust me.
You spend AT LEAST an hour a day convincing your child that pants are “a thing” and that you are not out of line for requiring that he wear said garment before we leave the house. He is convinced you are not looking out for his dignity, but are in fact trying to force your “lifestyle” of pants-wearing on his sweet little frame. “You have to wear pants buddy,” you say sweetly. “NO I DON’T,” he says, standing his ground. “Mommy is going to be late for work, please put your pants on.” He bears down and makes it clear he’s not wearing pants without a fight. On some level deep deep down you appreciate that you’re raising him to think for himself, to be a man of principles, though you wish he weren’t flexing that muscle just yet.
You proceed to physically wrestle pants onto your 30-pound toddler and are now drenched in sweat before you even leave the house. Why am I not skinnier? How can such a small person put up such a formidable defense against something so seemingly minor as wearing pants? It’s a perpetual battle that finds you in your weaker moments actually considering letting him out into the world with nothing but his Superman underpants on. “Maybe he’s right? Maybe pants AREN’T a thing???” What is happening to me???? You give yourself a mental pep talk and prepare for yet another morning wrestling match to preserve your child’s dignity. Pants ARE a thing. Put your game face on Momma.
And then … then just when you think you’ve nearly lost your mind and that all hope of a peaceful evening is lost … that tiny terrorist will crawl into your lap, snuggle into the small of your neck, smelling all wonderful from that dreadful Spiderman bath, and he’ll whisper, “Mommy you’re my best friend and I just love you so much it breaks my heart.” And you will melt into a tiny puddle. You’ll sneak into his room several times throughout the evening to watch him sleep. So peaceful. So precious. Tears will well up in your eyes and you’ll once again be reminded that this is the best job you’ll ever have. Even when he’s being crazy … he still loves his Momma—and that lucky lady is YOU.
So to the Mommas and the Daddys who will fight these ridiculous battles this week … solidarity. The Hensleys stand with you. My best advice. Laugh it up, hunker down, and wait for the tide to turn … because there are few things sweeter than the affection that oozes from a threenager.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Mindaugas Danys