Life with a 3 year-old

Life with a 3 year-old April 2, 2013

Life with a 3 year-old is unpredictable. They are sunshine and giggles one minute and storm clouds and tantrums the next. They play happily with their siblings for a few minutes, but as soon as something doesn’t go their way they melt into a puddle of despair. When you’re out in public, they may happily hold your hand or you might end up dragging them when they protest, “I walk by my own self!” If you don’t have any older children, you may wonder if you are doing something terribly wrong as a parent. How many times will you have to put them in their room for being disrespectful? Will the public humiliation ever end? What is so horrible about being buckled into a carseat?

If you have older children, on the other hand, you understand that being 3 is tough business, and that “this, too, shall pass.”  These little people are trying to figure out boundaries, and even though they may seem to hate the rules that you make for them, they desperately need for you to keep on doing just what you are doing. They are able to accomplish many tasks on their own, but they get frustrated when they can’t do them as well or as fast as you can. They are starting to have ideas that are entirely their own, but don’t always have the vocabulary or the thought process to express them yet. Older siblings don’t always include them, and it never feels good to be snubbed by your greatest heroes.

After – the kids played nicely for a few minutes, and then left their fort in a shambles after getting into a fight about the scissors.

Of course, none of this gets them off the hook for bad behavior, but it does give a mother some hope that “being 3” is developmentally normal and that life goes on. And, of course, there are so many wonderful parts of life with a 3 year-old – the funny things that they say, the way that they love their parents and older siblings, the new games that they are able to play and enjoy, and the way that you can almost see them learning as they soak up the world around them.

Happy Tuesday afternoon to all of you awesome moms! I’m off to put together our dinner – I’m not sure exactly what it will be, but it will involve some of the two dozen hard-boiled eggs that we have sitting in our refrigerator. We’ll see how that goes over with the 3 year-old 🙂

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  • Jen

    I just sent a link to your post to my husband, with the title “we are not alone.” 🙂 In our case, our 3 year old is our oldest, so we don’t have your experience that this, too, shall pass. So thank you for your post and perspective!

  • Kellie “Red”

    Yes Jen! I always think challenges are the most difficult when it is your oldest child having the issue. I am able to handle so many things with greater grace when my younger ones are struggling. Perspective does amazing things!

  • Hang in there, Jen, and enjoy those great moments when your 3 year-old is full of smiles and ingenuity!

  • Oh, so true! I do love my three year old (especially the stories he tells), but oh, the emotional instability and the difficulty with simple obedience can get me down. Thanks for reminding those of us without older children that this is normal… I am starting to believe it as more moms tell me that if I just keep on with loving discipline, 4 is better and 5 is great!

  • Jennifer

    Ahhhhh…the memories.
    My sister and her husband came to visit us from England when my son was three. They kindly offered to babysit their nephew while my husband and I escaped (er, went out to a dinner we could sit through). We came home to tales of yogurt being painted on Uncle M’s pants, general contrariness and a pretty loud bedtime refusal – pretty typical stuff for an over-excited three, but alarming evidence of parenting failure for my childless sister. They also got to witness first hand clear proof that juice only tastes yummy in certain cups and that sometimes to get a three to smile you have to hang them upside down LOL… until a few seconds later when they are wll giggles and sunshine. The experience didn’t turn them off children forever, though, and they decided to risk a baby of their own (utterly convinced, no doubt, that they would achieve glorious structure, love and discipline). Three years after my nephew was born I got a call from my sister apologizing for the things she had thought about our parenting skills on that visit from England :).