If you’ve ever had a three year old, you know that they are a joy and a terror all at once. They are learning and growing so fast, that it’s hard for them to cope sometimes. My son is no different, and today was a sure sign of that.
Going to Work with Mama
Today, Aeneas came to work with me. It’s spring break at the university library I work at, and because of this, a fantastic time for me to work on projects that just can’t get done with students around. So, Aeneas had to come with me, on a day I normally stay at home with him. He loves it for the most part. Seeing all the books, what mama does, and getting to watch some shows on the computer. What more would a three year old want? Honestly, I feel bad about it when he has to come with me. I know I’m not able to give him the attention I’d normally give him when at home.
Our morning started out great. He played with some legos while I was shifting/shelf reading the Reference Room, then moved onto “reading” some books, and playing with his dinosaurs (all while having Julie’s Greenroom on in the background). He was having a great time. In fact, he even decided to help me some, and did a fairly good job of it too! He’s such a sweet boy when he’s happy and well rested. Then noon rolls around..
Noon – Better Known as “The Witching Hour”
Somehow Aeneas knows when it’s noon, and he starts getting cranky. Sometimes eating will help with this, but alas, not as often as I would like. This temperament change continues until we reach the crux, around four in the afternoon. It’s like a demon has taken over my child. Today this little demon spawn decided it would be awesome to draw with markers all over my office walls, desks, and then start throwing things. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well with me. Once I got him to stop drawing and throwing things, I told him we were leaving, and the crying ensued. He didn’t want to leave, yet when I had told asked him to stop throwing things, or we’d have to leave, he continued to throw items. Toddlers push boundaries. There’s nothing we can do to stop that, but we can decide how we respond to them.
Responding to a Three Year Old
I’ve found that the calmer I stay when he gets upset, the easier it is to actually get him to calm down. Aeneas was crying, and saying he wanted to be a good boy and not throw things, so he could stay. Yet when I had given him the choice originally, he didn’t choose it. Teaching children that actions have consequences is one of our duties as parents, but we don’t have to go about it in a harsh manner. Here are the steps I like to take:
- Give the child a choice – Stop what they’re doing or we’re going to have to leave.
- Respond to the child’s choice calmly – I’m sorry Aeneas, it’s time to leave now. I asked you to please stop throwing things, and because you didn’t, we’re going to have to go home.
- Calm the child down – When possible, I ask Aeneas to take some deep breaths and then count to ten for me. We’ve found the deep breaths helps him calm down when he’s crying, and counting to ten gets him to think of something other than what he’s upset about.
- Talk to them about the decision – I like to talk to Aeneas (once he’s calmed down), about why we had to leave, and what he could do next time if he doesn’t want to leave (aka: STOP ACTING LIKE A LITTLE DEMON).
Keeping Up with the Toddler
Now, as you can imagine, we do this A LOT. I mean multiple times a day, and sometimes I want to pull my hair out because of it. Nevertheless, I continue to try to use these simple steps, knowing that one day they will sink in, and he will grow up and be a good man. In the mean time, I sometimes have to use these steps on myself (or drink a GIANT glass of wine), to get through these demonic three year old days.
When bedtime comes into view, we usually have a meltdown as well. As soon as Aeneas is in bed listening to a story, his sweet side comes back. He is cuddly and loving, and just wants to listen. These are the moments I live for, and I am so thankful I can catch some on film. Being a mother is beautiful, enriching, and incredibly hard. This is the life and trials of a three year old mama.