Man, three years old is tough. Yes the sleeplessness of newborns is painful. the unpredictability of babies is frustrating, and the drunkeness of toddlers is just bizarre BUT three is HARD. Tiny little humans that are struggling their way thru a maze of boundaries, expectations, and personality development challenge even the most balanced and controlled of parents (who studied human development in college FYI). It is mind blowing just how correct Piaget and Erikson and all the other great theorists were in regards to brain and emotional development -- because right on cue my once amazingly sweet and gentle firstborn has morphed into a tiny tyrant. Now I am not going to pretend to be someone I am not and tell you I have all the answers after A) studying thousands of kids in child study centers or B) raising my own from infancy to adulthood then afforded the luxury of reflection, but I am in the weeds of the aforementioned tiny tyrant so here goes nothing.
Weaving together my academic training, parenting adventures, and mindfully observing my tiny tyrant I have come to one singular conclusion: consistency is paramount. We know if we are dieting we must be consistent -- same scale/tape measure, food choices, meal prep, and most importantly with the end goal. If halfway thru your weight loss journey you change your goal then the entire approach must adapt to that otherwise its all for not. Exercise is the same way -- if you want to see changes in your body you must be consistent with your movement, make it a priority and stick to it. But why is this so challenging when it comes to parenting when our end goal of raising somewhat decent human beings is defined and intent to reach said goal never waivers? The answer is because it is hard to regulate our emotions and discern our preconceived expectations of situations from the reaction of another person in your same experience.
Did that get to heady? Let me try to break it down. My tiny tyrant is his dad's best buddy, thick as thieves, and truly a father-son soul mate match. Now because they hang out so much and are around uncles and cousins doing big guy stuff my little guy has learned to talk like a much bigger guy. He elicits laughs from his frequent one liners of "sweet bro" and "nice one guy", can talk about dirt bikes with more fluency than most adults, and generally has all the adoring male companions eating out of his hand. This past week he was flying solo with me on vacation while dad was on a separate trip and we found ourselves at a pump track (for those of you that don't know what that is because you don't live with bike obsessed people it is a course with sharps turns and bumps to cruise your bike around). My guy was doing awesome until a dad showed up with his two sons. Now in my son's mind, mid to late 30's and male is his prime demographic of play buddy and upon seeing this man he felt immediate salvation from the boring company that was his mom. He decided to fall right into this man's shadow and demand he ride with him. Suddenly he noticed his charm was not working on this man who wanted to ride with his kids and not babysit mine. He desperately tried all his tricks -- calling him bro, complimenting his bike, and throwing out facts about all his favorite dirt bikes. His advances fell one after another as my frustration with him bossing this adult around began to grow. Toddler confusion/disappointment mixed with parental annoyance is a bad combination and you can just imagine the colossal meltdown that ensued when I pulled him off the pump track.
My three year old is learning to navigate not only his own experience but those that share his space. He saw a guy that looks like all his other guys and expected him to be his buddy. This guy saw a kid and thought, hey mom keep your kid out of my space. My son's reaction was pure confusion because he did not understand why this man did not want to play with him. I was frustrated because I wanted him to understand. As his mom it is my job to help him make sense of this situation and partner with him in defining appropriate reactions in different situations. It is not my job to expect him to understand as an adult would because his brain is not there yet. So not only does my reaction need to be consistent but so does my expectation of his ability to process. Find your speed and your voice so the inevitable tiny tyrant meltdown is minimized and you don't feel like you need an entire six pack of beer and perhaps just one (or two, it was vacation after all).