“Every kid is different and they need individualized attention. Anyone who is a parent knows how unique each child is.” ~W. H. Thomas
Parenting is definitely becoming more interesting as we head out of our threes and into our fours (or, as we affectionately say, quite often, “threenager going on fournado”). Big Feelings and challenging behaviors are coming into play more and more often, and we struggle sometimes with the most appropriate way to help Noah work through whatever it is he needs to work through. My husband and I both very strongly believe in gentle/positive parenting. In our home, we do not hit, we do not yell (unless he is in immediate danger), we practice time-in rather than time-out. We want him to feel safe, loved, and comfortable expressing his emotions.
But my gosh, sometimes it is hard to parent the way we want to.
Noah’s “twos” were not terrible. At all. Quite honestly, he was a pretty easy two year old. I would read posts from friends talking about how “difficult” their kiddos were behaving and I couldn’t relate to it at all. Most of his threes were the same: For the most part, he was a super happy-go-lucky kid (we often commented that we were raising “the happiest kid in the world”), with most of his challenges seeming to be related to his communication issues. I’d see memes about “sending help” to parents of toddlers and smile and think about how very blessed we were: We didn’t need help because Noah was pretty consistently a delightful little ball of happiness.
Until he wasn’t.
At around the three year, nine month mark, the Big Feelings seemed to get a lot bigger, the behaviors more and more typically (at least according to darned-near all of my friends currently raising three year olds) toddler-esque. Within the past couple of weeks, I’ve had to carry him like a kicking, screaming surfboard into his preschool classroom because sorry, kiddo, we can’t bring a Yoda hooded towel, abacus, and bouquet of helium balloons to school. We were an hour late to daycare one day last week because I wouldn’t let him fill his backpack with dirty laundry (he’d been sick and it was really, really dirty laundry).
To make things even more challenging, his tantrums can morph into sensory meltdowns, which makes dealing with things even more complex. Until I became the parent of an autistic child with sensory processing disorder, I did not understand the differences between tantrums and sensory meltdowns and how to handle each of them. I find myself becoming frustrated more often than I’d like, and then feeling massive guilt because how can I possibly not love every little thing about this miraculous child that we are so tremendously blessed to be parenting?
Here’s the thing: Sometimes parenting is hard.
Really, really hard. And as difficult as this is for me to admit to myself sometimes, it’s okay that I sometimes get frustrated and frazzled. It’s okay that sometimes – after carrying him kicking and screaming into his preschool classroom – I sit in my minivan in the parking lot of a grocery store and cry. It’s okay that I sometimes question whether or not I’m a “good mom”. I can’t be getting things entirely wrong: Noah lights up when he sees me, and his favorite thing to sign to his Dada and I right now is “I love you THIS BIG” (we sign and say “I love you” and then stretch our arms wide and say “THIS BIG!”). Three-going-on-four is hard – but it’s also such an amazing thing to see his little personality developing. He really is the best thing ever. Even when he’s being quite the threenager.