Keep Your Hands Inside the Ride at All Times

This morning, Butterbean came padding into our room and climbed wordlessly into bed between us. I moved the covers so he could snuggle down, and I promptly ignored him.

I’ve trained him to expect to be ignored in the early morning. If he wakes up and it’s light out, I tell him, he’s welcome to come to cuddle. But if Spouse and I are sleeping, he needs to settle down with us and try to sleep, too.

The “trying to sleep” is always in vain, of course. The kid, like his brother, just began sleeping through the night at age 3.25 years. And when he wakes up at 6 a.m., he’s completely done sleeping. Done. Revved, raring, rambunctious. Usually he wakes his brother with knock-knock jokes or wakes me screaming about covers he can’t adjust. Or sings to himself for a few minutes.

So a quiet ten minutes or so is the best I can get from him, and I gleefully take every second.

This morning he waited only two minutes before he whispered to me.

“Mommy?”
“Mmmm.”
“When the sun goes down at night, do the clouds go away, too?”
[wide grin inside that exhausted exterior failed to show]
“Nope. The clouds float above us in the air and they stay in the night and in the day. If there are no clouds, the sky stays clear. And if there are clouds, they drift along with the wind just as they do in the day. Because the sky is still there at night. We just don’t see as much because we’ve turned away from the sun.”
“Oh.”

And before I fell back to sleep for another two minutes, I died of the cuteness.

This morning was like the moment you’re next in line at the roller coaster. The boring part of the waiting is done, you’re the special one who gets in next, these delicious moments are all about “any second now”. Just before your turn the whole ride seems exciting and new and full of promise. Not jerky and nauseating and whiplash-y and quick and emotionally draining.

Three is a challenging age. Three is screaming and fits and rage and no impulse control and crazy and “can I listen to that song for the 1,095th time?” Three is an exhausting roller coaster that lasts two years or so, pausing infrequently to allow gulps of air before continuing on, terrifyingly quickly and without seat belts.

But at least once a day, Three is so intensely cute it makes my brain think we’re on vacation on a tropical island with nothing but clear warm water and bright blue skies. Every few hours, amidst the crazy and the angry and the are you kidding me, we have a moment of recalling how freaking edible children can be when they are little balls of wonder and exploration and joy.

Mmmmmm. Waking up to silently padding feet and a cuddle and a science question?

That is the pure bliss that Three occasionally brings. And oh me, oh my it’s tasty.

Delicious little pat of Butter.

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Aaaaaah. Three.

Some of you might not know that Three-Years-Old is the portal to the Seventh Circle of Hell.

I’m here to tell you, again, that it is.

I know about Threes’ seven-layer dip of insanity, lack of impulse control, emotional immaturity, irrationality, impatience, illogic, and incontinence because I still have PTSD from my eldest’s year-long bout of The Threes. The day he threw furniture at the closed door that signaled “Mommy Needs A Timeout to Keep from Beating You.” The day he assaulted me, apologized to get me closer, then attacked again. The day he raged because I wouldn’t go out in the rain and drive alone to the store to bring him back mushrooms, a food he didn’t like. The day he peed in the cat box because he didn’t like my rules.

Three. The “at-least-it’s-good-for-a-laugh” antithesis of good times.

I’ve braced myself for Butterbean to turn Three. I’ve girded and steeled and all other architectural metaphor-ed. I’ve prepared.

So when he spun into a tantrum because I dared to say that being grown up means I won’t, in fact, get taller, I tried not to laugh. He screamed for half an hour that I have to get taller right now.

I wish, buddy. But you are not the first to try nonsense tactics. And you will not win. Not only do I not refuse to get taller right now, I refuse to talk about it.

When Butter recently threw himself out of the stroller and writhed and yelled and tried to hit me as I asked how I could help, I dispassionately plopped him back in the stroller and kept walking. And repeated one house later. And another, and another, each time offering to carry him, cuddle him, or let him push the stroller as long as we kept going. When it didn’t work I just kept breathing and tossing his enraged body back into the stroller. Because I know what happens when you negotiate with Three-Year-Olds. All of this blog from 2009 is what happens when you negotiate with Three-Year-Olds.

But a new calm has come over me. I can outlast Three. I have done it before. I can survive earthquake and fire and oncoming traffic that smashes my ride at 106 miles an hour. And graduate school. If I am still standing after all that, I can survive another three-year-old. I’m not alone in my plight, and there are experts whose advice can help.

In fact, my newly crowned Three’s tendency toward batshit insane actually has his seven-year-old brother taking a turn for the avuncular. Battles of wills are being dropped rather than pressed, sharing is increasing, and feelings are being calmly listed more this month than in all of last year. Today Peanut explained to his brother what to do when you’re really mad and draw back to kick someone. “Change your mind,” he said, “and talk about how angry you are instead.”

Maybe there’s an upside to Three. Or an upside to Seven. Or to the synergy between them.

I hope so. We could really use an upside or two or Three.

And….scene.

I am proud to announce that I am now mother to a seven-year-old and a three-year-old.

Feels weird. The youngest is no longer a toddling disaster waiting to happen, though he is about as fully Three as a young human can be. If you don’t know what a scathing epithet “Three” can be, please search the interwebs and ask your friends. Three is so adorably horrible it…ah, what the heck. I have all year to tell you. And an archive full of 2009’s Three-based rants to tide you over.

In addition to morphing of young Mr. Needs Attention All the Time into Mr. Needs Attention Most of the Time, 2013 has brought to our home a full-fledged seven-year-old person with all manner of ideas and stories to tell. And mischief to orchestrate. He’s delightful. When he’s not surly. Or ignoring simply requests. Or antagonizing his brother and parents.So I might be able to spend five minutes a day actually focused on this young man, now that his brother is less hazard than attitude problem.

But several moms this week have told me that nine is really he beginning of puberty and its signature mood swings, detestable behaviors, and frequent parenting moments.

So I have two years to enjoy the delightful creature whom I’ve basically ignored for two years while his brother has been tearing around like a Tasmanian devil. I have to make the most of every single moment, for after those two years, the creature formerly called Peanut will become hormonally-altered, and I will be shut out forever.

(Have I mentioned I’m a huge fan of hyperbole? Probably not, and since it’s potentially not obvious from my hysterical rantings, I’ll mention it here. Hyperbole is the best thing ever!)

And I have two years to guide the little tea kettle of irrational lunges toward independence before he blossoms into a lovely, individual creature who will privilege his peers’ opinions over mine and relish his long hours at school without me. As we now know, most five-year-olds fall in with the wrong crowd and ignore their parents for the rest of their young lives.

A crossroads. One is in the middle of his best four childhood years. And the other is in the middle of his toughest childhood years. In 730 days they will transition into the initial phases of teenager and the initial phases of elementary schooler.

730 days. That’s all I have. After that it’s…well, it’s…it’s another 1460 days before things get really dicey, with a teen and a tween. And then only 1095 more days until one is driving and both are shaving. And then only 730 days before one leaves for college.

Sob!

My baby is going to college in 4,198 days! I have to go make sure we have enough soap and shampoo and extra-long twin sheets to get him there!

Hang on. How many leap years between now and 2024? I have to go do some research. I’ll get back to you soon with how long I actually have before I start sobbing and taking on new hobbies and…wait. The other one will still be here. I won’t be alone and depressed and needing seven new hobbies until at least 2028.

Just when I was thinking four years was a crummy spread because one is always in a challenging phase and so consuming my maternal energy I miss the other’s delightful age…

No problem. 2028.

I can hold off panicking until then.

Phew.

Now I have time to panic about getting through Three.

And Seven.