Welcome to Toddlerdom, Now go home

The Next Family

By: Meika Rouda

My 3-year-old has been giving me a hard time lately. And when I say hard time I don’t mean the regular whining-being-difficult type of hard time. I mean the full-armed assault. There is kicking, screaming, hitting and absolutely no communication. He won’t listen and he refuses to do what I ask even if I am coy and pull a little reverse psychology on him: “Don’t eat your dinner!”. This used to work like a dream on him. I find myself in territory that is both unfamiliar and feels slightly dangerous. I am afraid of screwing up! If I yell at him, that doesn’t help; if I give him a timeout he just reverts right back to bad behavior as soon as the time out is over; if I ask him to sit down and calm down and let me know when he is ready to talk, he calms down, apologizes to me for not listening, claims he “is going to be nice” and then proceeds to turn into the tasmanian devil.

I think one of the scary parts of being a parent is realizing how little control you actually have sometimes. I know all the perfect parents reading this are probably saying “well you haven’t set proper boundaries” and maybe I haven’t, but he has always been a good listener and even if he had a tantrum he would regain composure quickly. Something has changed. Or are there undeterminable factors constantly at work, likes brewing storm that may or may not get enough moisture to cause rain. There are times when I just have to let go and let him have his fit. It just isn’t worth getting worked up about. In a way it feels like destiny on a macro level, I know he won’t be in a crazed state forever but for those five chaotic minutes, it is un bearable. I doubt why I became a mother and whether I am any good at it. I don’t think this is mutually exclusive to adoptive parents, every parent I know has the same struggle, especially with toddler boys, but I feel an extra layer of concern. Am I doing this right? Is he going to need massive therapy as a teenager because I made him stand in a corner for time out? What am I doing wrong?

Maybe I am not doing anything wrong and it is just the course of toddler-dom, a wild land of rugged terrain and beautiful sunsets and where most inhabitants are part human and part animal. I am eager for this stage to be over and yet I know I will miss it terribly when he is older and it is gone.

[Photo Credit: sean dreilinger]

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