It’s misleading. Yes, 2 is difficult. The kid is learning that he or she is separate, establishing his or her own identity, and blah, blah, blah. Because after 2 comes 3, and by 3, they are talking in complete sentences, usually the same sentences over and over again. Also, negotiations begin. Or as much negotiating as a 3-year-old can muster anyway.
“Can I play with my princess tea set? Can we go outside? Can I have some candy? How about now? Now? Soon? How about now?”
“When Bun takes her nap, because the pieces are too small. No, Monkey, honey, it’s snowing/raining/11 degrees outside. No, you only get candy when you go on the potty. No, no, not now, no. No.”
Lately, Monkey and I are really butting heads. Along with the frustrating and messy world of potty training, Monkey has decided that not napping during her naps is no longer rebellion enough. She has to destroy her room if left alone in it while awake during the day. Also, very often, she has to poop in her diaper even though I sat her on the toilet for 15 minutes before nap time.
Let me define “destroy” her room before you think I am exaggerating. The other day, Monkey single-handedly dismantled her bed. Covers off, pillows and stuffed animals strewn, fitted sheet wadded up in the corner, and mattress on its side on the floor. Oh, and she had knocked over her lamp. Usually, the worst she does is empty her sock drawer, stuffing them behind her headboard. The other day (not bed-dismantling day), she added Bun’s diapers to the mix.
Talk about escalation.
Then there is the whole “negotiation” thing. Between Monkey’s new-found … uh, let’s call it “independence”, the weather, and a teething Bun, things have been difficult around here for me lately. (Oh, and let’s just throw in Christmas time madness, party-planning insanity, and financial worries. Just to remember it’s not just about the kids. Sexual tension, too. Yipee.)
DearDR clearly sees how things are going. He sat down with me the other day, and conducted a bit of an interview.
“What are Monkey’s strengths?” he asked. He was putting on the professional hat for a little bit, and I let him, because really, where the heck else could I turn at 10 o’clock at night with a beer in hand?
Well, Monkey is extremely articulate. When she decides what she wants, she can ask for it clearly. She is smart, funny and creative. She can actually occupy herself, by herself, for quite an impressive amount of time for a 3-year-old. She loves to read. She’s good with Bun — when she wants to be.
“Okay, what are her weaknesses?”
She’s impulsive. She flits from thing to thing very quickly when she’s not absorbed. She’s very willful.
In other words, and I pointed this out, her weakness is that she’s 3 years old.
Okay, then, her weaknesses, to this point, are things that she will outgrow. (Yes, you don’t have to point out that I am going to be in a similar position with Monkey in 10 to 12 years. Only this time, relatively speaking, she’s be a creature of reason, as well! Oh, joy.)
But I was surprised by my response regarding her weaknesses.
I guess what needs to be examined are MY weaknesses. Why, aside from the fact that she is my child and we are together nearly all the time, does she so easily get under my skin? Is it simply the aforementioned things? Is it my own impatience? High expectations? Desire to do something besides sit in a room with two children (clean the kitchen, do laundry, read a book uninterrupted, earn money)?
Monkey is doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing. She is “testing the boundaries”. She pushes us (DearDR is not immune, he just gets it less because he gets to leave the house); she checks our reactions, she pushes some more. She starts to find out what “too far” means, and its consequences.
Truth is, I admire her. She is figuring it out. Truth is, I admire DearDR and me, too, because we give consequences (time outs, usually, or not getting what she wants). We are fair-minded parents who understand that boundaries are necessary.
Because setting boundaries now, and keeping them, makes Monkey feel safe. Frustrated, of course, at times (it’s not easy for us all the time, either), but, ultimately safe. And if we can make her feel safe now, I hope it follows we can make her feel safe later, as her boundaries expand out in the world. Someday, she will be setting her own boundaries. I know we can’t keep her absolutely and totally safe. But if we are her safe place, then she will have someplace to go — someplace to come — when she discovers… well, what lies outside of the boundries. And I don’t mean the crazy, truly deadly and dangerous things (necessarily), but even the pain that friends can inflict. (Especially girl friends.)
I’m going on a bit here, and I admit to not completely knowing my point. I guess it’s the fact that Monkey is doing her “job” and we are doing ours, as parents.
And that’s something to be proud of, both ways. Raising kids is incredible, and at times incredibly hard. And you know what? We’re all doing all right.