Parenting 3 year olds is REALLY hard. Hands down, toughest age yet (don’t I say that every time?). Two is tiring, but three is just – dead. And twins? Forget it.
The past few months, parenting the twins has brought lots of changes, both good and bad.
What’s the good?
My babies are becoming little people. C loves ballet now. She declares the other little girls her friends though she’s barely spoken a word to any of them. But she fits in, she’s herself, she’s happy. B is no longer in gymnastics. He’s a little person too, and one Friday evening he declared that he wasn’t going. I dragged him anyway, and he refused to go out there with the other kids because, you know – he told me he didn’t want to go. And he didn’t. After a few weeks of that, we pulled him. He’s bored – the class was very simple in its nature, lots of somersaults and jumping, but he may just need an indoor playground and a ball pit, I guess. So because he’s a big kid now, we recognized that this isn’t for him. He does need another class though and we’re looking to find one.
Another wonderful thing – they’re finally, finally potty trained. C has been for 2 months now, and B is now as well – 5 months after I started. They still wear diapers to bed at night, but C has been dry for a few nights recently, so even that will come to an end soon. With undies at night time will come a huge transition to toddler beds. Yes, my 40 pound, 3.5 year old is still in his crib. He fits fine and he loves the confines of it. They both do, and they have no desire to climb out.
Becoming little people means taking interests outside of cars and dolls. While they’re still very much into those toys, their brains are going a million miles an hour. They’re into the solar system, they’re asking “Why” and “How”. C asked me last week how babies get inside a mommy’s belly. Tonight she asked me how cheese was made. B uses words like “actually” and “though” constantly and appropriately. They’re super into learning, and they’re working on skills with my nanny like estimating and writing their names. They got into a Montessori preschool for next year (I’m so PUMPED) and I just can’t believe that will be happening. In this regard, this age is fun.
But this age also sucks, big time. Because even though they frequently act older and take in way more information and discussion than they ever have before, they also react emotionally, like the little kids they still are. C cries very easily and frequently, though it doesn’t last long at all. “But…but…I want another coooookkkieeee…and I need a TISSUUUUEEE!!!” Oh, the drama! B has been another story.
B’s always been a challenge. And for as long as he’s been dragging me through the roller coaster of emotions, I’ve spent that same amount of time trying to figure him out. In the last few months, he’s started hitting and pushing his sister. He never did, he used to come after me instead. But maybe it’s because she’s right there, or maybe because it gets a bigger reaction out of us – now it’s her. Sometimes things will go wrong and she’s not even around – and he’ll go looking for her to push her. The pushes have gotten stronger, the hits harder, and I’ve (many times) lost my cool. It’s one thing to hit me as a toddler, but another to be a big, strong kid and hurt my other child. I’ve hated myself for how I’ve yelled, sometimes. I mean, it’s really almost screaming. And in those moments, I’ve just about had it. A normal sibling argument will turn violent if I’m not watching out for it. C never hits him back.
And after losing my cool so frequently, with my kids just staring at me like I’ve lost my mind (and I assure you, I HAVE) only to be ridden with guilt while they just go back to playing as if nothing happened – that’s not the type of parent I want to be, and it’s completely ineffective anyway. You know, I’ve tried SO many different strategies with B, time outs to cooling down to distraction to talking about empathy to apologies…I’ve tried it all. And nothing has worked. Positive parenting strategies are good ones, for sure. Identifying what makes him upset is a good thing to do. But previously, after naming his emotion, “You’re frustrated right now, aren’t you?”, I would distract and move on. There was no consequence. Now he’s aggressively going after his sister, and not imposing a consequence feels wrong. But then, so does screaming.
So the other day I read something where a child had hit, and the mother 1) Identified the emotion FIRST and foremost – “You’re upset that your sister took your toy”, but then 2) immediately followed with, “But we do not hit. Because you hit, you need to go to your room.” I like this – it’s calm, it still supports the child by recognizing what set him off, but it follows with a consequence. B has been getting away with this violence for months and I’m done with it. So I tried it this evening. He was melting because we had an early dinner and he wanted to watch TV first. And then C got her advent calendar candy first, when Wednesdays are his day. So he started hitting. I identified the emotion, then said he needed to go into the den for a few minutes while he calmed down. At first I went with him. But then he was talking to me like nothing happened, so that didn’t seem right. Then I started leaving him in there (this went on for quite a while), but he worked himself up way more because I left him, which just made him run out of the room and hit me again (he wanted my attention, so he kept hitting in order to get it). That didn’t work either. I just kept bringing him back again and again. Finally after a few minutes had passed in the den I told him he could come out. He said, “I’m not done being grumpy! I’m still grumpy, so I still need to push! Who can I push?” I said, “You can’t push. You can squeeze this ball, you can lay in the dog bed, you can hit the couch.” He replied, “But I want to hit a person.” SIGH. Finally I said, “Why don’t I get a timer to set, so when it goes off you know you can come back out?” He agreed, wanted his sand timer, went into the bathroom to look for it – and by the time we found it, he was 100% over it and fine, giggling at the sight of his timer.
Long story short – I still don’t have the answer. I know he needs consequences but I clearly can’t find ones that are effective. The goal is not to increase the meltdown. The goal is to stop the hitting. Any suggestions out there?
I did make one, fabulous, terrible discovery this past weekend. I always wake the twins at 7am. And we always put them down for bed at 8pm, but they usually would talk until almost 9pm. Well..on Saturday morning I decided to let them sleep as long as they want, just to see how much sleep I’ve been depriving them of – 8:30am. 1.5 hours later than normal! And they did it again Sunday. And guess what? B was in a really good mood most of the day. He still required a 30 minute power nap – but no major meltdowns. OMG.
Tonight we fed them dinner at 5:00 (usually it’s 6:00), and put them to bed at 7:00pm – and they were sleeping by 7:15. Could it really be this easy? My son, this whole time, the last two YEARS has been – overtired. Yes. Because I had them on a schedule and wanted them to still nap.
All of these issues, boiling over because of – lack of sleep. Why didn’t I think of this before?
So, all in all, parenting is HARD.
Also – yes, I do have a 3rd child. He’s 6 months now and the easiest of the bunch. 🙂