I have no idea how I’m going to encapsulate what life is like with a three-and-a-half-year-old in one blog post, so I’ll give you the highlight reel. I’m pausing to think on it because this is the age I was when my brother was born. It makes me think about just what my mum had to handle, and also makes me think what it would be like if we were to have a second child – something we are still to-ing and fro-ing on.
I thought little miss was having tantrums from about the age of one. It wasn’t until she hit three that I saw what a psychopathic tantrum could look like. As soon as missy turned three we were at a whole new level. She would throw herself on the ground, stomp her feet, once she even said she didn’t like me (and, yes, it really got to me – I know it shouldn’t have, but it was like she stomped on my heart) and the yelling – let’s just say I’m sure all our neighbours hate us at this point.
Then, one day, hubby and I decided not to fight on the little things. For example, rather than fighting missy on the tacky, commercial pink Paw Patrol t-shirt she wanted to wear to childcare, I would just let her. When she wanted to climb out of her car seat on her own when we were in a rush and I just wanted to be quick, I would take a breath, and let her do it. As soon as she had this empowerment, the tantrums hung back.
Related: To my daughter on her third birthday
Don’t get me wrong, they still happen. Today for example, we had full on tears because she wanted “a big mask” out of the present box, and there were only small ones left (she picked that last “big mask” for her friend’s birthday present just 30 seconds prior). Sometimes there is no logic to it! But in all, life is a little bit easier. We still enforce rules of respect, listening and good behaviour (like putting her own shoes on, and pushing back when she responds to a request with “You do it”), and life feels a bit easier than it did six months ago. That six months makes a world of difference.
The tantrums above are often linked to wanting to do things herself. With three-and-a-half comes even more independence. In fact, as of last week, missy will make her own bed (it’s amazing, and I have to quash all my OCD tendencies to remake it for her).
With independence comes picking her own clothes (think sparkles, unicorns, pink and rainbows – much to my frustration), brushing her own teeth, crossing the road without holding hands (I fight that one) and getting her own milk out for breakfast. And if she doesn’t get to do what she’s so determined to do on her own? There are those tantrums again.
To coincide with this independence is much more independent play. Suddenly she doesn’t need us with her constantly (though it’s still her preference).
For so long I watched as missy played alongside her friends. They would all hang out together, but they wouldn’t necessarily interact beyond copying each other. Now, they have gorgeous conversations together, and role play in these make-believe worlds only accessible by them (again with the unicorns and rainbows).
Missy also spends a lot of time trying to make her friends laugh. She’s a little comedian. At the moment poo jokes and calling people funny names like “booty patootie bah ma” are top of the list. Her friends seem to like it.
Missy has gone from a child who wasn’t that into cuddling, to a little girl who cuddles everyone, including her friends. Yesterday I caught her gently cupping the face of her best friend at childcare and tenderly kissing him on the cheek and telling him she loves him. Extremely cute (and also cute when her four-year-old friend rolled her eyes and said, “Why don’t you two just get married?!” – the things that come out of these kids’ mouths are hilarious!).
The last 12 months has been a struggle with naps. For a while there the only way we could get missy to nap at all was in the car. The fight is very real. And frequent. And (often) necessary.
Despite being capable of staying awake all day there are days where missy is just a better person for napping. Where she’s so cranky and tired that a one-hour kip will make all the difference. For this to happen we need to be prepared for a one-to-two-hour struggle. Most of the time it’s not worth it.
In saying that after today’s tears about masks, my walking two paces ahead of her and my inability to carry 20 items at once, a well-timed cuddle yielded the goods quickly – hence having the time to write this well overdue blog.
I feel like the independent play comes with a better attention span. You know what else comes with a better attention span? Movies! While I still discourage more than 20 minutes of TV a day, I have to admit defeat sometimes. With the aforementioned nap situation dire, sometimes a movie is the only way to get a grumpy, weary, teary child to just calm the **** down. (Braiding is another good way to get them to rest, but I’ll write about that another day.)
Of course, with movies comes merchandise requests, dress-ups, impersonations and song. I resisted for a long time, but it can actually be a bit of fun. Today I found myself spinning around the room, belting out Let It Go, while missy screamed, “Stop singing Mummy. Don’t dance Mummy!” Yup, even at age three a mother can be embarrassing.
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