Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rough Goes It--He's Turned Three

I've just spent an hour deep-cleaning the upstairs bedroom and I am exhausted. If anyone wants to discuss sexual discrimination in the workplace, let me start with the argument that women are getting short shrift when it comes to safety. That vacuum should have come with hearing protection. Even if it came in the obnoxious form of fuzzy pink padded headphones. The next time I accidentally tune Joe out while he's talking to me, I should blame it on Vacuuming Deafness.

All that aside, the real reason I'm tired is that I have a three year old. Anyone who tells you that Three is easy needs a scarlet "L" branded to their forehead for LIAR. Three is not easy. I've never met an easy three year old, and I've been doing this for a long, long time.

At least I knew what I was getting into. Remember that last post, when I wrote about feeling "triumphant"? That's a pretty powerful word, and in that moment it was really great to acknowledge how I felt. And now that calm before the storm has ended. We are in Regression, Code Red. It seems that either he's pushing our buttons, or we're pushing his. It's par for the course at this age. Three is a little like a couple on the verge of a divorce: everyone loves each other so much, but there's not a lot of consensus and a whole bunch of hurt feelings.

Take fifteen minutes ago, for example. After writing my Cleanifesto on the bedroom, Kiddo and Daddy came up to bed. Kiddo had the expectation that he would see the enigmatic vacuum cleaner (So loud! So scary! So interesting!), but Joe had already hauled it downstairs for me. Once the truth was discovered, Kiddo was bereft. Like Covering-His-Face-When-He-Cried-It-Was-So-Sad bereft. This was the dirtiest of tricks played upon him, or so it seemed. My heart softened, I offered to let him help me vacuum after school tomorrow, and he replied that he wanted to vacuum "this day". Poor kiddo.

When mothers bring up regression, it sometimes seems like they believe it's permanent. They seem to think of this as an airplane taking a nosedive. From all outward appearances, it looks like that plane is really going to crash to the ground. My experience, however, tells me that it's more like an airplane that is looping back from it's initial route to find it's way again. Just as children work to mastery with a puzzle or toy, so do they retrace their developmental steps when they are taking steps forward into unfamiliar territory. We adults often do this "working backward" when we mislay something...we use the landmarks in our memory to help us assess how we are going to deal with our crisis in the present.

In our case, Kiddo is stretching out in independence, and still trying to find the closeness he had before. This comes to us in repeated requests of "want to hold you", and we honor them as we can, and some days it doesn't seem like enough. Then he wants to sleep with us and craves such closeness that he drives his little head into our backs or shoulders. I woke up the other night on the edge of the bed with his head on my pillow---he wants it that much.

So, not feeling triumphant today really. Glad I noticed that feeling when it happened, and I'm sure it will return another day. I might sound a little lofty at times, but there's really no rarefied air here...my kid is terrific, and he's just as demanding as many other three year olds. But we're holding steady, and that's all you can ask for in rough seas. We're grounding ourselves and anchoring in.

There's probably a lot of transportation references in here, but we're moving through life, right?

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