2:30am this morning. I heard my three year old calling for me. Most of the time if I go lay with him he will fall back to sleep quickly. Other times he is awake for hours. I always know within ten seconds of entering his room which one of those scenarios I’m walking into.
If he cuddles up next to me and closes his eyes, I am in the clear. However, if instead of cuddles he blurts out, “I’m so hungwy!” I know I’m in trouble.
This morning he was hungry.
I got him a banana while he cried because, “it’s gonna take you a long time!” Typically getting a banana takes me anywhere from 12-15 seconds, but when you’re that hungry I guess it could feel like an eternity. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not.
I gave him the banana. He held onto the banana while he wiped his tears and sniffled, still recovering from the long wait and the trauma of it all. Then somehow, tragically, the overripe banana broke right in half.
His eyes grew wide with horror.
I gasped audibly.
All of the things hit the fan in that moment.
This kid is serious about his food. When he is hangry it is not pretty. I’m the same way, so I guess he comes by it honestly. But when you’re hangry, and you’re three, and you’re half asleep, there is no reasoning with you.
His hysterics woke the whole house. He needed a new banana RIGHT NOW! But, as fate would have it, that poor broken banana was the last banana in the whole house. (Note to self. Next time buy more bananas than you could ever possibly need. And then get one more just to be safe.) I told him so and knew that in his mind there was no reason good enough to warrant me not producing a new banana right then and there.
That scene lasted almost an hour.
Because when your banana is broken, the only possible solution is to get another banana.
That’s the thing with three-year-old logic. It is confident and sure and incapable of seeing how any other point of view could possibly be right. It knows what it wants and when things don’t go its way, the wrath is very real. Also, it doesn’t care who is watching. How public their display might be. They will fight for their truth no matter what.
This afternoon we went to Whole Foods. I quickly grabbed the two things I needed and made a beeline for the cashier. The day had already been rough, I had chased my kid around the salad bar island for too long while he laughed hysterically AT me, and for my sanity I needed to get out of there. Little did I know my tiny hurricane had the grand finale up his sleeve.
As I checked out his eyes fell on the carts from hell. You know the ones I’m talking about. The shopping cart with an entire kids car attached to the front. It’s long and impossible to steer and you will always clip someone in the ankles while driving it.
Hudson took off running and practically dove headfirst into the plastic police car. I let him sit there and honk the horn while I paid one million dollars for toothpaste. Maybe he could just get it out of his system.
Denial is such a wonderful place to be.
As I gathered my bags I told him we needed to go. He looked at me like I had lost my mind. He gestured frantically at my shopping bags, tears already coursing down his cheeks, and screamed at me.
“NO!!!!! Put all of that back on the shelf!!!! We have to start over!!!!!!”
I laughed. Out loud. Because I knew he was serious and I knew what was coming. And sometimes you laugh so you don’t cry.
I told him I was so sorry he felt sad, I know he loves this cart. Maybe next time we can use it.
“PUT THE FOOD BACK! We have to start over!!!!!”
Sometimes you can pretend no one is staring at you if you just don’t look up. I zeroed in on my boy’s face and tried to prevent a scene without restocking my sea salt chick peas. I told him I would put the grocery bags into the police car cart and we could drive the new cart to the car.
You would have thought I suggested he give up cheese.
He was now screaming at full volume, face red and tear-stained, I was pretty sure he was going to hyperventilate as he likes to do when he’s really angry. I knew what I had to do.
I crouched down and basically climbed into the cop car to get my arms around him. I wrestled him out of the car, he was flailing and screaming and furious. And the ridiculous thing is I understood why he was mad. He saw a problem. He knew how to fix it. And I wasn’t listening.
Three-year-old logic does not like to be ignored.
Spirited three-year-old logic becomes indignant, and a little violent.
I hoisted my baby boy, who is filled with so much fire, onto my hip. I pushed our cart with the malfunctioning wheel, out of the store, past the staring shoppers, across the parking lot, while holding on for dear life to a flailing, and surprisingly strong, three-year-old who was not getting his way.
We somehow made it to the car, he eventually calmed down and fell fast asleep. My head was pounding, my nerves frayed, and I needed chocolate like now.
I realized there are four ways to handle spirited three-year-old logic.
- Scream and cry louder than them.
- Give in to their every demand.
- Never go out in public ever again.
- Be the adult, choose my words carefully, and help my baby learn how to be in control of his emotions. Understand that the process will be a long one and the journey will not always be smooth, but he is so worth it.
As much as number one seems easier and who doesn’t love a good cry? Today I realized all over again the gift that is my youngest son. He is wild, he is fire, he is spirited, he is passionate and he is strong.
It’s easy for me to see the naughty, to hear the defiance, and want to change his behavior. But once I’m calm, once I stop and breathe, I remember. My greatest responsibility as a mama is not to force my child to fit inside a box of stereotypes, or to make sure he conforms to a list of who he should be and how he should act.
As his mama my job is to love every single part of who he was created to be. I get to celebrate the person he is, encourage his strengths and challenge him in areas where I know he can grow.
I never want that fire in his spirit to be snuffed out. I want it to be used for the extraordinary things I know he is capable of. I just want to teach him how to not let broken bananas or police car shopping carts turn his world upside down.
And if I want to teach him self-control, I guess I better exercise my own as well. Because, if you ask my mama she will tell you. The child I call Tiny, the one who tests every limit and toes every line, the one who kisses me fierce and hugs me tight. This little person is the spitting image of his mama. Once upon a time I toed every line and tested every limit and made my fair share of public scenes. I knew I was right and hated to be told I was wrong. And God gave me a mama strong enough to handle my fire but gentle enough to teach that red-headed hurricane how to be the very best version of me she could possibly be.
And she taught me that motherhood is far from easy. There are days I will worry, days I will cry, days I will scream. There will be days like today where the battle of wills seems more like survival of the fittest. But the truth is, the beauty of seeing your child become who they were created to be, playing a role in shaping a life, cheering on someone you believe in more than you ever thought possible, it makes all of those days so very worth it.
On those difficult days, I am so thankful that His mercies are new every morning.
Also, chocolate is a perfectly acceptable coping mechanism.