July 29, 2011 by themommahen
On most good days, I’m pretty confident about my parenting. I know I’m not perfect, but I usually feel like my decisions, demeanor and disposition are pretty solid. When you have a 3yo* in the house though, that goes out the window, as does all logic. Up is down, black is white and yes is no. Actually, most everything is no. Until it’s yes and then all hell breaks loose because MOMMY, I SAID I WAS (fill-in-the-blank). Never mind that of course, that was never said, implied or inferred.
And it is EXHAUSTING.
Yesterday we had decided we were going to the pool. The pool has been such a blast this summer. I practically grew up there and have nothing but great memories of my time there. It’s a bit surreal to go and see all the kids of the people who went there back in the 80s and 90s with me, but it’s been a great place to reconnect and make new friends for all of us.
H#1 LOVES the pool. She went from scared-to-put-her-face-in-the-water to swimming like a fish in exactly 48 hours this summer thanks to swimming lessons at the local pool. H#2, on the other hand, went to swimming lessons and on the third day of hanging on the side of the pool got really brave, forgot he didn’t have his swimmy vest on, let go and promptly sank to the bottom. It was only 4 feet deep, but when you’re barely 3 feet tall, that’s a quick ending to swimming lessons. Besides, he’s three, and three is sometimes just too young for organized activities. But that’s another post for the future.
So there we are, just about ready to go to the pool. H#3 wakes up from his nap. All I have to do is get his suit and sunscreen on, grab the bags (that Granny mercifully had gotten ready) and get in the car and go. Oh, and put sunscreen on aforementioned 3yo.
“I don’t WANT to go.”
“I don’t like sunscreen. It makes me cold.” (It’s 100 degrees outside, BTW.)
“C’mon, I’ll do it really super-duper quick and we’ll be outside fast.”
“NOOOOOOO!” (Running away to hide under the stairs.)
“Okayyyy, then I’ll get your baby brother ready first, then we can get you finished.” Buying myself time before Round 2.
So I do that and of course I’m talking up how much fun we’ll have at the pool, but he’s moved on to drawing, in deep concentration with his markers. At this point, he has absolutely no memory of what was happening 5 minutes ago or what we were just talking about. That’s just not how a 3yo brain works.
“Okay, it’s your turn – I’ve got it all ready to slap on and then we’ll be ready to go!”
“I’m not going. I’m going to stay here with Granny. You go. And leave me here. All by myself.” Sad eyes and crossed arms.
It’s this point that I’m at a complete loss. When H#1 was 3, we didn’t care if she went to playgroup or not on a given day because H#2 was only 1yo and he certainly didn’t care. But now his actions impact her, and that means we’re prone to push a little more to make a 3yo do something he doesn’t want to do, when in the end it really doesn’t matter whether he does it or not. I mean really, if he doesn’t go to the pool, and he has someone who doesn’t mind staying home with him, what does it matter? But here he is, not wanting to go, with his big sister desperately wanting to go and his baby brother on a clock that’s ticking away until his next milk feeding, solid meal, poopy diaper, nap, bedtime, etc. Such is the plight of the 3yo who also happens to be a middle child. His time is not always his own; it is often shared and stretched between the needs of his older and younger siblings.
So I oscillate between complete and utter frustration with and overwhelming empathy for this complicated, amazing, fiery, tender, tough, loving 3yo rock star of a boy. After an hour of this, frustration had won and I threw in the towel. In my usual fashion, I decided to try and make everyone happy (and yes, I realize that’s not always wise or possible when parenting, but if I can finagle it, I usually try to go for it.)
I asked my mom if she minded staying home with the boys while I took H#1 to the pool for an hour or so. She said that would be fine (of course – have I mentioned she’s a saint when it comes to these things?) and took the wee one to change him out of his swim gear.
The girl and I were walking to the door when H#2 stepped out from his hiding place behind the stairs, looked at me with his huge chocolate brown eyes wet with tears waiting to gush forth if anyone unintentionally uttered the wrong password to his 3yo brain and said very quietly in his way-too-deep-voice, “I want to go.”
I should probably tell you that I taught him a lesson about making up his mind and committing to that decision. And how I turned it into a teaching moment about being accountable for his choices. And that I was able to get him to realize that there is a time for everything and if we miss it, we don’t always get it back. And maybe I should have. But I didn’t. And we all – Granny, all three Hatchlings and I – had a great time at the pool.
Just like I knew we would.
*External link has mildly salty language.