My 3-year old son likes control. And he’s tough.
I can hear you all, rolling your eyes and saying “Yeah, mine too. Join the club.”
But hear me out.
I’ve written about this before, almost nine months ago in The Toddler Trenches.
And—surprise, surprise—he’s still the same charming, sweet, difficult, self-directed little man that he was 9 months ago. Except now he’s taller and speaks in sentences. He dressed up as a Police Officer for Halloween and I swear that kid thinks he’s an actual cop. He blew his whistle and strutted over people’s lawns, and he LOVED every minute of it. Cars would drive by and he’d say “Slow Down!” or “You’re under arrest!” Except he can’t say R’s very well so it sounded like “You’re und-ah A-West!” It was adorable and I am not one bit surprised he chose that for his costume. I’m not sure he knows it’s a costume actually—I think he wonders why they haven’t paid him yet.
My son is so wonderful but I am also fairly confident he’s trying to make me insane. I’ve never met a tiny person with such a talent. I just want him to grow up safe and healthy. That involves eating food, peeing in a toilet—you know, things adults do to LIVE and be accepted by general society. Every single day it’s like this huge surprise we have to eat dinner. Like, “What? Dinner! Nooooo!” He will refuse foods I KNOW he likes, in the spirit of “This was not my idea.” I’m a member of the clean-plate club and DON’T want my kids to join, so every night is an exercise in patience, watching him take one bite of a cheese stick and saying he’s all done.
Or how about potty training? This is a child who can pee and poop on the toilet but continues to do so only when he wants to. He sits on the toilet before his bath, happily declaring, “Guess there’s no pee in there!” We put underpants on all day and they stay dry and then he’s like “My pants are wet” like he had nothing to do with the situation. Does he care? Not really. What’s that you say? Try bribery? He poops in his diaper, then goes and sits on the potty and says, “Look. I pooped. I want a lollipop.”
He’ll be building towers and playing with legos, and heaven forbid his little brother tries to join him… It always ends in tears since his brother is always “messing up” his stuff. I do love that he knows what he wants and doesn’t bend to coercion—I just think in life, we all have to be a little flexible. We all know those people who are incapable of compromise. They suck. I don’t want him to be one of those people. I’d also like to stop changing diapers sometime this century.
Then there are other moments. He is pretending to be an inchworm on the floor and he crawls over to me, hugs my leg and says, “I love you, Mommy worm.” He will often ask to pee on the toilet and DO it. He’s so proud of himself and all the high fives he gets. Or he’ll eat his dinner happily, flexing his biceps to show how the food is giving him “muscles.” So I know he’s capable of it. It’s just hard in the other moments, because everything is on his timeline. And this little inchworm can go from “I love you” to “I wanted to wear my greeeeeeen pants!” in 1 second. Most kids have their unique personalities that lead to parenting challenges and this is my kids’—he’s the most stubborn person I’ve ever met. Besides my husband. (Apple And tree.)
So here we are. We went from the Toddler Trenches to the Preschool Pits. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the pits every moment or even every day. But try having a 20-minute negotiation with a miniature version of your husband about why he has to eat food and wear pants and tell me that won’t wear you down sometimes. My little inchworm will get it eventually—this too shall pass—replaced by another challenge I’m sure, in this adventure called parenting.