My son Henry is three now. Three years is simultaneously one of the hardest and best ages. I can't deny it is hard. Everyone talks about two year olds as the worst but three has been by far the hardest for us. It isn't easy! Three is full of independence, self sufficiency, expression of complex emotions and learning social skills. These are not easy for child and caregiver to navigate. It is exhausting and frustrating. One moment they act like a "big kid" and the next they seem like a baby. They are in transition.
There's this phrase people use to talk about three years olds. Have you heard it before? "Threenager". "My kid is being such a threenager today!" This phrase has become quite popular in parenting circles and I hear it all the time.
I think the reason using the "threenager" phase is so popular is because people can see so many similarities. The problem is that we use this phrase for three year olds so negatively and consequently so negatively for teenagers. Teenagers are changing and growing in their independence, there can be a lot of high emotions and they are focused on their social circles. Teenagers are also deepening their sense of love and commitment in relationships, finding their passions and taking on new responsibilities. One moment they act like an adult and the next they seem like a child. They are in transition.
I have worked with both preschoolers and teenagers at the same time for most of my adult life as a preschool teacher and a youth worker. They do feel very similar some times (Like that time I finger painted with middle school kids at youth group and it was the best thing of their life). Three year olds and teenagers have much to teach us if we listen. If only we could just slow down with them enough to find the root of the issue they are having and lead with empathy. You are an example when your child is three years old and 13 years old. You are the adult. The way that you solve problems, communicate with family and friends and manage your emotions are the example they will see and emulate.
And I know you're probably going to call me a killjoy. "Gosh Amanda, it's just funny. It's just a way for me to get out the frustration of dealing with them." And you can and should find healthy ways to release that frustration in a very difficult time of development. But I would challenge you to see the ways in which using this phrase could be coloring the lenses with which you see your child. What if we started calling three's the "transparent three's" the "thoughtful three's" or the "tender three's." How would these change the way we see them? Maybe it won't. But maybe, just maybe, it could predispose you to see the wonder, excitement, imagination and creativity of three (and teen).
1) Spend some time thinking about your child and list three things you admire about their personality. Post them in a place you will regularly see them.
2) Try to find space for yourself to recharge once a week. One moment of filling your own cup can extend the longevity of pouring from it and giving of yourself. Even if you only have 10 minutes, do something that is just for you.
3) Try to make connection a regular part of your routine with your child. Go out one on one and spend time doing something they enjoy and enjoy them! Schedules get busy, I know. Set a goal that works for your family. Once a week? Once a month? You will know.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Every year I try to pick one word to guide me. One year my word was “Generous” another year was the word “Moments”. This year my word is:
I feel so busy all of the time. Being a pastor’s wife, a mother of two children ages 3 and 3 months…not to mention cooking and cleaning and play dates and music class. My 3 year old Henry is feisty and fierce and kind and loving and I love him so much but the days are hard sometimes. 3 year olds need so much connection and communication. They need a calm presence to get through big emotions. They take a lot of patience and intentionality.
My 3 month old Bonnie is, well, 3 months old. She nurses all day, and although such a patient baby who loves to play alone on her play mat, sometimes she is just so very particular, like, “Hold me, but not while you sit, you have to stand. Don’t move either when you are holding me, just stand riiiight here. Oh you think you can sit down since I don’t want you to move? I SAID STAND, WOMAN!” And honestly my 3 year old wakes more often at night than my tiny baby and then everyone wakes at 6 am.
I try making weekly date nights with my husband but that never works out. We're too tired and too overwhelmed. I know it's an important relationship to maintain but at the end of the night he wants to watch a movie and I want to watch youtube videos and so we do these things in the same space but we are not together.
I am so happy in this messy life, I really am. But I am also tired and I often feel like I’m just barely keeping my head above the water, and I have to keep treading and treading or else I’ll drown. I have no time. I want to give my kids time. I want to give my husband time. I want to give myself time.
I don’t want to be a slave to time and routine either though. I don’t want to be strict and limited. I just want some healthy rhythms.
I want to say that every day I will give myself space to do something just for me.
I want to spend every dinner together at the table and talk to each other.
I want a moment to spend outside every day with my kids (even if I really, REALLY don’t want to…it’s too cold!)
I want time with just Henry.
I want time with just Bonnie.
I want time with Just Wes.
I don’t want a schedule. I don’t want a routine.
I just want a rhythm.
How can I create the best conditions for these rhythms to happen naturally? These are my ideas that I think will work for me:
- No social media while my children are awake.
- Wake up just a bit before the kids do.
- Spend a little time right after they go to bed doing a quick tidy up.
- Reserve the evening for one on one reconnecting.
Will I always do these every day? Probably not. But it’s a posture. It is a direction I want to go. It is not one more thing I need to do. It is a rhythm. A rhythm, I pray, that lifts me out of the overwhelming waters, and instead lets me splash and play in the waves.