Parenting a three year old is hard sometimes. News flash of the century, right? Not.
I know, I know. Duh, it's hard, Ella. And, what, you're surprised?
But sometimes, parenting a three year old feels like a mind game that I will never win. Forget winning - sometimes it feels like I don’t even know the rules of the game, and just when I start to figure them out, the rules change.
It’s likely that I have more challenging years ahead as a mom, but man, the drama and attitude, the mood swings and the testing this girl brings sometimes… it can be hard to deal with. If I’m being honest, it is frustrating and can leave me feeling totally drained. Feeling like a failure. The days get long sometimes (the days are long but the years are short - this is so true!). In these last weeks of pregnancy, I find myself having a lot less patience with Eliza. This, then, leads me to feel guilty and sad that I can’t keep it together – that I can’t be eternally patient, ever the understanding, sweet natured, calm mother. I’m the adult; she’s the normally developing, often irrational toddler who lacks impulse control. She's three. You're not. Do better!
Everyone told me age three was worse than age two, and it's definitely been true for us. She is so very aware, so incredibly smart, has a strong will, and an intense desire to seek out independence wherever she can find it.
And yet, even as I sit and type this, I am thinking about all the sweet and lovely parts of living with a three year old. The hilarious things she says, the "plans" she comes up with, the stories she tells, the games she plays with me. Her brilliant mind and the astounding things it catches, remembers, and uses again - for evil and for good! - later.
Most of the time, I love our days together. This is my life. This is my job, 24/7, and I do it because I love it and I feel like it's exactly where I want to be right now. This is my life as a parent, and I don't have to let the hard parts overshadow the good parts. It's all parenting - the good and the bad and the hard and the ugly. It's all part of the work of being a mom, and for Eliza it's also part of the work of being a three year old. We can have a difficult morning and still turn it around in time to have a happy, fun afternoon. It's all in a day's work. Some days are smoother than others, yes. Some days I flee like a criminal as soon as my husband walks in the door, and sit in my car and cry (yes, this happened). Then, I call my mom, and then I go to Dairy Queen, and then I go back home and try again. I try harder, and I love more fiercely. I listen to my mom, and my dear mama friends when they tell me I'm a good mom, when they boost me up and cheer me on and tell me they understand. "Just love her", they tell me. "Just show her how much she is loved, and you're golden."
And oh, do I love her. Unconditionally. And that part is so easy.