I am struggling so hard with this parenting thing right now. Bear Shark is fully in his 3’s, and other parents who have gone through the 3’s know that every day is a battle that tries to destroy our will to live.
We went through some tough 3’s with the Big Kid. The range of emotions that happens within a 2-minute time span is extreme. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I remember there being so many tears (mine out of exhaustion and frustration, his out of… I dunno… his sandwich was cut wrong???). But I also remember how my husband took on a bigger role in parenting because I was tending to Bear Shark as a baby. He took the hard blows while I cuddled and nursed. I was able to hide from the 3’s.
There’s no hiding now. And Bear Shark is a completely different person than his brother in personality, energy level and demeanor. He is brash and explosive, expressive and experimental, loud and so very physical. He’s a climber and a smasher, a screamer and a stubborn head. I have a feeling he gets this more from me than my husband (although I like to think I was not nearly as destructive as a kid). And this is perhaps why I’m struggling. We are cut from the same cloth and butting heads repeatedly.
Logically, I know the 3’s are a phase, as is pretty much everything in every stage of a child’s life. He’s learning to push boundaries – or buttons, depending on how you look at it. He’s learning how to express his wants and needs – through screaming. He’s easily distracted – shiny! But observing a 3-year-old and understanding these developmental changes is not the same as trying to feed, dress and transport one in any timely manner to get on with your day.
As I was contemplating how to run away from being a parent, I got stuck on the word transition. Life is always in transition, and we need to accept that everything is impermanent. Yoga asks us to be fully awake and present, to not attach ourselves to the past or to the future. My brain kept going down the rabbit hole to all the times I have been vividly awake to life transitions – moving to California, being diagnosed with thyroid disease, losing my father – and underneath those events and more was the uncertainty and discomfort of being in transition.
Thinking about Bear Shark’s natural birth, I remember being in the throes of transition, which are the last few centimeters of dilation during labor. The contractions had gotten stronger and longer as I labored down on hands and knees. While the first 7 centimeters are the hardest and the slowest, the last few in transition are fast and ferocious. All the birthing books were right. You feel like you can’t take anymore physical exertion. You think, “I can’t do this anymore.” You freak out mentally. And then you remember that this is transition and know that the end is near.
Big changes in life do not come painlessly or easily. Perhaps this is what the 3’s are. 3-year-olds are shedding the last of babyhood and becoming people who have complete thoughts. I remember how huge of a leap it felt like when the Big Kid emerged in his mid-4’s without struggling every minute of the day. The tearful moments came less frequently. The ability to put on shoes and get himself dressed and eat his meals without constant fighting was such a relief to him and to us.
While this next year will not come nearly as fast or as furiously as transition in birth, I am trying to just stay grounded in the present. This is painful and uncomfortable and makes me question why we even had kids in the first place. But I see big brother at 5 going on 6, and he’s this amazing little person who’s my hiking buddy and great conversation at dinner, and I know Bear Shark will be amazing in his own way when he comes out on the other side.
I cannot and should not wish this time away, as painful as it is. Instead, I’m trying to look at the 3’s as life’s way of demanding I be a witness to Bear Shark’s transition. This is also probably life’s way of requiring that I transition as a parent myself, one that can soften to discomfort and be more compassionate toward myself, my children and other parents.