How is it this exhausting to care for one three-year-old?
By the time I get her dressed and start a load of laundry, I find her going potty in her bathroom...naked...WHY???
So I ask her to put on her clothes, which sometimes turn into a totally different outfit altogether, leaving the heap of clean clothes I JUST put on her in the bathroom. I ask her to put her old clothes in her room, or in the laundry room. I keep the clean, only worn for five minutes clothes separate from the dirty ones if I can stay on top of it. She puts on her second outfit for the day as I rinse dishes and load the dishwasher.
"Can you start a show?" I hear from upstairs.
"Yes..." I half-heartedly moan, just loud enough for her to hear my response. I hear her footsteps coming down the stairs. She sashays into the kitchen and twirls around, "Do you like my new outfit?" she asks.
"Ooo," I admire, "You are wearing purple pants and a purple shirt."
She bows low, "Thank you, your majesty," she replies. It doesn't make sense, but my tone somehow conjures a royal reply from the three-year-old.
"I can start a show for you upstairs as soon as I finish loading the dishwasher."
"I can help," and she pulls out a handful of wet silverware before I can stop her.
"Wait!" I shout urgently. "Put those back, please. They're yucky. I haven't washed them yet."
"Oh, okay!" and she puts the handful near the basket and lets go of all the silverware in her hand. Maybe two of them made it back into the basket. The rest are left for me to pick through the bottom rack dishes and fish out. I can't ask her to do it, it would take too long. Plus, if I just get the show started, she'll be out of my hair for 21 minutes.
I take her hand and lead her upstairs. "Let's start that show."
"Can I watch Daniel Tiger, mommy? The one when he goes to the doctor and gets a shot?" I roll my eyes. Am I bad mom for letting her watch the SAME episode for the twentieth time? Or do I pick my battles and just say yes, knowing that an argument is sure to follow? Or do I try my luck at introducing her to a new show? Maybe I could buy myself more than 21 minutes if I find a show she likes that she's never seen before. But what if she gets bored and doesn't like it? I'll take my chances.
"What if we try a new show today?"
"NO! I want Daniel Tiger!" she shouts. I was ready for it, so her reaction doesn't phase me.
"Would you like to watch a ballerina show?" She gasps.
"A ballerina show?! SURE!" she squeals. She's much too thrilled to argue about Daniel Tiger. Score. Well then, it's settled. She can try a new Angelina Ballerina show today. That will buy me at least 40 minutes downstairs. Maybe I can sweep and mop.
I take her to my bedroom where the upstairs TV has yet to be mounted to the wall. Right now it is propped up against the wall on a table...I turn it on...and wait...still loading...there. Hulu. Or is it amazon? I can never remember. There are so many damn kids shows. Some are free on amazon, but others you have to pay for, but they're free on hulu...eesh. Here we are, Angelina Ballerina on Hulu. I skip over the computer animated ones. They are so annoying. They giggle too much...and sing...
I choose a hand-drawn cartoon of the ballerina mouse, Angelina. I give Lily a hug and kiss. " Is this OK?"
"I am going to be downstairs if you need anything, ok?"
"Ok, mom. Can I have a snack?" I was almost out the door. This is when it kicks in...I must swallow my incredulity. I want to turn around and shout, "Are you effing kidding me??? Really? You want to eat a snack in my bed? On what planet is it ok for you to chow down and leave crumbs on my sheets?" But I don't. I want to, but I don't. Even though this is probably the 114th time I have heard this question in this exact same scenario. "Well, honey, if you're hungry, why don't you come downstairs to the table and we can sit there and eat a snack together?" I manage to keep my voice calm.
And here it comes...the swell of the tidal wave. The exhaustion, the pure defeat of parenting slowly starts to creep over me. I need to finish loading the dishwasher. The sink is in danger of overflowing if I add even another fork to the dirty pile. The dryer is running and will buzz at any time, which means I will need to extract Corey's work shirts ASAP. I feel the pressure of all the time-sensitive tasks that are unfinished and the tidal wave swells higher...
"No, I want to eat here."
"Ok, well, whenever you're hungry, you can come down and I will make you something." If I turn the show off, she'll cry, even though she is hungry. If I let her watch the show, she might fall asleep on an empty stomach. We're pretty close to (what should be) nap time. I decide she is big enough to come downstairs if she's truly hungry. After all, she has learned to leave the show when she needs to use the toilet...
I go back downstairs and think about loading the dishwasher. But then I hear that the dryer has stopped while I was upstairs starting a show. Great, I hope I am not too late to take Corey's work shirts out before they start to wrinkle. I hurry to the dryer and open up the door. Good, it's still hot. I start hanging up the shirts right away. I don't want to have to flip them with a wet towel to de-wrinkle them or worse...iron them. Then I hear shouts from upstairs. "MOM!!!! MOM!MOM!MOM!" What the heck? I grab the rest of the shirts out of the dryer and race upstairs, worried about what's happening.
"What? What is it, honey?"
"Can I have booboo?" At this point, I feel my nerves starting to crackle...Seriously?! You only nurse twice a week, like at bedtime, maybe, and you are hollering at me from all the way up here to do booboo??? NOW??? WTF??!?!!!! The tidal wave swells...
I have to laugh out my response because if I don't I will get all up in her face with the "what the hell is running through your head?" attitude. "No, honey, you can't have booboo right now. Are you sleepy?"
"Awesome. Then go to your room, or lay in your nest (her sleeping bag and pillow permanently set up on the floor in our room) and take a nap."
"I don't want to take a nap!" She scrunches up her face and punches down on the mattress with finality. Of course, you don't want to take a nap...BECAUSE YOU'RE TIRED!!!! Makes perfect sense. I make a mental note to take her on a nap ride as soon as I start the dishwasher. I'll give her a snack, then take her out in the car. That might buy me a whole hour of time I can get her successfully transferred back inside the house. (We live in AZ, so leaving her to nap in the car in the garage isn't an option. That is a winter-only option, and we are halfway through April.)
I head into the closet with my handful of Corey's work shirts and start hanging them up. They are still warm. I come out and she's gone. The show is still running. I collect another load of dirty laundry from the hamper and head back downstairs. As I pass her room, I look in and she's naked.
I feel defeated. I feel the tidal wave crashing over me. I'm done. There are clothes strewn all over the floor. She has literally pulled the entire contents of her dresser, all three drawers that she can reach, out onto the floor of her bedroom. She is picking through them, evidently looking for a certain article of clothing that has yet to be discovered in her pile. "I'm changing," she states as I peek my head in enough for her to see. Clearly you are changing. Thanks for the update. And so, for the third time today, she is getting dressed...
It is at this point when I think, "Can I make it through the summer? She starts preschool in the fall. Can I possibly keep it together for that long?" I feel the many days and weeks ahead of me until someone else is PAID to answer her questions, give her food, put her down for a nap, help her clean up, give her activities to do, hear the word NO a thousand times, and watch her on the playground, not to mention insist that she keeps her clothes on...
It makes me sad that I don't have the boundless patience I crave to be at home with my daughter all day. I love spending time with my dear little girl. I giggle inside when I watch her prance around in her tutu and slippers. I love how delicate and girly she is. I love that she has her own sense of style and won't let me dress her. BUT IT IS EXHAUSTING!!!!
The three year old is the tornado of childhood. They fight, they argue, they push back. They are too fast to catch. They are too sly to be on your radar, they are too opinionated to listen. They are only scratching the surface of how to interact with other kids. They don't know when to stop. They don't know how small they are in this big world. They are developing their personal thrust from the inside out.
Call it whatever developmental stage you want, say the third chakra is opening up. However you want to define it, no bit of advice or guidance can help with the exhaustion. Nothing can give you reprieve from the bombardment of Three besides handing them over to someone else and saying, "here, you do this for a while." You just have to grin an bear it. You have to be consistent; you have to set boundaries, and then, prepare for the tornado. Prepare to have the limits tested, time and again, over and over....Even with the most girly girl, the most agreeable, easy-going kiddo, Three is still.the.worst. I am so glad that it's only a year. I would take teenage sass to her uninformed backtalk any day of the week because at least I might be able to reason and provide some wisdom. But no. The preschooler only hears what it wants to...
I have no warm and fuzzy conclusion for this post. I read so many other parenting blogs that like to make you smile or feel better about what you're reading and empathizing with in the post. But, no. There is only a spit in the eye and a slap in the face, followed by a time out. There is only regret for your actions and words, or tiredness and exhaustion of knowing that you can't overreact and give in to their irrationality. You gotta be the bigger person because, well, you are. Literally. I wish I could say something that would give every parent of a three year old more steam to run on. But I can't. Well, maybe I can...You are not alone. We all feel tired together. We all only want to hear the words, "Yes, mommy" (or daddy, but I think this scenario may be more of a mom thing...) The tornado eventually subsides, but until it does, find other parents of three-year-olds and get together. Laugh and joke about your trials. Maybe if you all laugh together, you might feel just a little less exhausted...