Simon, our resident three year old in the house often acts….well….like a three year old. Limitless energy, infectious enthusiasm, amazing curiosity, lots of care and love for his brothers. And then there’s a need for independence, and the inability to deal with not getting his way.
The other night he was having an especially difficult evening. I was nursing Caleb at bedtime, and I could hear him screaming and defying his Daddy outside the door. Later after I had gotten Caleb down I opened the door and found Simon still laying out in the hallway, waiting for me.
I escorted him to his room and talked to him a bit about his behavior. After I finished, he was silent a few seconds, and then said, “Mom?”
Simon: “It’s hard being a boy.”
Me: “What’s hard about being a boy?”
Simon: “Well….I get sad a lot.”
The kid does shed a lot of tears. He’s got that right. The thing is, when he is being his typical “threenager,” I usually think of his tears as angry tears or frustrated tears or tired tears. Maybe even manipulative tears. It’s possible he doesn’t have the vocabulary he needs as of yet to accurately explain where his tears are coming from. But I do suspect that at least some of them do come from sadness.
Hearing him say those words to me made me feel so bad. It’s easy to forget that when he is throwing that tantrum because I opened the car door when he wanted to do it himself, or when he throws himself on the floor because I won’t let him have a graham cracker, or whatever else it is, that he may just be experiencing sadness. Maybe he’s not always just out to make my life harder even if it may seem that way sometimes. Maybe he just needs a little bit of love.
I talked with him through his feelings and left his room for the evening. Since then, though, I’ve been trying to show him more love. This evening he started screaming and crying at the pool when I told him he couldn’t have a snack from the vending machine. Instead of trying to reason with him or discipline him, I just picked him up and hugged him. You know what? He quieted almost instantly, and caused no more trouble for the whole ride home. Maybe he was just sad that he didn’t get a snack. That doesn’t mean I’m going to give him one…but I can react differently to his behavior if I frame it in that new way for myself.
Parenting is hard. And ever changing. It’s just another day on the path of life.