Monday, January 23, 2012

Your 3 yr old: Friend or Enemy

I am loving this book.

It is mostly an expose on the psychology of the 3s. My older sister first mentioned these books, about the disequilibruim of the 1/2 ages, quite a while ago, but this is the first one that I've read. I now plan to go back and start in the 1s again as we near The Dude's birthday. While Aquaman did seem to have an "equilibrium" period at 12 months and 24 months (with amped up clumsiness and frustrations at 18 months and 30)...he never seemed to hit a stride at age 3 like this book suggests he might. Perhaps it was becoming a big brother just 6 months prior, or more likely, it is because Aquaman is Aquaman. He came out of the womb so full of fury and zest for life that he skipped the sleeping stage and just screamed for 3 days straight until he had no voice left. He does not believe in following the books.

But the 3.5 descriptions...well they make me want to cry with happiness and relief...and I'm only a couple chapters into this short book.

"Three and a half attempts to control his environment in ways that will, perhaps, make him feel more secure, more sure of himself. 'Don't look, Don't laugh, Don't talk' he commands those around him. But in his immaturity, he is often inconsistent. 'Don't look' he may order at one minute, and the next may become very angry if not given full attention....he may refuse to let Father read his paper or Mother chat on the phone, or any two adults talk to each other."

Since starting Fire Academy, JT and I have begun to refer to Aquaman as the Incident Commander. Somehow, it seems like a nicer, more productive term than Dictator.

But this is paragraph that has most encouraged me so far:

"First of all, accept the fact that at this age the child's big emotional struggle is with his mother. She is the one who matters supremely to him. She is the one he needs to conquer. Almost any young child is at his best, but also his worst with his mother. Never more so than now."

Oh, thank you, Louise Bates Ames, for confirming what I have long suspected.

And I know one of the biggest reasons why.

On March 4, 2011, Aquaman was supplanted.

Everyone glosses over the reality of a new baby with pretty pictures of children hugging each other, but nobody tells you how much it hurts. How something bleeds inside of you the first time you really know what it is to be angry and even dislike your older child because he (accidentally or purposefully) hurt the tiny new bundle that you are biologically programmed to protect at all costs. Aquamanand I have always been close. Painfully and beautifully close. He has always been hard to comfort, and I have always been eager for the task. As an infant he was as attached to me as if he were a part of my body as long as I wasn't at work. I can't imagine, as I, a grown adult fully capable of regulating my emotions and thoughts, bled from the heart in this experience of emotional separation from him; the raw terror that Aquaman must have felt. And we are both still recovering from the shock of it all.

This new little creature is attached to me day and night. And he's no pushover little girl either. He is rowdy and feisty and clingy and funny, and quite disgustingly cute. He even has the red curls. It has been a bitter pill to swallow.

But the bitterness cannot outweigh the joy of seeing them play together, or hearing Aquaman softly telling The Dude, in the backseat, that everything is going to be ok, and we are almost home. And there is also something satisfying about the opportunity to teach Aquaman that the world does NOT indeed conform to his every beck and call. I want him to learn that in the safety and comfort of his own home, and not be cruelly taught it by the world.

I like to think that this age, the 3s, is exacerbated when mother/child have had an especially close relationship. Aquaman; strong, determined and wild-hearted Aquaman can sense that he is growing up, becoming his own, and the only way he knows how to do this is to push me away. Angrily, at times. Then reach for me, desperately. Not unlike the impending adolescence, on an incredibly smaller scale.

A part of me, even in frustration, rejoices when he shouts "NO!". There are so many times that are coming when that word will be important. When he will need that confidence to face the giants of this life, and the neverending temptations. I like to see how powerfully he can take a stand. I just hope he chooses his stands wisely.

The verdict? Aquaman is not the enemy. But though I love him to pieces, I don't think we're going to be friends for the next 20 years or so.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness I checked the bio on Louise Bates Ames and she is the same one I learned ages and stages from back even before you were born. Her book written with Ilg meant so much to me. I really like the books that are not necessarily telling you how to raise children but just help you to know what they are like at different stages , were a real comfort to me. I still have parts memorized. The ways children are raised may change but their basic behavior remains much the same.
    Love your insight into your children. Beautiful.