Labor day pants

In which Jack has yet to succeed in driving me to the psychiatric ward

Yesterday morning I couldn't get my kid to 1) put on his shoes 2) put on his sweatshirt 3) put away the Legos 4) put away ANYTHING 5) come here so I could comb his hair or 6) do anything I told him to do. He wouldn't look at me when I was talking to him. And when he DID deign to respond to one of my demands, it was with a, "No, I just BLAH BLAH BLAH" which, as you know, was driving me out of my everloving MIND. I was getting louder and louder, shorter and sharper and finally I was all out yelling. Shouting instructions and if he didn't respond, if he didn't look at me, if the first thing he said was, "No - ", if he didn't immediately jump up from his mess of Legos and do EXACTLY what I said, he was going to have to stay home, alone, in his room while his sister and I went out and had fun. Oh yes. I threatened my three-year-old with Willful Abandonment. 

So I should tell you what Jack does when I get all scary and yelly and that is cry. Which makes me MORE angry. It's hard, because I think half the time he's just crying because he knows I can't deal with it. I really do. He's a black belt manipulator and that's WHY I get angry. I KNOW I'm being manipulated and but I still can't deal with the crying. On the other hand, sometimes it's real. Sometimes it takes me a while to make the distinction. 

He's crying and I'm furious and everything that comes out of my mouth now is a basic training instructor bark and both kids are fumbling with their shoes, all nervous-like and holy grilled CHEESE people I just wanted to take them to play at the lake with their aunt and uncle! It's not like I wanted to drag them off to the orphanage. Finally I get Molly into her jacket which is cake because my friend gave her a Hello Kitty fleece for her birthday and Molly is a huge fan of 'Kitty'. Jack, on the other hand, did not want to wear his sweatshirt. I told him fine, just hold it. I was already carrying a few bags, I didn't need his stupid sweatshirt that he'd inevitably whine to have in the stroller because "it's too wiiiiindy Mommy." 

Well. HOLD IT? Oh no. He couldn't possibly HOLD HIS SWEATSHIRT. And I'd had it. HAD IT. I was not going to hold it for him. OH NO I WASN'T. And so we had a nice ten-minute standoff in the laundry room, inches from outside, because he wouldn't hold his sweatshirt and I wouldn't hold it for him and he was going to whine me to death and I was going to try my best not to pitch him out the window. 

It was pretty bad. 

I won, I'll have you know. Mostly because I just turned around and went outside and did not care whether he followed me or not. I was shaking I was so mad at him. 

He did follow me, eventually. He seemed much smaller than Three. His face was this contorted mess of What Happened Here and How Did I End Up With THIS Mommy and he clutched his sweatshirt to his chest and didn't look at me as I held the car door open for him. He laid his sweatshirt down very gently on the car floor, ambled into his seat and sat still so I could buckle him in. 

I felt very guilty. 

I felt guilty all the way to my sister's house. I AM the grown up. I AM in charge. I DO know how to handle misbehavior in ways other than yelling. (Do I?) And I know, I know I know I know, that every time I screech and rail and get in his face, my kid feels it. And not necessarily in the, "Gee, I better shape up!" way I'm hoping for.

We've been doing the Super Nanny thing for a few weeks now, to half decent effect. By which I mean I'm not sure that Jack behaves any better, but it's given me a SYSTEM that I can ADHERE TO and can agree on with my husband. We have a new time out spot, we agree on how long to leave him there, we know how to get him out. We always talk/reason a bit when time is up - I'm not sure if that does anything, but it makes us feel a little better, which isn't unimportant I think - and then we hug and then he gets to go play. 

The hardest part, often, is the hug. A lot of times I'm still angry. And there's this part of me that thinks if I hug him, if I'm nice to him, then I'm negating all the anger. I'm telling him that I'm NOT upset with him anymore, which means whatever he did wasn't THAT big a deal. It cancels out the time out. It means I'm okay with him acting like a little twerp. 

Now is that logical? I don't think so, though it's hard for me to come to that conclusion. I know a lot of you probably think that's a horrible thing to say. I am nervous to write it. But it's true. I don't want to stop being angry.

But for Jack, that hug is... lifesaving. Somehow. And if I don't immediately offer it, if I don't mention it, he will. "Hug, Mommy," he reminds me. And it melts both of us. I don't want to melt. I want to be mad. But he melts me, softens me, reminds me that he is Three, that I am the Grown Up, that not holding his sweatshirt and not eating his lunch and not picking up his toys and not coming here when I tell him to does not own me, does not steal my joy. 

I tried to remind myself of these things in the car. I hadn't followed protocol. There was no time out, no hug. Jack was obviously chastened. I was still angry. But I looked at him in the rearview mirror and I said, "Jack, I'm sorry I was so angry with you." I told him that I get upset when he doesn't listen to me, but I shouldn't have yelled at him like that. I was sorry. He didn't say anything. I thought: why are you talking to a three-year-old like he's thirty-three?

We had a great morning. My sister was awesome. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one taking care of everyone else, but she and her husband totally entertained the kids, and afterwards we went to their apartment where she made the kids lunch while I discussed a post-Christmas siblings Vegas trip with my BIL. We went home, Molly took her nap and Jack played a little computer and then took his own nap. When he woke up, earlier than Molly which is unusual these days, I went into his room and held him for a little while in the rocker. "I love you, Jack," I said. "Even when I'm angry I still love you."

And he said, "But it's okay Mommy, you said you sorry in the car." 

Oh you guys, sometimes I think he's this big kid who's only out to get to me, ruin nap time, make me miserable by the time his dad gets home. He only wants to do what he wants to do. So many times I try to get him to answer a stupid question and he responds with, "I talking to YOU" meaning, I better answer HIS question. And I'm all, excuse me, YOU ARE THREE. How in the world do you have control over ME?

But I'm the one with the hugs and kisses and I love yous and when I offer these in abundance I receive in abundance. I do. Sometimes it's even the fastest, best way to stop the sassy bratty talk-backy twerpiness - if only I wasn't too angry to offer it. At night after his dad puts him to bed he often whines until, completely frustrated, I march into his room and demand to know what his deal is. And he just wants me to lie down with him for a little bit. 

Sometimes I argue with him. He just doesn't want to go to bed. He can't manipulate ME.

Other times I'm too tired. I lay down. 

I rub his back, kiss his forehead, tell him how sweet and handsome he is, tell him he is my favorite boy. A few minutes of this and I say, "Okay, Mommy's going to go now" and he'll sit up and throw his arms around me, kiss me, say "I love you Mommy, you're the best Mommy" and go right to sleep.



Yes! To all that! And why'd you have to make me cry at work?!

Life of a Doctor's Wife

Beautiful Maggie. It sounds so complicated and hard and wonderful all at once.


I have realized in the last week or so that the whirlwind of "doing" is sometimes too fast for him. Me getting ready, making his breakfast, getting him to EAT his breakfast, getting him dressed, brushed, changed lunch packed out the door OMG we're late! It seems like he is dragging his feet when really I think I'm just going a bit faster than he can process and he feels left behind. So sometimes I have to just take a moment and get down to his level and smile and hug and cuddle for a few minutes, and sometimes that is just all he needs to come around and follow directions, no matter how frustrated and impatient and rushed I am feeling.
However, I've also had days where I've had to tell him "I love you always, but I don't really like you right this very minute." He doesn't understand that quite yet, but I think he gets the feelings behind it because he will usually reset himself within a short time.
I know that frustrated OMG just listen and DO what I SAY for the love of all that is sacred feeling. Don't beat yourself up about it!


Oh Maggie, you made me tear up! Sometimes I think it's an US against THEM thing, we must never let them win! But then your post reminds me that giving out hug and kisses doens't mean they win. It means we all win.

Renata C.

Yeah, this is exactly my problem, what do I do with all the anger? How do I say "I forgive you" after just 3 minutes of time-out? Discipline is the hardest parenting thing for me. And I sometimes shout (well, more like: often shout) and then I feel embarrassed and sad and then worry that I teach my kids this poor way to cope with anger.


I have exactly these battles with The Boy, who'll be three in January. I read something a mother of older children once wrote about how her oldest child always seemed just as old and big as he could possibly be, and that it was something that wasn't fair to either him or her because it created unrealistic expectations. I try to remember this when The Boy just will NOT get dressed or whatever ... unfortunately, I usually remember mid-yell.


You should reading try 1,2,3 Magic by Thomas Phelan. It was recommended by my doctor. It's been around for awhile but is very simple to follow and makes sense. It mentions how kids are not little adults and using reasoning to get them to do what you want will not work. It also says that yelling and screaming at your kids is nothing more than an adult temper tantrum. That really got my attention and I try to keep my cool when my daughter is misbehaving.


Oh how I can relate. Sometimes it can be so hard to find the line between "loving grace" and "doormat" ... and then I have to decide if I even care if I'm being manipulated. And other times I am just so tired and cranky and DONE that I really *can't* let my child drag out the bedtime routine for five more minutes. We do the best we can and that's all we can do.

Sonya in San Antonio

Oh Maggie, I struggle with this myself. My husband is the calm, patient one, and when he's around and I'm frustrated with my daughter for not cooperating with me on something, he swoops in, all calm, and she responds appropriately right away. I think part of it is she's just a Daddy's girl, because I have mindfully tried to be calm and approach the situation like he would sometimes, and she still stubbornly refuses to cooperate with me LOL. (I fear this is a foreshadowing of the teen years to come LOL!) I actually think the talking to the child like they are an adult and apologizing does work. Sometimes that totally calms my girl down and then she works with me...I just don't always remember to do this. I wrote a post a few weeks ago, called Margaritas by 9 a.m. that was about a morning standoff I had with her, wherein I did hug and apologize to her too. Of course, we were both drained by the time I did this, but I do try to talk to her as if she can understand (she's 2) and sometimes I find that works better than anything. It's really hard though! Hang in there...


You've described my life to a T. My 3 year old just started PreK, and while her teacher says she behaves beautifully in class, it's like she's bottling all of her bad behavior up until she gets home. I hate that I get so angry, and that it sometimes ruins the few hours that we do get to spend together. But I sometimes let myself get manipulated at bedtime, just to have her snuggle close, give kisses and forget about all of the other craziness. Thanks so much for sharing, and proving once again that I'm not alone in this whole motherhood thing!


Maggie, I loved this post so much. My 3 year old can make me so, so angry. And I yell and feel so terrible. And then he just cries for "Mommy, please come get me" because he just wants to be held. It's like he looks to me for comfort and sometimes I turn into a scary mommy and he doesn't know what to do. It's hard. Then I feel guilty for so long. I try to tell him I'm sorry and that I shouldn't have acted that way. It's like I'm trying to teach him to control himself when he's angry or doesn't get his way, and then I can't even do that. Those are the nights when there's lots of extra cuddling at bedtime.


Oh, yes. Yes yes yes.
Whoever invented this terrible twos business just plain lied, because two was ok and three is kicking my blankety blank.


Count me in...I can totally relate. My two year old has been driving us nuts lately with his tantrums and general challenging of our authority. I tend to be the meanie and am less likely to cave, and my husband tends to lay back a bit and inevitably usually picks up the pieces. Usually. Our son is a button-pusher and it makes things so hard. I love him to pieces, and I think the mere knowledge of the fact that he CAN be good and insanely awesome makes the hard moments that much worse. Why can't he be normal all the time? I was getting slightly teary reading this, not only because it was a beautiful piece, but because it was nice to feel like I could relate to someone about problems like this. Thanks for being so honest.


Oh, Maggie, let's pray that this is just another phase our three year olds are going through, because my son acts JUST the same way, and I get EXACTLY like you - I get louder and louder and angrier and angrier, and it really doesn't help except that by the end (the drill sargeant blowout), I just feel bad because I've been so mean. I don't know how long I can handle this, so I'm praying it is over soon and he'll turn back into a reasonable child with ears that actually work. I'll be praying for you and Jack, as well. Man, 3 is tough. Really tough.


One of the things I had to learn with my husband (yes, I know that I am substituting my husband in comparison with your 3-year old son....) is that when I get angry, even if it is resolved quickly, I am still angry for a while. He didn't understand it. Me being a google-addict looked it up. Apparently when you get angry you release some chemicals inside your brain. So, even if the issue is logically resolved, you still feel the anger, you still WANT to BE angry, you just aren't done yet. I had to learn this, and tell him about it, so that we understand when this happens, that I just need a few more minutes. Now I tell him, ok, it is resolved, but I still need a few minutes before I am ready to be around you and we both understand. Now, I know that Jack won't understand that at this point, but maybe it might help you understand why you still want to be angry, why you are not done with it yet, even though his punishment is over and completed. I hope that I can be as honest with myself as you are when I have kids!

morgan s.

This was a great post. I feel so many of the same emotions. Often mid-battle with my daughter, she will ask for a hug. As she hugs me, sniffles into my shoulder and clings to me with a deathgrip, I am shaking with anger at her. Because I feel mad and manipulated by the hug request, because she STILL has not done what I asked. And it feels really messed up to be hugging your 3 year old and be filled with TEH RAGE at the same time.


"And he said, "But it's okay Mommy, you said you sorry in the car." " this made me laugh out loud and tear up at the same time. You and P are doing awesome at this parenting bit....and ps this is just an awesome post...the kind that stick that should be read many years from now, i tell you. also..when you refer to your sister...is that FPC? I am so confused.


Haven't read all the comments but MUST, because we are all in this together. Your post was so sweet. Still teary for you, and for alllll the stupid times I've had to say sorry. They teach us so, so well. And they're resilient, thank Jesus. You're a GREAT mom. ((hugs))


Having a 3-year-old boy is HARD. You're doing a great job, hang in there.


Oh yes, I have felt this way a lot - especially lately. But those moments when Fuss is sweet and cuddly and helpful are my life-saving, sanity-saving moments - they are often what gets me through.

I always like to be justified in my own anger - so I have to vent to my husband/friend/blog about the horrible behavior and hope that someone agrees that it was, in fact, as horrible as I made it out to be and I was okay in getting mad at her. I won't say I like being angry or anything, I feel like if someone can agree with me, then I can let it go.


Maggie, you truly described to a tee the way most of my days have been going lately also. While your post made me laugh and tear up, most importantly it just reminded me that I am not the only one doing this, other moms are doing this right along with me. You are so REAL, I appreciate your honesty, it is so refreshing in a world that has a lot of competetive parenting.


Oh, thank you for writing this. The part about being angry and losing it, and then feeling guilty, but also not feeling like I am not done being angry yet, is something that I have worried over for when I have kids. I have cats now, and I go through the same thing with them (as silly as that sounds) and it makes me wonder how in the heck I'll handle kids. And like one of the other commenters said, as well, I feel this same way when my fiance and I argue. I don't get over the anger as quickly as he does, and I don't want to act nice to him quite yet. I'm glad to know this is an (apparently from the comments) common feeling among moms.

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