I had forgotten how three-year-olds make me question everything in life.
It’s been three years since my oldest was three, and I can’t believe I forgot how tough the age of three was. Between the tantrums and the potty-training and the attitude and the tantrums and…did I say tantrums?… I struggle to keep up with which one I’m supposed to be focusing on. Gone are the pleasant days of my agreeable, chubby baby. Enter: full-blown threenager.
The past couple weeks have been rough. Because of potty-training, we had some…ahem…
backed up plumbing (and by that, I mean Gavin…not our toilets). He’s still a restless sleeper at night, so sometimes the exhaustion gets the best of me. He’s also decided he doesn’t ever want to leave the house (for whatever reason), so we deal with a full meltdown every single time we go somewhere, even if it’s to the playground.
Multiple times a day in the midst of the chaos (caused by one child, mind you), I stop and stare at my life and I think, WHAT IN THE ACTUAL CRAP IS GOING ON.
There. Now you know my secret. My secret is that I have no secret. I just lose my ever-loving mind.
But it was getting to a point that something had to give. I had to get back in control of my parenting and my life…and my kid. We were both on the verge of a meltdown.
I slowed everything down. I took a break from going to the gym. I arranged our days so that mornings were lazy and slow. We had our lunches outside if it was possible. We had lots of time to read books before his nap. He had a lot more time to play trucks and puzzles and throw rocks in the pond outside. He had way more time to race his bike and tinker in the dirt and play quietly in his room.
As I gave up a few of the things I wanted, I started to learn the things that made my kid tick. I already knew what they were, but just like me, if he has a little more time to tap into those, he’s happier and more centered. In addition to that, he was much more willing to go along with my plans. I asked less of him so I had less resistance. I was pleasantly surprised by the switch. I was doing way less yelling and much more laughing with him. We were doing less planning and more playing.
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33
Life might feel like chaos. And sometimes, it just is. But maybe we could look closer. Maybe there are a few unhealthy habits that keep us spinning our wheels. Maybe we could tweak a few things to make life a little more enjoyable.
Maybe that morning breakfast routine doesn’t have to just be a bowl of cheerios shoved down the throat before the bus comes. It could be me reading a nugget from my bible to the kids or asking them who we should pray for that day.
Maybe my days don’t have to be spent trying to constantly “entertain” my kids or “handle” my kids but finding ways we can actually serve others together: helping to fill a food pantry, writing notes to sick kids at the hospital, delivering diapers to a maternity home, sending cookies to the neighbors, or playing cards with residents at the nursing home. New experiences can be scary but rewarding.
Maybe I could keep my eye more on what’s in front of me instead of what’s on my phone.
Maybe I could read more books instead of swiping more screens. I can fill my head with knowledge and hope and stories instead of the depressing news or the highlights from other people’s perfect life or funny memes (though I do love funny memes…truly I do).
Maybe I have more time than I think, and maybe I have more space in my heart for patience and perseverance with my kids. Because newsflash: parenting never stops. It’s not like I’ll be done once we are past tantrums and potty-training. I only need to look at my oldest daughter to know that. The problems just get more complicated: adjusting to school, balancing our schedule, walking her through friend drama or even self-image issues (yes, even at the tender age of six!).
As I made changes, I made mental notes of what I was learning…what hadn’t worked and what was working better. Instead of letting the chaos get the best of me, I am trying harder to reorganize life to catch all the pieces. It’s not about everything I want to get in all of the time…my projects, my workouts, my plans…but it’s what God is wanting to do in all of it. All of it teaches me, all of it prepares me, all of it is useful.
The bumps in the road won’t go away, they’ll only get bigger and more challenging. He knows what’s coming and He’s getting me ready. And I don’t want to miss it.
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.