Self-care during the bad stages

I've been hearing from people with kids in the special rough patches of little-kid parenting, specifically those 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 and then almost-5 stages, when many children are just truly beastly.

I think there's this cultural idea that once you're past the first year, or maybe past the "Terrible Twos," that kids all get easy and any misbehavior is the result of bad parenting and what-the-hell-do-you-mean-you're-tired-you-have-a-three-year-old? But, wow, is that not true.

In a lot of ways, I think having preschoolers is more psychologically traumatic than having a baby is. At least with a baby you can recognize that things are off. Sleeping in 3-hour chunks, feeding another person from your own body, being responsible for another being that can't talk–those are all things that you can easily say are not the normal state of an adult human being, so you can cut yourself a break because you know this is just now. Youa re doing the job you're supposed to be doing for this baby right now, and it won't last forever.

Having preschooler, though, is mind-twisting because in a lot of ways your life is somewhat normal again. You may be sleeping all night (or at least in 5 hour stretches again) and your child may be spending strecthes of time away from you so you have a little mental separation, and at the very least they can tell you about immediate problems.

And yet the needs and wants and moods and independence and dependence and seething rage at your continued stifling influence over their lives!

Knowing it's normal helps. But being in an almost constant battle–for months on end–with someone you love more than anyone else but who can never take a step back is brutally exhausting.

I want to remind all of us to cut ourselves a whole lot of breaks when our kids are going through these rough stages. And also think about how our own rough stages seem to happen right at the times of heightened need for our kids, so it's a double accumulation of raw nerves.

I found it helpful to attempt to remember (not always successfully) that the stage wasn't the person. In other words, just because my child was filled with rage and rebellion and absolute resistance to any idea I came up with did not mean that my child was that way inherently. Instead, it was the stage talking. So I just had to tread water and attempt to interact with the actual kid, if possible, and just ignore the stage if I could.

One thing that I started doing was really looking at what made me feel competent and happy as a person and making a specific effort to do those things. Sometimes it got a little ritualistic (my coffee schedule, for example) and made my kids mad (surprisingly, they do not appreciate Busta Rhymes' "Woo Hah! Got You All In Check" like I do). But it was good for my job (many of my work tasks are things I feel good at) and good for my mental health, and I will do it again when we hit the next rough spot(s).

Are you cutting yourself some slack? Are you letting yourself be good at things you're good at, even if parenting doesn't seem like one of those things this month? If you were your best friend, what would you say to you?

90 thoughts on “Self-care during the bad stages”

  1. Thanks for this. I’m finding 4 (X2) to be a particularly challenging time, and there’s been a lot of self-blame and guilt about my quality of parenting. So, I needed to read this today!

  2. If I was my best friend, I would tell me that I am doing a great job, even if it doesnt always seem like it. And I would tell myself that I don’t have to be perfect. Most parents are far from perfect and the kids turn out fine (not perfect but just perfectly acceptably, productively, happily fine).I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I am not good at being a SAHM. I’m a good WOHM. We all need our space. And that’s OK. Most people don’t think ill of fathers who WOHM, so I’m taking a stand for equality and not taking it personally.

  3. I really needed this today. I’m finding 6 to be almost as challenging as 3.5, especially when contrasted with the golden age of 5. Boy, do I miss 5! The monkey was so helpful, polite, and enthusiastic at 5. Now he is all Bad Attitude.

  4. Thank you! I really needed this today. My 27 month old son is speech delayed and has sensory processing disorder and is spirited beyond anything I thought possible! Sometimes it feels like I am stuck in this nightmare that just won’t end, and I get so angry at everyone…even him and it is not his fault. Talk about guilt. I feel horrible that he is having such a hard time at life and then mad at myself for being jealous of people with “easy/textbook kids.”Thanks for reminding me of the light at the end of the tunnel even though I can’t see it. ๐Ÿ™

  5. Oops, hit return too soon.I think my husband and I are good at reminding each other about this. We have other failures as parents but this one we seem to breeze over…maybe we’re too narcissistic about our parenting.

  6. Boy did I need to read this today. The 4.25 year old is making me insane lately. And she is perfection, like the absolute picture perfect 4 year old with everyone else, her teacher, father, grandparents, etc. But with me? I swear it’s like the exorcist some days. And with a 18 month old and a 2 month old too, I think pretty soon MY head will be spinning around. And I know about all the “she feels safe with me so she acts out knowing she’s unconditionally loved” whatnot. But I really wish she weren’t pushing all of my Lose-My-Shit buttons on a daily basis.

  7. I soooo need a BFF to pop up and give me a pat on the back. We’re actually in an okay stage (2.5 this December though), but a bunch of other aspect of life are getting pretty rough.Anyone else getting tired of their “if you want it done right, do it yourself” personality? It’s dimming the spark these days.

  8. Oh, how I wish I had heard this when Eldest was 3-5. I still feel kind of traumatized from that stage, to be honest! I’ll probe her, to see how much she remembers (beacause I still feel a lot of grief and guilt over the anger I would express, and I’m not sure that will ever go away, probably SHOULDN’T ever go away…) She doesn’t seem to remember her rages, my rages in response {shudder}… Now, in hindsight, it comes into a clear perspective, the bigger picture. Well, and there was a new baby, too. The positive–very positive–is I was so freaked out by my inability to stay calm that I pretty much totally changed my lifestyle, took up running, yoga. And these things have been such a gift! And Eldest is now okay! I’m going to make a point to feel really grateful today. Thanks, Moxie.

  9. For me, knowing that some of the most frustrating things (like the boundary testing) are actually signs of good, normal development helps.Maybe this is why our ongoing potty issues are so hard for me to handle with grace? Because that doesn’t seem so “normal” to me. But on the other hand, I don’t really think it is a sign of a deep, important problem, so maybe I’m just peeved at all the laundry.
    I like the idea of “it is not the kid, it is the stage.”
    My sanity is also saved by the fact that I am a WOHM. Seriously. Like @SarcastiCarrie I am just not cut out to be a SAHM. And yeah, I don’t feel bad about that at all anymore.

  10. Kristina -My now almost 3 1/2 year old has a severe speech delay (didn’t know 3 1/2 was supposed to be bad – argh!). In my experience, being mad and jealous is completely normal. 2 1/2 seemed like a particularly hard time for me because the differences between my son and other kids was becoming pretty glaringly obvious even in every day interactions (thanks grocery store cashier who won’t give my kid the balloon he’s motioning for (pointing to his palm) until he says thank you. get to explain that he doesn’t speak but that if you give him the damn balloon he’ll make his gesture for thank you (tip of the hat motion).) What has made a huge difference for us/me was getting him in a private preschool specifically for communication disorders (including sensory processing disorders). We’re really lucky to live in a community that has this program, but I didn’t even know it existed until he was almost 3 (he started right after he turned 3). In addition to doing wonders for him (he talks now – it’s amazing!), it has also provided me with a community of mothers and services that our Early Childhood Intervention service providers were not able to provide. In addition to recommending therapy programs and even a gymnastics program for kids with communication disorders, it’s also given me a group to share my fears and frustations. Depending on where you are at, the Walks for Apraxia might be a good place to network with other parents. There is light. Sometimes you just have search pretty hard for it.

  11. I wanted to add something re: it’s not the kid, it’s the stage.In general, I completely agree. But, I missed something major with one of my kids by assuming it was a stage and I still feel bad about it. He was 4 and having a hard time, both at home and at school. On the surface, all the issues could easily have been explained by it being a normal preschool stage. Regressions during key developments and all that.
    In took me about six months to clue into the fact that he was struggling with some pretty significant anxiety and that his preschool was a really bad fit. Once we dealt with the anxiety and moved him to a different school, the issues went away.
    So, the rough patches can be a stage–absolutely. In my son’s case, though, I wish I had not been so quick to dismiss it as such.

  12. Hmmm, I wonder if I am unusual in this respect, but I found my son’s infancy to be dreadful. I vastly prefer the challenges that come with parenting a pre-schooler because it’s so much easier for me to see him as a person that I can work with, as opposed to a little infant lump that cannot communicate with me in ways other than crying. Perhaps I’ll feel differently as time progresses and my son ages, but I’m really not as bothered by the daily ups and downs of late toddlerhood as I was the daily ups and downs of infancy. For me, that fact that he is growing into an interesting person seems to make up for the stressors in a way that an infant could not.

  13. 8 weeks pregnant with #3 and newly turned 7 and 4 year olds. Lots of sass and eye rolls. Now they both call me Mom not Mommy. Very sad. Oh yeah and a lab puppy that isn’t yet 1 year old. Yesterday was just awful. I feel all out of sorts and unable to keep up with the food/clean clothing/clean house trinity. Kept having to lay down because of a stop and go headache and nausea. No doubt fueled by the constant bickering and torturing of the dog with hugs and costumes. I decided to change OB-GYN practices yesterday too. I’d been going to one I never felt that great about since my last pregnancy. A good friend saw me after my 8wk appt and was like “Why not change? It’s your body. Don’t go somewhere you aren’t happy with.” I’ve switched to her Dr where there are only 3 Ob/gyns v. 9 obs 3 cnms and 2 PAs Talk about too many cooks in the kitchen! It’s more personal their office is attached to the hospital I will deliver. Win Win in my mind. So I guess that’s my example of what a good friend would say. Evaluate the relationships in your life. Are you happy with your doctor (if applicable) are there some friendships that could use some pruning. It may not be a direct correlation to your kids but your support group matters in how you process your life.

  14. Thanks for the post–3.5 yo is hard: he whines and resists my authority constantly. I sometimes feel scared that I’m losing my kid and I hate hearing Betty Draper’s annoyed tone of voice come out of my mouth. (Not that she’s a terrible parent, but her judgment is fogged by cultural norms and her own narcissism–which I sometimes also fear is me). Rationally, I think it’s the stage, but I miss my kid’s sweetness. I also think that having a 14 mo who’s still bfing and thus sucks up (literally!) all my time doesn’t help.

  15. I needed this one today – nearly 3 is kicking my ass, even though she’s generally delightful for other people, and nearly 7 is bored at school, which is stressing me out. Then, they fight with each other, and like ML said, I hate hearing my annoyed voice telling them to knock it off.I think if I was my best friend, I’d tell me to relax and try to take a nap, because I don’t get enough sleep.

  16. I’m with @Sarcasticarrie and @Cloud… not cut out to be a SAHM. And right now I’m a SAHM. Looking forward to going back to work in the new year at the end of my maternity leave!And I’ve been in the feeling-like-a-lousy-parent boat lately too. What with the dentist telling me my daughter’s teeth are messed up because of her thumb sucking (which I could have addressed sooner but didn’t), that she has a cavity that needs to be filled (didn’t get that back molar brushed well enough during the wrestlemania-teeth-brushing years of 18 mo – 3), and the latest embarassingly immature and irrational performance by me where I lost my temper, yelled a whole lot, and threw her Tinkerbell book out the window of our car. Yes, I did that. So not feeling like the best parent right now… but only of the 3 year old. I’m feeling like I’m doing a pretty good job with the 7 month old.
    And I’m in the camp with @stephanie… although my 3 year old seems much more difficult to parent than my 7 month old, I agree with her sentiment that “it’s so much easier for me to see him as a person that I can work with, as opposed to a little infant lump that cannot communicate with me in ways other than crying.” When the baby is having a rough patch with sleeping or teething, it becomes all-consuming, all I think of day and night, until I come up with a solution to the problem. Which I never ever do, because its a phase that passes on its own. With the 3 year old, her incidents are isolated, over within a half hour, and we go back to being nice to each other again and talking like friends. Its true that its easier to see her as “a person I can work with” than the baby, who I feel I have no ability to “work with” at all.

  17. I am so relieved to hear 3.5 is supposed to be bad. I didn’t realize. I thought I lived with a deranged lunatic. DE. RANGED.I just started a part-time WAH job (8-10pm online) and it has put me back in touch with something I’m highly trained to do and enjoy very much.
    It feels good to feel like I’m accomplishing something beneficial at the end of every day, since it seems like I can’t prevent the lunatic from smearing FOOD all over her FACE and HAIR at every MEAL no matter what I say do or serve to her.
    Part of this stage is also giving up the nap? And I simply cannot bear that. I can’t. It would be a bloodbath around here if she didn’t nap. So instead she lays in her bed and kicks the wall and sings for 90 minutes. Which is better??
    3.5, I hate you.

  18. Thanks for the reminder. We are firmly planted in the 3 1/2 year old stage of resistance to everything. The list is endless and unavoidable. I wish I knew what to do to make it better, but I don’t and I’m not going to let her become a tryant just because I’m tired. I feel like I’m trying to break her spirit and feel guilty, but really when I analyze it from a far it is about realistic boundaries and helping her learn to control her emotions. I try to focus on the small victories when we have them. I remind myself that as a mom one of my responsibilities as a mom is to teach my kids to cope with the world as it is, learning to handle “no” in a respectful manner is one of those skills.

  19. @stephanie – I far prefer any toddler temper tantrum to a newborn…except that a newborn is pretty easy to deal with when you have an older kid as well. It’s weird. When I only had one, I preferred older kids’ problems, but when you throw multiple kids in the mix, the newborn seems easiest because the problems are so basic/primal (easy to fix) while dealing with the older kid stuff too. Time changes perspective, I guess.

  20. Timely here as well. Almost 3 is killing me slowly. The worst of it is, taken moment to moment, none of his behavior is really that bad. It’s that the constant small conflicts, constant high volume, constant repetitive chanting, constant constant constant everything is turning me into a horrible horrible cranky humorless mother. I am ashamed and so so frustrated and worn out, especially in light of my own childhood memories of my mother and humorless and distant.Bitter, bitter irony.
    If I were my best friend, I would say, “You need a vacation and a massage. You’re doing a great job. This too shall pass.”
    I just don’t feel like I’m good at anything right now. Except frittering precious time.

  21. @MrsHaley. I am so with you about the necessity of nap time.Son 1 stopped napping for me aged 2 when I was 6 months pregnant. After a hideous month of battling with him to have quiet time in his room, which he ripped to pieces day after day, trashing the blinds after we took everything out, we moved to watching a movie.
    He is now 4.5 and he stills watched a movie every afternoon while Son 2 naps.
    This has helped to keep me sane, on the one hand. On the other hand, I wish that he wasn’t watching the TV, and I also wish that we could have figured out quiet time in his room.
    Kicking the wall and singing sounds good to me.

  22. I’d like someone to say: you have permission to stop reading/researching about everything child related and to give yourself a break if you’re not implementing every strategy/diet/play activity/exercise that could help your children grow up to be happy/healthy/successful/rich & famous. I’m always beating myself up that I could be doing more or that I’m missing something essential.But things do seem to be getting better here with the nearly 4.5 year old – he’s seemed more easy-going, less prone to total meltdowns over nothing lately.
    That being said, I still can’t stop reacting when he does the one thing that really pushes my buttons: deliberately hurting his 15-month old brother. Despite knowing it’s an attention-getter, I still tend to overreact. The times I don’t (and respond calmly with affirmations of “you must be feeling frustrated, do you want a hug” etc.) it goes much better. *sigh*.
    Now I’m bracing myself for the littlest to start the tantrum/”no” phase…

  23. Thank you Moxie for writing about this. You are so spot on. I am now in that blissful period between stages, just out of the almost five with my older and just before the terrible twos with my younger. If I were my best friend I would say pretty much what you said: It is a stage and it will pass. You will deal MUCH better with it if you take care of yourself. Eat, exercise, sleep, make time for yourself and your partner and friends.

  24. Am I cutting myself some slack?Depends on the day. Today, yes. This week, yes. A few weeks ago? Not so much. When I am in the black pit of OMG-is-this-ever-going-to-end-what-is-he-doing-I-haven’t-read-about-anything-like-this, well, it’s hard.
    What I realised in going through the last hard phase is that for me, it’s the physical things that suck the life out of me, put me in that black hole, and make it so much more difficult to have perspective and to deal with the emotional crap going on at the same time. So, less sleep? Not so good. Add marathon BF sessions on to that and I’m ready to put hot pokers in my eyes. And I think what pushed me over the edge was not finding any reference to what I was experiencing with DS (until, thankfully, I did find one short post in the Moxie archives that described the marathon BF at 2+, Yay! I’m not alone!!!), so I felt really at a loss as to how to deal with the situation.
    The other thing that I find hard (guilt inducing?) during these difficult periods is that I know DS is having a hard time and he needs me to be more patient, etc., but that I’m soooo exhausted that it’s so hard for me to provide that for him.
    The other thing that I think can make the bad stages of little-kid parenting so hard is that if you are sleep deprived, you have accumulated the sleep deprivation over 2-3+ years. It’s not ‘new’ sleep deprivation. The novelty has worn off. I think the longevity of it all is really, really hard. I have no idea if scientifically this holds true (i.e. sleep deprivation gets worse as it accumulates), but it certainly feels that way.
    Am I letting myself be good at the things I’m good at?
    I think for the most part, yes. Being a WOHM really helps in this aspect as it does provide breathing room and head space.
    If I was my best friend, I’d say:
    “Remember that you always get through to the other side, no matter how difficult the situation is. And trust your gut feeling. Your gut feeling is always right. ALWAYS. Do what you need to do to get through the day, make changes/take action when you can and it will all come together at some point. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to DH. He’s probably as stressed/tired/fed-up as you are.”
    @Judy B, we’re in exactly the same age range. I am fearing 2.5. FEARING IT. 26 months was hard enough. I honestly can’t imagine worse (OK, I can, but I don’t want to go there).
    @Laura, I definitely agree that there is a balance regarding ‘It’s not the kid, it’s the stage’. I’m the first one to attribute behaviour to a stage, rather than the kid. But I’m always thinking ‘is there something I’m missing / need to look more closely at / something I’m contributing to the situation – for better or worse?’.
    I read recently (in ‘Your 2 Year Old – Ames & Ilg, I think) that a behaviour being part of a stage does not mean you do not act on it. This was an important differentiation for me. I’d struggled with things like knowing that DS throwing toys was probably a stage, but what to do about it? Didn’t feel right ignoring it. And it didn’t feel right assuming this was something that was part of his personality. Knowing that I still needed to address and deal with the situation, but also cutting myself some slack if my solutions/parenting didn’t seem to take effect immediately.
    Beyond being observant and aware, I’m not sure there’s much else we can do when these things crop up. It’s so easy to say ‘I wish I had…’ after the fact. But the reality is, in the moment, with the information we have, sometimes we have to make an educated guess. And sometimes we’ll be wrong. And I think in reference to a daycare/preschool situation it’s doubly hard because if you pull them out and it was just a phase, not another issue, then you’ve disrupted their life, perhaps for nothing. So hard to win on that one. We’re contemplating something similar now. DS seems to be doing OK at his daycare, but the quality of the daycare is going way down, and we want to get him out before the only good educator leaves. But where to go? Not a lot of options here (so hard to get a daycare space). We have one other option, but not so sure it is better – do I really want to put DS through the change (he’s quite sensitive and slow to adjust to change) if it’s not going to be much better for him? Argh. I feel your pain and at the same time want to say ‘Please cut yourself some slack’. You solved the issue. Maybe not as quickly as you’d have liked, but you did figure it out.

  25. No, I am not cutting myself slack, even though I know I need to be.4.5 is kicking my ass. My daughter has started hitting and being mean. It’s embarrassing to be in public with her. I’ve never really gotten stranger parenting advice or comments before, but this past week has been brutal. My son just figured out he’s about to turn two and is getting into EVERYTHING.
    Add on top of that my partner diagnosed with a scary, probably degenerative disease that is making her weak and tired, so I am doing more of everything. I *know* that this is scaring my daughter and making her clingy/angry, but I can’t seem to cut her much slack either.
    Add on top of that, I haven’t found a job. And I am NOT cut out to SAH.
    I am just drained. And I yell a lot. And I am having trouble sleeping, so I’m even more tired than usual. It’s rough over here at the moment.

  26. And oh yeah! One more point (like I didn’t already write enough in my previous post): I find that usually I’m at least a full week in to the ‘bad’ stage before I clue in to what is up. By that point I’m completely wound up, exhausted, frustrated, etc. that it takes a lot more for me to get back to normal….She says as she writes a mental note to cut herself some slack for not figuring out things sooner.

  27. I love the advice about the stage and have a hard time seeing/remembering that with my oldest. It’s easier with the younger ones because I can see it as recognizable stage rather than some horrible morph of his personality. I also applaud sarcasticarrie for standing up for her role as a WOHM. I too am a WOHM and I think we all need to stop defending the choice, as she said. To be honest, I might be an awesome SAHM – I work for a variety of reasons and that’s that. And I hope that we all are beyond the era of feeling like SAHM is the better choice and WOHM has to be explained. As she stated, no man would explain, no reason for us to.

  28. @jj…thank you for the link and your experience!!! I will start searching for a school like you mentioned for my DS. Hopefully there is something in my area.

  29. I am pretty awful at self-care, but trying to get better. I’ve been doing a 20-minute yoga routine at night after the kids are finally (finally!) asleep. It helps. Walking at lunch helps. Reading a book when I can helps (parenting books do NOT count).My 18-month-old is obsessed with me. Clingy isn’t the word. I adore her, but can’t take a shower without her opening the curtain, crying and trying to climb in. My DS was past the obsessed with me stage by 12 months, so I’m befuddled. Any advice? She’s awesome at drop-off, loves her daycare ladies.
    My 4-1/2 y.o. DS is by turns infuriating, hilarious, serious, sweet. And sometimes all those things at once. If it’s not the toddler having a tantrum, it’s him. Sometimes both.
    Ay yi yi.

  30. Thank you. I needed this today. Especially after the passive-aggressive “I’m-a-better-parent-than-you” spew on your last post…My son turned 3 in July and we have regular battles of stubbornness and wits. I know I’m not a perfect Mom, and I accept that. But I know in the long run – even with my inconsistent discipline and learn-as-we-go parenting – he will be okay.
    Thanks for the slack.

  31. My problem is that 5 is great…ALONE. Put him together with 3.5 & it’s HELL. 3.5 is actually not too bad…ALONE. If it’s not 5 starting something with 3.5, it’s 3.5 starting something with 5. I swear, they are both crying/whining most of the time when they are together. I’m just trying to hold on to my patience!

  32. We’re at 3.5 with the older and I’m middling about it. It’s much better than 2.5, when I spent a lot of time wondering if one of us was a psychopath. He’s not mean that way now. But boy, we are getting pushback again on so many routine things, all the time: using the potty, wearing long-sleeved clothing now that it’s getting cold again, taking a bath, going to bed when it’s time. We *can* make him do it (hold him down and put on his clothes) but he’s getting big and old enough to make that problematic, nor do I feel good about enforcing our will upon him physically. The alternative is persuading him or trying to make it a game or fun (tiring), letting him experience consequences himself (sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, or isn’t practical).He’s also extremely talkative, which I know is a great gift in comparison with experiencing delays or apraxia, but it’s completely nonstop. I have attentional issues and it’s insanely tiring to never be able to complete a thought, internal or verbalized. Still I could totally live with it, but in combination with the willfulness, oy. I’m trying to appreciate him as best as I can. Actually the best thing that helps me is to remember that it’s just a phase (the beginning of the school year and all the changes that come with do NOT help), and to try to appreciate as much as possible that he wants to talk to me as much as he does.
    For that reason I really love your reframing (“it’s the stage talking”) and will see if focusing on that helps.
    Ironically, I am getting a little more time with him these days due to a shift in daycare arrangements (I’m part-time WAH) and that seems to help in some ways. He probably enjoys the additional attention and I’m not as stressed by evening/weekend rush when we’re together, I guess.

  33. Oh, good. I thought my 3.5 was the only deranged lunatic. And apparently a different kid goes to camp and preschool, where they all say he’s so SWEET and so CUTE.I’m struggling with being a SAHM with a partner who works very long hours, and then bitches about the time I spend doing what I’m good at.

  34. 21 1/2 and 19 1/2 is fabulous…. preschool was hard work! Hang in there. I still cut myself a ton of slack, because I am a total slacker. Trust me, it makes life easier ๐Ÿ˜‰

  35. For me it’s going running four times per week.I’m very grateful to my husband, who lets me go on weekend mornings while he makes breakfast for the kids.
    My mantra is “My life requires fitness!” It’s totally true. When I’m not fit, I get so tired and grouchy and by the end of the day I’m unable to deal with *anything,* let alone three little boys, one of whom is three and has been my “difficult” one for oh, about a year and a half now. Sigh.
    Actually, he is about to turn four on Nov. 1, and I think I’m seeing some progress toward the Stadium of Humanity. As long as we get *into* the ballpark, that’s all I ask.

  36. @Brooke, I wish I could come over and make you a nice cup of tea (or pitcher of margaritas, your call). Life sounds tough right now. I hope things find a new equilibrium soon.@L- your son sounds a lot like my daughter- including the hyperverbal part. That IS exhausting, isn’t it? I’m determined not to start tuning her out, but… yikes. She is getting better about waiting her turn to talk at the dinner table. From the key phrases she uses (“Daddy! It is MY turn to talk now”) i’m guessing that is due to something they’ve been doing at day care, because we hadn’t started working on it.
    Anyway, I have no advice (see yesterday’s post!) but lots of commiseration. I wish you luck in choosing your battles wisely!

  37. always amazed by the timing of your posts. i cried myself to sleep on Monday night after two horrible days one-on-one with my two year old. she fought every single thing/every step of the way both days. Then yesterday my loving daughter reappeared. I was reminded by my mother that kids are probably most testy with their Mom. It helps to hear this too Moxie. thanks.

  38. I’m really starting to get nervous about 3.5! 2.5 nearly sent me over the edge, but it got so much better at almost 3, and now 3 is going well. I can keep my fingers crossed, right?

  39. Amen to Stephanie! While my 2 1/2 year old son is a challenge, I’d take this over infancy any day. Like Stephanie said, he’s a little person now that I can relate to. And he’s so much more fun now. That said, I really needed this post today, this week. Just as he has during any other developmental spurt, his sleep has gone to hell in an hand bag and I’m starting to suffer again, to say nothing of having flashbacks to the first 2 years before he’d sleep through the night (yeah, that’s right. Didn’t do it until he turned 2.)and I was just so sleep-deprived. At least now he runs at me full speed and jumps into my arms with a huge smile when I pick him up at daycare.

  40. In our case, the 4.5 year old and the 6 month old are chill, but I’d say I’m the one going through a stage (the we just moved back home after two years abroad and it’s true that you really can’t go home again so now what stage). I remember versions of these from my own childhood–mom’s diet fad phase, mom’s exercise phase, mom’s new hairdo phase–and I’m sure if they were older, they’d remember these months of mine as vividly. At least they’re cutting me some slack while I’m so whiny.

  41. Now that my daughter is the monstrous 4.5, and mostly sleeping thru the night, I do feel like a happier more empowered adult–able to act on a few of my own whims, thanks to regular sleep and preschool. BUT she was such a sweet, smiley, easy baby and I can barely remember it. I was sooo miserably sleep deprived, slow to adjust to the life change, and just downright resentful that I didn’t really enjoy her. I wish I could have my baby back, but on the same schedule as my charming little monster.I have been walking, swimming, and reading for pleasure (not child rearing) whenever possible. Can’t wait until daddy and I can go for walks together again, and I can cook whatever the hell I like.

  42. @the milliner: Thanks; my son is almost 7 now and he seems none the worse for my missing the boat when he was 4. At the time it felt like a BIG parenting fail but I try to focus on the lessons we learned, that I’ll never be the perfect parent, etc. I’m a lot more watchful with all my kids during rough patches, though, which is probably good and hopefully not overly paranoid.@Brooke: hoping calmer waters find you soon.

  43. Urgh I also need this right now too.And unlike Moxie’s example, my about to turn 3 year old does not sleep well enough for me to get 5 hour stretches of sleep myself, doesn’t spend stretches of time away from me (although that is getting better, we are nearly up to 3 hours apart once a week) and cannot talk well enough to tell me what is wrong. (and yes we have seen a paed about all 3. Repeatedly. Not that it’s helped much.)
    I am a SAHM, went through hell & high water to become one, and am surprised and disappointed to discover how much I suck at it. But circumstances mean I am stuck with it until he goes to preschool/school anyway. Meanwhile I am losing my mind, my already deteriorated health, and if things keep going like this, probably my marriage too. But I can’t see a way out besides what we are already doing.
    I found babyhood easier because I expected to not sleep throughout the night then, or for him to only cry not talk, and everyone elses baby was doing the same thing. But now the other kids are talking in clear complete sentences, going to daycare at least one whole day a week, the mums are working at least part time, and not only are the kids sleeping through the night, but so are their baby siblings only months old. I felt much more competent when he was a baby, and I thought the bad side was only temporary. I never expected parenthood to be so demoralising.

  44. Hmm, this explains a lot right now and M’s not even 3.5 yet…@Leah – “But I really wish she weren’t pushing all of my Lose-My-Shit buttons on a daily basis.” Hahahahaha! So there right now!
    Thank God my marathon training gets me out of the house for a little “me time”! Is it bad that I prefer running 42km (26.2 miles) over parenting a toddler?

  45. Oh, @Tor! I doubt you suck at being a SAHM. It sounds like it sucks for you, but that is something completely different. I totally relate to how incompetent parenting can make you feel. Learning to handle that is the biggest (ongoing) challenge of parenting for me, I think.I hesitate to offer any advice given yesterday’s thread… but if I can’t be an ass on the internet, where can I be? So here goes, but feel free to ignore what I say. I obviously only know a fraction of the situation.
    When I’ve been in that dark place around parenting (and believe me, even as a WOHM with a job to remind me that I am a competent adult, thank you very much, I have been in that dark place many times), what has helped me the most is to break down the problems and pick out ONE or maybe two that I want to try to solve, and just decide to accept the others.
    Since I fall into hundreds of quivering pieces if I don’t get adequate sleep long term, I’d probably problem solve around that and around keeping my marriage healthy, and accept the others. But that’s just me- obviously only you know what the big fires are for you. (And BTW, when I say problem solve around sleep, I mean around how to get enough sleep for YOU. I assume you’ve tried everything short of voodoo to get your kid to sleep more. But maybe your husband can take him off for some prolonged Daddy time on Saturdays while you nap. For instance.) Or, if you think it would all be better if the kid could just tell you what he wants before he starts screaming, you could try sign language (if you haven’t already). Particularly since trying that starts with sticking a DVD in…. You get the idea.
    I’d make you a pitcher of margaritas, too, if I could!

  46. @Leah – You just made me laugh so effing hard! “I swear it’s like the exorcist some days. And with a 18 month old and a 2 month old too, I think pretty soon MY head will be spinning around. And the bit that @Alanna just quoted, too. Thank you for that!!@anonforthisone (8 wks preg, 7 & 4 yo) – “It may not be a direct correlation to your kids but your support group matters in how you process your life.” AMEN! Good for you for finding an OB who is a better fit for you personally. Best wishes to you!
    @ML – “I hate hearing Betty Draper’s annoyed tone of voice come out of my mouth.” HA! me, too. I think “Mad Men” is an amazeballs show!
    @Melba – “I lost my temper, yelled a whole lot, and threw her Tinkerbell book out the window.” I have been there my friend! Like 2 nights ago when I was walking down the stairs with my 11 mo old in a heavy-ass carseat carrier, and suddenly my 2.75 yo starts grabbing my leg and yelling at me to stop walking down the stairs. Mama lost her shit – I was so afraid I was going to fall and hurt both of my children. I can’t even get into the words that came out of my mouth. DH came running and asked me to go see a movie because clearly I needed a break – I scared him that bad. We had a talk later about how he felt I hurt DS’s feelings… so yeah, I feel you on the guilt about reacting the way we never thought possible.
    @Brooke – Just awful. Sending positive thoughts your way.
    @Tor – Your second paragraph really caught my attention & made me feel concern for you. You sound depressed, and like you feel as though you have no options. It must feel horrible. I hope things get better for you soon.

  47. Almost five to just after was so awful with my twins -and theretofore the birthdays had been such lovely stages. It was a real shock. Later five has been so absolutely lovely with both – hang in there if you have an almost five, because you are in for a real golden age.

  48. Thank you Moxie. I’m experiencing a mini-reprieve right now from my 3 year old twin boys (oddly, the week they turn 3.5!). But I hit rock bottom over the past month. One boy was just non stop high pitched screaming and whining, the other was hitting a lot, they were fighting all the time and I was questioning everything I’d done, thinking I had totally messed up. My heart was constantly racing, I was yelling and then falling in a heap on the floor, crying- regularly. I dealt with it by buying more parenting books, reading the books I have (did I miss something?), talking to my husband, joining a twin club, asking the preschool teachers for suggestions (what? you have problems with them? they’re so sweet!), and trying to get them to sleep more. This week, I have no idea why, they are so much better. Still a huge effort to get them to DO anything, but at least we’re having good times and not constant conflict. And I am reminded that it really was just a stage.

  49. I’ve been enjoying the 6’s and 7’s quite a bit and then at a party 2 weeks ago, a mom warns me of the 8’s and 9’s! I can’t take it!

  50. Newly-3yo girls have been trying lately — but luckily for all of us their spells of being real pills are outweighed by a whole lot of cuteness and real fun. It’s so amazing to listen to them chitchat to each other, to watch them play, to listen to them talk about their days and friends, to change up old routines and create new ones — they’re such little people now! But then there’s the picking on each other, the in-each-others’-face stuff, the “No Mom, *I* wanna do it”, the frequent flip-outs for no apparent reason (their and mine!)I go to work to clear my head, happy that the ladies have daycare that they love (although they’re still getting used to their new classroom since they moved up a room 2 weeks ago). But by the end of the work day, I’m ready to throttle everyone at work, convinced that my girls are smarter and easier to get along with! Then by the end of our very short evening together (if we get home by about 5:45, and lights have to be out by 8, we don’t have much time), I’m ready to throttle someone who suddenly refuses to brush her teeth or get into bed already. So, I guess I feel like I’m always behind the 8-ball, never really happy with anyone. (I think I even used my, “HEY!” mommy voice one day at work to get someone’s attention?!)
    But, I THINK everyone is doing ok. The girls are thriving, they’re kind, bright, fun and playful. We eat dinner together as a family at the table every single night (2009s new year’s resolution, still going strong!), we serve and the kids eat lots of colorful fruits and veggies (that mom and dad tend to forget/forgo), they’re solid sleepers. We’re getting better about controlling our portions and exercising more. I’m generally well respected and compensated at work. DH and I truly love each other and enjoy being together, and we make time to have a little couple time a few times a month.
    I think we’re doing ok – right?? So even if minute to minute I think I’m a crappy mom for yelling or disciplining or not disciplining, I think we’re doing pretty well.

  51. Tor, I have to come back and post because my heart bleeds for you. Please do cut yourself some slack if you’re able. It’s probably one of the worst stressors out there to see something not right in your child’s health or development while not knowing what, exactly, except that you’re worried and don’t know what to do. And without good communication with your child to help you figure out what’s going on, and being clung to most of the week, and no good sleep either for three years now… I just wish I could give you the biggest hug ever. I don’t think anyone would feel competent in the middle of all that uncertainty and emotion and sleep-deprivation. All you can do is your best. I am sending you all my good wishes.@Cloud, heh, I appreciate your perspective. You’re spot on: it’s all about choosing the battles. And here I just realized, at age 34, that I am completely not the type B I always thought. Oh no. I’m a neurotic type A. When I take a step back, this kid (a control freak himself) is actually teaching me some great lessons about letting go.

  52. @MrsHaley I hear you on the nap thing (we recently lost them) and the answer definitely is that “quiet time” is better than a bloodbath — and that knowing that a bloodbath would ensue makes you a good mom. So stick with it. We don’t actually do that, but I’m a WOHM and that makes a huge difference. No way could I deal with a non-napping 3 y.o. if I had to do it every (or most) day(s).@L you write about a book that says, “a behaviour being part of a stage does not mean you do not act on it.” Well, right, OK. But I sometimes wonder which behaviors that applies to and which not. I mean obviously hitting and throwing things are unacceptable at any age, but what about his current insistence that he has to do everything in some way other than the obvious, or that I suggested/advised/instructed? It’s a fine line for me … I want him to follow instructions but that he always insists on picking which door he’s going to use to climb into our car? Or I tell him to put the pillow on the sofa and he puts it on the adjacent arm chair instead? Do I let this stuff slide, or insist that it stop? If it makes any difference, he’s 17. No, wait, wait, kidding! He’s 3.5 …

  53. So timely, as always.My husband and I both read this post today (after he freaked on me last night and was passive aggressive this morning) and independently came to the conclusion that we need to be taking better care of each other too. Interestingly, with our hyper verbal kids (16 mos and 3.5 years) we were unable to actually speak this conclusion to one another, but we did both arrive there and were so much kinder to each other this evening. I didn’t complain about the damn dishes and he cleaned up the whole kitchen and living room during bath time totally unprompted. We sat on the couch and actually cuddled while the kids tried to kill us.

  54. Milliner @01:26 PM Emotionally 2-5 year olds are really tough. I’m glad you got the help you were looking for. You made an amazing point or Ames & Ilg made the point, that I want to jump off of. “that a behaviour being part of a stage does not mean you do not act on it.”That’s key for all stages. Imagine for a moment that a teenager mouths off to you and is extremely disrespectful. Do you let it go because you know that the teen years are developmentally when children push those buttons and they will grow out of it? Or do you address it because the lesson must be taught so the child can learn now?
    We all know the answer, you address it now. I think all parents, myself included, may look at the younger years and say, this will pass, I’m exhausted, he’ll grow out of it, I’ll deal with this later. The only problem with that is how the child digests that message. The child’s psyche stores how you handled something at 2 so it can be unconsciously retrieved later. The child has unconscious memories that remind him of how things were handled when he was 2. He then unconsciously repeats a similar behavior during the next developmental phase, say, @ 2.5 to see if the way you handled it before is the way you’ll handle it now. Don’t you wish they would learn things from being told once. Life would be so much easier, but no…I digress!
    The younger a child is the easier it is on a parent. I am not trying to tell you to be strict in any way. Remember, I’m the one who advocates balanced, loving, respectful, firm parenting. I’m not the be-strict-now-when-they-are-little-and-life-will-be-easier lady.
    If parents establish that these are our rules today, and will be our rules tomorrow, a child develops a roadmap of familiarity to follow that helps them navigate life.
    Emotionally this is the toughest time outside of the tween/teen years. Give yourselves a break. Acknowledge that you’re exhausted, emotionally and physically. Try to do as wonderful Moxie suggests- feed your soul. Refresh yourself. One way to do that is to draw the line and stick to it. This too will pass.

  55. Ah, Moxie, impeccable timing once again. I took out Ames and Ilg’s “Your Three-Year-Old: Frenemy from the Underworld” in hopes of finding some ideas of what’s to come (daughter is 33 months), and had this massive deja vu of doing the same thing at the same time last year, and realizing I can’t count on the swing to equilibrium happening at her birthday because she is running 9-12 months ahead of chronological age on most behaviors. Still can’t jump with two feet, of course, and isn’t potty trained, but is OMG a 3.5-year-old in every other respect.Sometimes the best part of our day is my speech before singing her lullaby: “Unless you need a diaper change, I will not give my attention to any crying, screaming, screeching, shrieking, wailing, yelling, yowling, howling, hollering, yammering, stammering, stuttering, or any other form of carrying on. Now let’s cuddle.” She really loves getting the warning. I just…don’t know. Dealing with her has always left me so exhausted I can’t sleep straight.

  56. Alexicographer You make a great distinction between behavior you must correct and what should you let slide. I think the two behaviors are confusing because one is a discipline issue and one is budding independence. To the child they are very different, to adults they’re both draining.You can have rules about how long you’re willing to let him do his independent thing. If he doesn’t complete the choice of which door to go through in your time or takes forever to get in the car seat then you need to do it for him. He will hate, hate it but he will also learn that he can’t be in control of everything all the time. This isn’t the fun part. I hope that helps.

  57. Perfect timing, Moxie.Just in from a morning outing in our new city of 10.5 million. Four subways and a long, uphill walk in the sun (!!) home sent my near-perfect nearly 5 year old into a frenzy. Her nearly 3 old sister, who is normally not nearly-perfect was golden. Younger was skipping and smiling and carrying her big sister’s pocketbook, while older was screaming on the sidewalk like a maniac. It was lunch (we had lunched) hour and everyone was out of their cubicles for the show. Good times.

  58. I am telling my last-week self about this post and I’m going to stop feeling bad about it. Thank you- I really needed to hear this.

  59. Flydog, I’m with you! people compliment my husband and I on our sweet son and, what do I see? I know its a stage but it sure would be nice to regularly see what others see instead of the contact 5.5 battles of put on your shoes, put on your shoes, Put. On. Your. Shoes. (and, no, this is not just shoes)And what gets to me is that some perceive me as this cranky take-no-prisoners person and I sincerely am known as one of the calmest people in my workplace, (and I work with kids…. Just not my own!)
    Related MIL rant: son had a slight scratch on his cheek. My husband accidentally scratched him w an unexpectedly sharp fingernail. no malice at all, I was there. No biggie. when MIL asked my son where the scratch came from, son told MIL truth. MIL Did Not Believe Him. MIL insisted to my son that it must have been his mommy (me) who did it. not only does that get me so effing angry I can’t even see straight but the fact that I got angry, in her warped mind, sorta prooved her point. So does she only see the annoyed me, not the real me? sigh. she has her own issues that cloud what she sees but I feel deep sorrow that she, (and others???), don’t get to see the “real” me.

  60. Thanks for putting this up…I’ve been at my wit’s end with our 3.5year old and asking myself “dear god if he is this recalcitrant at 3.5 what on EARTH will we do when he is 15???” so it’s nice to know that this is a phase and not just “who he is”. Looking forward to finding the time to read other readers’ commments.

  61. @Sharon, Thanks so much for expanding on the point from Ames & Ilg. It’s so hard to be objective and to make clear distinctions when you’re in the middle of this kind of thing. Pick battles and set limits. Two things I’m always reminding myself to do.

  62. @pennifer – “cranky and humorless” ugh. I feel that way so much more than I’d like to admit lately. I’ve tried taking the long range view, the immediate all we have is this moment view, the pretend you are on candid camera view but still I can’t tap into any ability to enjoy the “I don’t want to x” that is on constant repeat around here. And he’ll be three tomorrow. Perhaps tomorrow he will suddenly want to do all the things I have to get him to do Every.Single.Day…

  63. @Tor, hang in there. Working through 3 with a child who isn’t functioning right is horrible. Been there. It took a year and a half with specialists to get a diagnosis. Tons of screaming, crying, rage fits, not someone I could leave with anyone else… except at preschool. I was working, and even just evening/weekends were eviscerating. I was so desperate for a diagnosis for what was wrong, so it didn’t have to be ‘my fault’. (Speech delayed and sensory issues also.)Once diagnosed, it is still effort, but not so demoralizing. I hope you can find a solution – I assume you’ve been the full rounds already, but there’s always something else. I refused to stop looking, and some days that’s the only thing that kept me rolling, was the stubborn. For us, it was Fructose Malabsorption. Dietary management is annoying but OH so much better than random fail daily.

  64. Mother of 3 here. 20, 16, 4. One late in life baby. Nothing has ever been as miserable for me as infancy. Not even the 14-yr-old hormonal girl stuff (which was bad). I guess if I can get a night’s rest, I can deal with whatever they dish out. I’m loving it, right now, btw. Planets must be aligned on whatever stages they’re all in right now. Hang in there everyone… you have heard it before but Wow, before you know it, they’re going to university.

  65. This post is just what I needed today. My 3.5 yr old is crazy. I didn’t know what to do and all last week there was a terrible cycle of him crying, me screaming, him crying and yelling more, me screaming and grabbing his face or his arm in anger. It was so bad. Just yesterday he seemed better. I hope so. This is not the boy I know. I thought it was jealousy because my younger son just turned 1 (today actually! Yay!) but I think it’s just a 3.5 thing. So emotional. And after the scream-fest, there’s always lots of questions about making sure I’m here and that I’ll be home, around, etc. So sad. It seems he was just worried and scared and emotional. It’s hard. And to top it off, I felt myself being resentful because I had to concentrate all my energy on him, and couldn’t enjoy my oh-so-sweet one year old. I love reading these comments. Makes me feel so much better.

  66. The fact that this post is so timely for so many people, including me, speaks volumes. Monday was my bad day, complete with inconsolable crying after the kids went to bed. In my case my daughter is 4 and speech delayed, STILL not fully potty trained, but a smart and willful little girl. So much of the time I don’t know if her behavior is normal or if its just her normal…which makes me question everything I do.I love your writing and its posts like these (and reading every single comment that follows) that truly saves my sanity more times than I can let you know. THANK YOU.

  67. Thanks, I needed that. My daughter is 2.5 and I just had a newborn (2 weeks today!) and I’m finding my daughter’s 2-yr-oldness to be driving me bonkers some days and wondering why, Why, WHY does she do these things? (it even started before the baby arrived, so it could be some jealousy and such, but some of it is her age). But this was a great reminder of the best phrase a parent can chant – “this too shall pass.”

  68. My son is a delight (to me, anyway). I just keep waiting for the day when Iโ€™ll get to preschool to pick him up and theyโ€™ll say โ€œHe had a great day!โ€ instead of โ€œHe cried most of the time.โ€ Of course, heโ€™s two and this was his third day so Iโ€™m trying to cut us both some slack.

  69. Alyssa @ 01:27 PM I know Moxie has written about 3.5 year olds and I know I’ve added a huge post here on the subject myself. Look in the archives. Look it up on google and you will feel SO MUCH BETTER.No one is prepared for 3.5, it’s so much worse than 2. Sorry to those of you who have 2 yr olds. Forget you read this. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    There are quite a few moms who have purchased one of my seminars to help them through that stage. They seemed to find value from the seminars because they came back to purchase others. We’re still running our 2 for 1 sale, it goes until the end of September. Hope that helps. Good luck.

  70. Wow, this was timely to me as well.I have a little boy who is almost hitting two and tonight was having some of the biggest tantrums I have seen. My husband got his first job post grad school at last almost three weeks ago, and I have been working full time almost 8 months. I’m 6 months pregnant and hoping to resign in a couple months or so before the baby is born (since I figured out child care will cost us enough it truly isn’t worth it for me to work… plus I don’t want to leave a new baby and my company would only give me 6 weeks), but for now our son (who was always at home with one of us) is in child care. The first two weeks he bounced between my friend’s homes (well, well two I only worked 2.5 thanks to the holiday and DS coming down with some diarrhea bug). This week he started at full-time daycare, and though it looked like he was transitioning just beautifully at first I wasn’t so sure tonight. He was pretty cranky this morning, and very much so tonight despite having napped. He had a tantrum for at least 20 minutes just because I wouldn’t keep playing this Mickey Mouse video for him on You Tube he loves dancing too, and then when I wouldn’t let him empty all his diaper wipes. He screamed when I held him and when I put him in bed. It was awful!!!
    When I finally got him calmed down and was laying in the dark holding his hand through the bar of the crib, there was a part of me starting to question if we’re doing the right thing and if he’s in the right place. What if he hates the daycare (he always seems to have fun though when there, and I have been happy with it so far), or just hates not seeing us as much (he seemed to be pushing away more from DH recently, who was the stay-at-home dad before)? Then it hit me that I have seen a bit of this behavior before when he’s tired. And the more I listen to my gut, the more I really feel what I saw at night is just from him adjusting to his new schedule and from us still getting used to a new bedtime and waking routine. Reading this also just reminded me how some of this is probably a lot of the developmental stuff we’re going to hit around age 2 anyway, that he’d be doing even if this didn’t happen. I admit when I was trying to hold him and he refused to be consoled it was really hard not to take it personally, but I know I’m doing the best I can and this is just a temporary situation we have to get through now. I know no matter what, we’ll be dealing with transitions for awhile around here after the new baby arrives too. It won’t be easy, but we’re just going to get by the best we can and I’m going to keep remembering to keep it all in perspective when he is acting out because of it all.

  71. I find knowing what’s coming makes the periods of disequilibrium/ sleep regression easier to bear, because at least I know (as others have posted) it’s the stage and not the child. We are fairly serious about discipline and boundaries, but at the same time I’ve grown to see my children’s development like waves – a natural process and ebbing and flowing. It helps move me through the periods when I feel constantly like I need to be doing something different/new whatever. (This is especially helpful with sleep issues.) That said, I’m finding achieving patience with my soon-to-be 2.5 year old difficult now that I have a new baby and am so sleep deprived. Sometimes we have these moments, full of grace when I feel like, Ok I am a good mother, I am doing this right. And the rest of the time I’m going from zero to screechy faster than I would like.For anyone whose interest has been piqued by the frequent references to the Ames books (there’s one for every year of a child’s life – Three year old Friend or Enemy, for example) on this site: FYI, you can get used copies of all these books on amazon, and many sellers have them for ONE CENT a piece. I’m not kidding. ONE CENT. So you only pay shipping. I don’t find their datedness problematic – the developmental explanations and suggestions have really helped me.

  72. Bless you, Moxie! Age two was hard, due to a dairy allergy that wasn’t diagnosed until just after my daughter’s 3rd birthday. Then after a brief period of improvement, my daughter just became almost unbearable for almost 2 months (battles over everything). Though I’m a bit apprehensive that we might be back there in a few months, it’s also possible (and comforting) that she just hit the 3.5 stage early. In any case, it’s such a relief to be reminded that much of this stuff is not about my daughter’s personality or my parenting and that it won’t always be like this. I’m finally enjoying parenting (most of the time) for the first time in a while. So, I’d guess I’d tell my best friend that it won’t last forever and to try not to take it personally!

  73. Thank for this, Moxie. My daughter is 31 months, I’m 22 weeks pregnant, and I have been wondering for the last couple of months what I must be doing wrong because our days are so hard. Well, once in a while we have a wonderful day, and then I feel like I’m supermom doing everything right.But seriously, the whining and the crying are breaking me. And the constant, relentless requests for sparkly shoes, ice cream cones, princess dresses, puppies, cookies, and another movie. It is so draining. Lately, my daughter has taken to asking me for something and then automatically starting to cry before I even answer. WTF is that all about? It’s not like I say no to everything!
    To top it all off, she has been refusing to nap six days out of seven. And she needs a nap although not as badly as I do. So we spend our afternoons exhausted and unhappy and I usually resort to movies because I am so tired I can’t even think straight.
    I know, movies aren’t so terrible, particularly since she only has a small selection chosen by me and my husband. She’s content to watch Winnie the Pooh for the bajillionth time. I tell myself that we both need the down time and break from each other, but it still makes me feel like a loser to be so dependent on DVDs.
    Oh, and did I mention that potty training has been going on for months and she wears diapers 95% of the time. I try to myself that she’s simply not ready and that things will work out when she is, but I still feel like this must be my fault. I’ve read books, done sticker charts, bribed with chocolate chips and toys, bought fun undies, you name it. The girl won’t go.
    I shut down on the weekends and let my husband take over. I lie in bed and watch trash TV. I nap. I waste time on Facebook. I read cooking magazines. And I feel guilty and selfish about all of it.
    I do get some relief from a great babysitter who comes two mornings a week. I go to prenatal yoga and La Leche League meetings, where I am a leader. LLL is definitely the thing in my life that I feel I’m good at and is what’s keeping me sane.
    If I were my best friend, I’d say that I’m doing a better job than I probably think. I keep my cool most of the time, and my daughter and I have many quality moments together. We go to the library, museums, and playgrounds. I read her stories, play toys with her, and do art projects. I’ve found fun ways to involve her in cleaning and cooking. I invite her into bed when she wakes in the middle of the night to nurse and snuggle. I praise her and tell her I love her often. We kiss and hug and say nice things to each other.
    Oh, and I’m growing this new baby, which I tend to forget about in my dealings with the first child. But I’m doing the best I can to get enough sleep, eating reasonably well, practicing yoga, and trying not to overdo it when I feel myself getting worn out.
    So yeah, I think my best friend would tell me that I’m not exactly slacking off in the mothering department. And just because I have a hard day doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong.

  74. I have a 2 1/2 year old and an almost 4 year old. I am good at my job as a teacher and get to go in to work five days a week. I was feeling guilty for being so thankful for this job. Thanks for reminding me to cut myself some slack!

  75. Thanks so much ladies. I couldn’t even think yesterday of what I would say if I were my own friend. Now I know cos you lovely ladies said it! Thanks so much Cloud, Hush, L, & Hedra. Thanks for pointing out that its my situation that sucks, not me. While I’ve always been good at not blaming my son for his situation, able to be frustrated/angry with the issues rather than with him, it seems I wasn’t able to do this for myself!Spring is only just starting here, so winter doldrums, PMS, and all of us fighting colds one after the other for months on end on top of everything else probably aren’t helping my perspective right now. Ruminating overnight has let me realise that things are actually a lot better than they were even just a few months ago. Things are so much better that I am actually managing to put a little long-neglected self-care back on the agenda and start weekly pilates with my physio tomorrow! (I have serious chronic health issues so this is pretty important.)
    Things are improving, and the next 6 months actually have a lot of potential: we are moving on past the paed to specialists at the big children’s hospital in 2 months; we should get to the top of the lists for public speech assessment and services by the end of the year; preschool starts in February if he’s ready; and if he handles that then I can go back to freelancing a bit and feeling like I contribute. If we are both no longer too drained from everything else then the marriage won’t be so neglected. (And when I start earning money I am so going to spend it on a cleaner.)
    This has been really useful and I feel much better now. Hopeful. Thanks Moxie and moxites ๐Ÿ˜€

  76. My 3.5 year old is in her first day of preschool… and I think I’m in heaven! Almost time for pick-up, but ahhh… two hours of peace!I’ve finally started to figure out what makes me sane. I’ve declared myself 100% off-duty at 8:00 p.m., regardless of what children are or are not in bed. I need to be in bed at 9:00 p.m., so I’m adequately rested to get up at 6:00 a.m., so I can have a pot of coffee and do my morning prayers and get my head on straight before anyone starts trying to tear it off again. It’s a little insane how much this helps – I find myself often saying at lunch, on the bad days, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today, except that I didn’t get up early…” It’s crazy.
    Also, I’ve begun looking for child-care so that I can get serious about finding a part-time job. I’ve been talking about this for a long time, and it really is just time. I’m in the not-cut-out-to-be-a-full-time-SAHM-but-am-anyway camp, not quite thorugh the guilt bit, but ready to move forward. I’m really looking forward to JUST being a grown-up for a few hours a week!

  77. 5 1/2 was murder for us too. Our son is almost 6 and I can’t believe how different life feels and how much I’m able to fit in for myself now. I think I like being the parent of a school-ager!

  78. At this very moment I am cowering in my bedroom, hunkered down with my iPad and leaving my husband to deal with the “seething rage” (so perfectly put) of my overtired 3.5 year old, for whom I can do nothing right today. There are screams, because even when I am doing nothing right, he wants no substitutes. I could use some words of encouragement.

  79. Probably should have read this when it was first posted…but today looking for a distraction from the ditty in my head “failing all over again” I came here!
    The older one is just now three… and breath a sigh of release as easy as he has ever been and still so much more of challenge than the 3 month old baby! Grad school just started again, one more year… my final semester with extra credits needed to finish up, a job search, one kid hitting what I heard is the worst 3.5 and the other just getting mobile and not napping all the time…. And right here today in what I must admit will be the honeymoon of all of this I feel like I am on the cusp of total failure. help? ๐Ÿ™‚

  80. If I were my best friend, I’d give me a hug and let me cry all the tears locked up inside. Then I’d feed me chocolate till bedtime. Life sucks big time right now and I’m struggling beyond belief – my ex wants to go down the shared custody route and I’m so against it, it makes my whole body ache. I know you and your ex manage – but how? Don’t the kids spend all their time moving about? Don’t you have to have two of everything? How about “home” – where do your kids say they live? I’ve spoken to many people and most here in France seem against the idea… I just can’t imagine my ex dealing with the logistics and the idea that I’d have to be organised even when my girls aren’t with me makes me batshit crazy – I already feel very much the one who has to organise, plan, prepare everything… Added to that is the fact that I’m pretty sure my ex is mentally unstable, as well as unemployed and with no income (none that he’s admitted to me, anyway), so yeah, I’m a wreck.Things are going badly with my girls (aged 8 and 6, 4th and 1st grade), I feel so bitter about the fact that my ex seems to do all the fun stuff with them, and me, just the chores and boring stuff. So angry that they (the girls) don’t do as I ask, don’t help me out, don’t do anything but bicker and squabble till my brain liquefies. So miserable that we can’t seem to have fun, just the three of us, that all I can seem to do is get angry with them…
    FAIL.FAIL.FAIL all the way at the moment.
    I could sure do with my best friend’s hug, but I won’t be seeing her till Hallowe’en half term…

  81. @Sharon thanks. Yes, I may not always be clear/consistent about it (and honestly I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem) but I do set limits even about stuff I sometimes otherwise put up with (i.e. “We’re in a hurry, come here now!”). I’m blessed with a pretty easy going kid, so my inconsistencies/issues probably don’t drive him as batty as they might drive some others. Still, as an introvert (me), 12 hours (if I’m with him all day; usually I’m not) of non-stop GO complete with non-stop TALK and non-stop MAKE MY OWN CHOICES (him) can be a tad draining — go figure!

  82. A friend shared your blog with me and I just want to say THANK YOU!!! I have definitely been feeling like a bad parent lately…getting absolutely enraged when my 3.5 year old is hitting his sister (1) for no reason…when he throws tantrums over absolutely everything and talks to us like he’s a teenager already! Oy vey! But it’s so encouraging to hear that we are not alone. And I love the idea of finding something I’m good at, when I feel like I’m failing as a parent. God be with you all, this stage is crazy!!

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