Our daughter’s third birthday is upon us soon, and I love celebrating her arrival into the world and our lives. I’m not much of a party person but we’re having a small gathering in her honor this weekend. She told me she wanted an alien-themed party which surprised me since all she ever sings or wants to watch is Paw Patrol. I returned the Paw Patrol party décor for solar system banners and found glow-in-the dark aliens to top her cake. I hope she feels as special as she is when she wakes up to aliens everywhere on Sunday! She’s our talkative, stubborn, curious, sing-out-loud three-year-old who rules this house with the pout of her lips. Fei Fei makes me laugh the hardest, love the deepest and can frustrate the hell out of me like no other. I can’t believe how fast three years of life has come and gone. My baby is a baby no more.
As she grows more into herself, I have to let her be three and understand toddler logic does not always jive with mom logic. I heard someone use the phrase “threenager” but now I understand what it means to live with one. When she refuses to do something, I have to listen and address her needs as best I can. It’s hard when we are on a schedule to slow down and try to accommodate what seems like an irrational request or refusal. I find myself with mounting irritation and speaking in a louder voice, allowing my own feelings to escalate because I’m not getting my way. I stop and take a deep breath like I learned from Daniel Tiger and try to calm down. A mom-friend gave me advice to say “let’s do a reset” and start the interaction again so both parent and child can relax. She recommended reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham as I navigate Fei Fei’s growing independence and “I-don’t-want-any-helpers” attitude.
I try to be a gentle parent but I fail at times. When I find myself yelling, I tell my daughter that I don’t like talking this way and feeling this way. I am frustrated because I need her help but she doesn’t want to help. I try to explain why she should brush her teeth or put on her coat or whatever battle of wills we are playing out at the time. I don’t know if this is actually working for us because it seems I have these moments at every turn of our day. I hope Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids sheds light on how to manage my own feelings as my three-year-old asserts her ideas and needs. (And if anyone has advice or book recommendations, please share in the comments!) I am happy she has a strong spirit and will; I’m proud of her ability to vocalize her feelings. I want her to feel seen and heard and understood. I need tools on how to deal with the moments when my needs and her needs are at odds.
Three years of big life lessons. Three years of a lot less sleep. Three years of the snuggliest, purest hugs I’ve ever gotten. Three years of childhood and motherhood and marriage with a child. I am so blessed to have these three glorious years and profound learnings. Happy birthday Fei Fei! Thank you for being you!