Imagine if you had no idea that babies don't sleep through the night when are first born. You figured you give birth and go on with your normal life. Then the baby comes and - shock! - the baby is up several times a night, ready to party. How much harder those nights would be if you had no idea that they were completely normal!
I think I need such a reality check with my 3-year old. Truthfully, he has been very challenging from day 1. And I think I have reached a point where I have lost perspective as to what is typical 3-year old behavior and what is extremely difficult-just my kid-behavior. In other words, it would be a little easier to deal with the constant defiance and meltdowns if I somehow knew that they were normal.
My friend pointed out that 3 is the age of defiance and strong will. And that my son just does every stage a little - more. When other kids had stranger anxiety at 1 year, my kid freaked out at every class and each playdate. When other kids were having one tantrum a day at 2, my kid was having 10-15. And perhaps now, while most kids are defiant some of the time, my child is defiant virtually all of the time.
I think the problem is that I was better at handling the intensity before now. Sometimes I just feel like I've had enough. I just want it to get easier already! And truthfully, a lot of things have gotten easier. It's just that the things that haven't are that much harder.
My husband and I wrack our brains and read every book on the subject to try to find something that works. I think that the piece of this that we have the most trouble with is accepting that being defiant is part of our son's job right now. And he does his job with tremendous gusto and dedication!
He is supposed to be defiant, just like an infant is supposed to be up all night. It's funny how so many of these developmental stages clash so perfectly with the needs of the parents. After the exhausting experience of labor, parents need to sleep! And so, the child is up all night. And after the tantrums of the terrible twos, parents need a break. And so the child becomes even more willful.
For me, one of the major challenges of parenting is to give in to stage my child is in - no matter how difficult - while at the same time helping them learn the skills to move on to the next stage.
I have a long way to go.