Friday, May 16, 2014

It's a three year old thing

Bethie is doing great. She started speech therapy and is learning to say "Yesssssssssss." She's energetic, smart, and hilarious.

But something pretty horrible happened last October.

She turned three.

Which means that now, every day at 11am, I pick her up at school. She is cute and charming to the teachers, to the teachers' aids, to the other parents, to the other kids waiting on the little steps. She says, "BUH byyyyye!" in her signature way and waves or hugs each of them as they all remark how adorable she is, her teacher gives me some anecdote about how nurturing she was to another child when he was crying, the boymoms say how they love her wardrobe and hairbows, and she prances to the her coach/Ford Expedition that awaits.

Then she hops in the car, all by herself, and I hold my breath.

If it is a good day, she looks at me and says, "Mama! 'Peech?" or "'Ome?" or "Go?"or maybe "Eat?" and launches into a modified version of Wheels on the Bus.

But some days it is one of Those Days.

And on Those Days, after her customary charm and prance, she alights her coach and just stands there. When I ask her to get in her carseat, she looks at me, squints her adorable little almond eyes, and says, "NO." So when I lift her up to physically put her in her carseat, she arches her back and slides down so that it is almost impossible for me to do the buckle, chanting, "No, no, NO Mommy! NO! NOOOOOO!" Then she holds up both of her little cute little hands and arranges her cute little middle fingers and shoots me a double bird.

Okay, not really. Her fine motor skills are not quite that advanced. They didn't have a lot of playdoh in the orphanage, you know. Had she had access to small muscle building toys I'm sure she would have perfected the double bird by now and maybe added a, what do you call it, when you put one hand into the crook of your other elbow? As if to say SHOVE IT, MAMA ?

Those Days, I don't like. Those Days I take a deep breath and wonder how long till I can get her into bed for a nap and hope that I have a Yo Gabba Gabba waiting on the DVR. Those Days I handle really well. Sometimes. Sometimes on Those Days I don't handle it well, because as much as I was hoping I would magically evolve into the perfect mother the moment we adopted her, dang it, it hasn't happened yet.

Yesterday, she took one of Those Days to a whole new level. Yesterday shall go down as Bethie's First Epic Tantrum.

It was about five o'clock and I was helping Eva rearrange her room. Bethie had had one fruit popsicle and came to me, face smeared in red, holding another wrapped in plastic, asking, "Ope? I wan more. Ope?" I told her no, one was enough. She screamed YESSSSSSSSSS. I said no.

She screamed NO! MOMMY! WANT! MORE!

And she threw the popsicle down on the floor.

I told her to pick it up.


And slammed the door in my face.

Okay, this, this is the difference between boys and girls. I've had two toddler boys. One of them was very strong willed. Very challenging. But he never slammed a door in my face. Slamming doors in faces in a female thing. Slamming doors is a, I'D FLIP MY FINGERS AND MY TOES OFF AT YOU RIGHT NOW IF ONLY I HAD THE FINE MOTOR SKILLS TO DO SO.

Females slamming doors in faces has built an entire network, y'all.

Evangeline, sweet, mostly obedient, so conscientious almost ten year old Evangeline, who loves her little sister more than almost anything in the world, watched all this, wide eyed. Then she turned to me incredulously and said, "Who does she think she is?!"

Smirking at the irony, I opened the slammed door and said, it's bedtime now, little girl. NOOOOOOOOOOO! NO NIGHTNIGHT! NOOOOOOOOO! It's been a while since I undressed a child whose bones have suddenly turned into noodles, but the skills came back. Got the clothes off. Then laying her down on the bed, I crossed one of my legs over her thrashing legs while inserting two kicking feet into a pullup and pajama pants on still thrashing legs. Then pulling a top over a screaming, gyrating head.

I won. The pyjamas were on.

I didn't earn that Tantrum Management mommy merit badge for nothing, y'all. 

Then I kissed her, told her I loved her, and put her to bed. She tried to run out of the room several times and we had to fetch her and lay her back down. She screamed. About 20 minutes. Then fell asleep. Deep, deep asleep. For fourteen hours.

Afterwards, Eva was going on and on about how unbelievable that was. She was amazed. She couldn't believe that her precious little sister had done that. Over a popsicle!

I said, "Eva. You know when I told you you were hard? That was you. THAT WAS YOU."

"Every day??" she asked.

I nodded. "Just about. Every. Day."

Her eyes were as big as saucers. "Wow."

Wow indeed.

Evangeline Rose was the. hardest. toddler. ever. She woke up in the morning, fought with me for approximately seven hours, took a nap, then fought me three more hours till bedtime.

For Halloween of 2006, when people asked what she was going to dress up as, I always said, "A witch," then muttered, "appropriately."

She was all of 25 months old.

And she was a terrorist.

I have a clear memory of me, very pregnant with Ike, at the very end of my frayed hormonal rope, looking at a beautiful, charming-to-everyone-ELSE three year old girl, who glared at me with squinted eyes as I said in a very pathetic Sally Struthers voice, Do you even love me? Do you? Because the way that you treat me, I don't even think you love me!

I blogged about that girl. I wrote this when she was exactly - exactly - Bethie's age. Later, I confessed to you here:

I recently told Walker, at the end of an especially hard day, "If Eva Rose and I were dating, we would have broken it off by now. We would both have said, "It's not you, it's me. You're great, really. I just don't think it's working out."

But we're not dating. She's my daughter. She's the result of my prayers and wishes. And, as always, God knew to answer the prayers that I never prayed, but needed. For I can no longer claim to be unaware of my own sin. I can never claim to be ignorant of my own need for the cross. I can never, ever deny my desperation for daily, sometimes hourly, redemption.

I think there was also another reason. I think that while God was refining me by the fire of one crazy strong willed toddler, he was also preparing me for the crazy strong willed sister who would follow her later. Those hard hard years were a grace in disguise. Because that first little girl? I birthed her myself. She had no traumatic background. She wasn't taken from all she knew before she became ours. There was no tragedy in her past. She had no issues, attachment or otherwise. Yet she almost caused me to lose my ever loving mind. Just about. Every. Day. 

And now, she's helping me to raise her protege.

I have thought many times over the past year that I am really, really glad Bethie was not my first child, but my fifth. My fifth two year old. My fifth three year old.  Because if my first child were adopted, I know I would be freaking out right now, thinking that tantrum, and all Those Days leading up to it was an adoption thing, an attachment thing, a parenting thing.

It's not.

It's a three year old thing.

Three year olds are narcissistic, irrational, demon-possessed little sociopaths.
Until five minutes later when they are adorable, cuddly, funny little puppies. 

They are all like this.

All of them. 

Whether you adopt them or not.

So, sweet little Bethie, with your adorable/evil ways, I'm on to you, girl. I know that October, when you turn four, will be the month of my deliverance. It will get better. I know this is not the Forever You, nor the Forever Me. I know that This Too Shall Pass.

I know that you are exploring, testing, seeing just how far you can push me. Seeing just how far my love for you will stretch.

Bring it on, pumpkin. Momma can take it. My love for you will stretch and stretch and stretch and it will never, ever break.

And I might even love you just a little bit more, the minute you turn four.


  1. Oh, how I love this. And how I bristle at 3 year olds. My youngest (my only boy) just turned four in March, and I am still awaiting the full transformation into Human. It's slow, but I can see it on the horizon. :) Hoping for a quick five months till October for you!

  2. WONDERFUL post - so real, so down-and-dirty, so TRUE! Hang in there, Momma. You totally ROCK!

  3. Sounds like wonderful, deeply trying, deeply satisfying family times <3 Nice job!

  4. Love this. You are so funny in your writing, even when you are writing about important things, great talent! Love the photo of you two together! She is just adorable!

  5. Oh my goodness. My once sweet little girl who is almost exactly Bethie's age pees BESIDE the toilet, calls me stupid, runs out front alone every chance she gets, climbs onto the roof of the van, torments her baby brother, and throws her food on the ground (as she declares it, too, is stupid). This post was good for my soul. So easy to forget this isn't their forever selves. Thank GOD for that.

  6. Ugh. My comment disappeared. . . .

    Love this and your perspective. Two was a piece of cake. Three just about drove me over the edge. I'll never forget someone saying, "When they are three and say 'no,' they mean it!"

    Glad you are parenting wisely and winning the battles now. Because three rears its head a bit again at 13. :-) You are laying important groundwork.

  7. Love this post for so many reasons. I have never understood the "Terrible Twos" label--it SHOULD be the Terrible, Traumatic, Teeth-gritting Threes. With the first four, I could almost physically see a switch flip at the fourth birthday. Sure hoping I get it again with my fifth 3yo (July 25!!!!).

    I also can't express how much I appreciate your tactful reference to the behavior being neither excused nor blamed on adoption. That drives me absolutely crazy when people do that. (Biting tongue to prevent further rant)

  8. I already commented once today, but as I re-read your post and looked at the pics again, I realized I should have said one more thing. Bethie is adorable , but YOU look absolutely beautiful (especially your gorgeous eyes) in that pic of the two of you. Motherhood (even of a three-year-old) obviously agrees with you. :)

  9. I am intrigued by the idea of God preparing you by giving you your older daughter. My first child has autism, learning disabilities, etc., etc. I had him when I was barely more than a child myself (or at least, looking back it certainly seems that way now that I am hurtling towards middle age). I made so many mistakes :-/ But now I look back and I see how, even then, God had prepared me. As a teenager I had an interest in neuroscience, which included autism. I had even read books about autism.
    The next two children were a breeze compared to the first one. Now they're getting older (the youngest is 8!) I am wondering what God has in store for us next. We're buying a bigger house. We have prayed and prayed for the right house, one that God will use for His plan, you know? Also, my husband's salary has increased. When so many people are struggling to get by we're doing better than ever. I felt guilty - but I pray that all of it will be used to God's glory. If I can do half as good a job as a mother as you have I will be so glad. I'm so broody lately - but maybe that's God leading us to adoption or fostering. I'm not sure. Thank you so much for the honesty and humour with which you blog. Thank you. You make me think it IS possible. Thank you.

  10. Oh my. I have a two year-old and a one-year old, and I've been patting myself on the back saying that the "terrible twos" will be over soon and things will be downhill from there. Sounds like I need to gear up for some dark days ahead! ;-)

  11. I miss your blog.

    Last year, I said to my husband regarding one of my children, "I would never choose a friend who treats me like this. Never in the history of my life have I been treated so poorly or so disrespectfully."

    And yet...


    God gives us what we need to parent them and love them without condition. It's a miracle, this love.

  12. I miss hearing about you, Walker, and your kiddos -- even your mom. Anything you can share would be great!

  13. Oh this made me laugh (in a good way) because I can sooo relate! My daughter (yep, must be a girl thing) was EXACTLY like that too! Oh. my. word. was she ever like this.

    And I think the same thing, as we hope to adopt within the next few years, that God surely must have been teaching me about the hard moments through my kids, especially her as we have butted heads ever so much over the years.

    Thank you for this entertaining, er, I mean, enlightening post!



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