September 2, 2010

Maybe It's the Terrible Threes

Nothing like a morning at the park to make you feel like a horrible parent. I'm starting to hate parks. They're stressful experiences these days; I feel like I'm on constant alert. I can't relax, I can't talk to other moms because the moment I do, Caleb pulls something.

He throws rocks, accidentally or intentionally hitting another child. He pushes, he shoves, he hits. He tackles another little boy, thinking it's a game only to stare in confusion when the little boy starts crying.

I can't even begin to count how many times I've told Caleb this kind of behavior is wrong and unacceptable. I've put him on time-out, I've spanked him, I've talked to him. Still, the misbehavior continues.

I know his speech delay isn't helping. I have no idea how much of what I say actually computes for him. How much does he really understand? The problem is, he's bigger than most other three year olds. Which means he's stronger, too. Other moms and kids see him, believe him to be at least four, and then expect him to act and comprehend and play accordingly.

I'm so frustrated. Other kids watch and then avoid Caleb. I've even heard a few call him "a bad boy." Other moms watch and then think I am an incompetent mother. And who knows? Maybe they're right.

But the problem is, Caleb isn't a bad boy. He's sweet and loving and funny. He's the kind of boy that runs up to the ice cream truck and says "Ice Ceam, peas!" to the ice cream man. And once the man hands down his snowcone, Caleb will profusely and repeatedly thank him: "Thank welcome! Thank welcome! Thank welcome!"

He's the kind of little boy who hugs and snuggles stuffies and often falls asleep at night with them piled all around him on the bed.

He's the kind of little boy who calls tornados "tomatoes" and when he eats Cars fruit snacks, he'll stop and say "Yummy Police Cars!" because the purple Radiator Springs police car gummy is his favorite.

He's the little boy who who gives hugs and says good-bye to Daddy every morning and after every lunch hour, often watching Daddy through the living room window as he drives away. "Bye, Da-ee! Bye Da-ee!" he says, even after Daddy is long gone. Sometimes, if we're watering in the front yard, he'll look at Jason's parking spot and say "Where Da-ee go?" Then he'll answer his own question. "Da-ee at work!"

This is the kind of boy Caleb is. Unfortunately, at the park and at church, no one else sees that boy. I wish they did; I love my little man and trust me, I know how difficult and stubborn and challenging he can be. But that's not the complete picture. That's not who he is all the time.

But after the third time-out, after the second spanking, when he'd successfully dumped out all the soapy bubble solution at the MOPs kick-off meet & greet today, I'd had enough. I wasn't meeting and greeting; more like chasing and disciplining. So I gathered our things and we went home.

One good thing has come from all this, though. I've realized how totally inadequet I am without the help and support of Someone far greater. Only by His grace and providence will Caleb live to see four. Only by His mercy will I figure out this parenting thing.

Sorry for making this a venting post, y'all. We've been struggling all summer, and I haven't been brave enough to post about it until now. I believe we've made some progress and that Caleb's behavior is (slowly) improving. But I tell ya what, this stage of toddlerhood royally sucketh.


LeAnna said...

Awww, girl. {hugs} I'm sorry it's been a rough Summer. Boys are a totally different breed, that's the only thing I can figure. They're rough and tough, and full of testosterone. The one thing I keep telling myself is that these are just stages. They won't be wild children forever. You are NOT incompetent. I think you're a great Mother, and your little guy is just that, a guy. He'll learn. :) Hopefully one of these days soon we can chat. Every time I think of it it's the wrong timing! Soon, though. Love you, girl!

kevswifey said...

2 things.... 1 you are NOT an incompetent mother! we all have those phases with our children and this will not be the last time you battle with caleb. (just like the ongoing battle in my house won't be the last lol) and 2 You just made me realize how quick i am to judge other moms when their child is acting out and mine happen to be behaving that day. so thank you, you revealed a place of sin in my life to me so now i can change. I love you and This too shall pass my dear! Hugs!!!

Mama Sue said...

Big bear hug from both of us. I feel for you. And wish I was closer to help. He is such a sweet boy. We love him dearly. No, you are not incompetent. Don't let Satan get a strong hold. You are the best mom Caleb could have.
Love, Mom

Nicole said...

Thanks for all the encouragement, ladies (and Mom :)! It really lifted my spirits to read your comments and to know I'm not alone. :)

Caleb has actually made a lot of progress with both speech and behavior this summer. The Lord reminded me of that yesterday. Really, he is doing so much better now than he was at the start of the summer. I have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to smile about.

Love you guys! Thanks for the virtual hugs and very real prayers!

Shannon said...

I love you honesty. It is so encouraging when people are real.
I sure you are an amazing mom!