I was one of those parents who believed that the hardest age would be two. We never really had a "terrible two" stage. We had days, or parts of days, that were rough. But for the most part, two wasn't that difficult. But three? Oh my LORD, three is getting tough. There are days when I wonder what happened to my daughter's sweet nature, because much of the time lately? It is GONE. Even with me, her beloved mama, upon whom she was heaping affection with reckless abandon not long ago.
So I did what any sensible mommy does. I called my best friend so that I could do some whining for once. She had her daughter a year and a half before I had the little one, so she's always been just enough ahead of the curve to warn me about what's coming next, and advise me on how to handle it. (And to think I had once been sad that we weren't pregnant at the same time. Little did I know then how great it would be this way, for me at least.) In fact, when I called her a few months ago to tell her how sweet the little one was being, how helpful, she broke the news to me that stormier seas were ahead. I believe her exact words were: "In my experience, that sweet and helpful stage was followed immediately by the sassiest, bossiest phase yet."
As always, her prediction came true, with alarming accuracy. So when I called her yesterday to report this, she laughed, of course, and then delivered her sage advice: "Take no prisoners." This is now my mantra.
So far, switching tactics from endless warnings to immediate action (straight to the naughty bench!) is working. It is startling how many times I have to do it, compared to before (she used to have time outs periodically, sometimes not even once in an entire week), but as long as it works, I'll keep doing it.
It's funny how you never realize until after the fact that you were living in a golden period of parenting. Only when you're in the trenches in one of the more "challenging" phases, white-knuckling it through each day, living for bedtime (theirs, not yours!), worn out by it all... only then do you look back and understand that you had been in a relative parenting oasis.
Those of you with 3-year-olds out there are nodding in recognition. Those who have been through it recently are laughing wryly in your newly-acquired wisdom, sympathetic but also shaking your heads at the naivete of the newbies. Those of you for whom this phase is a distant memory are thankful that you'll never have to go through it again, but can't help reminding us to enjoy it even so, because it goes by too fast. And those of you with infants or toddlers, who are looking ahead? Know this: the day is coming. No matter how sweet your baby or toddler is, this WILL happen to you. No one is immune! And when it happens? TAKE NO PRISONERS.