As another weekend full of family bonding time comes to a close, let me tell you something about three year olds.
They are brilliant, adorable, charming, cuddly, energetic, cute as heck, independent, adventurous, inquisitive, sweet, lovable, and hilarious.
They are apparently also part mogwai.
You remember, mogwai, right? They were the irresistible little creatures in the 1980s movie, Gremlins. All day they looked like this:
Cute, cuddly little things. Then, at midnight (actually, I think it was if they were fed after midnight, but whatever), they would transform into this:
I'm willing to bet my next paycheck (except my Starbucks money) that the guy who dreamed up mogwai had most definitely raised a three year old. Except you don't have to feed them after midnight for this to happen. Seems the only criteria for transformation is the presence of oxygen.
Bedtime tonight was a perfect example. The kid behaved well for 95% of the rest of the day, which is really impressive for a three year old. Then bedtime comes, and his head starts to spin in circles. I swear. He did okay through jammies and toothbrushing, but as soon as it was time to - GASP - lie down, all bets were off. Cute little fuzzy creature becomes scaly, toothy monstrosity in the blink of an eye.
So, I used the system that has been working for us. I left the room. I calmly told him that he needed some alone time to think about things, and I left. I set a timer for three minutes, which doesn't sound like very long, but for him it is. Much sobbing ensued. And the kid was upset, too. Ha! Okay, I didn't cry this time, but sometimes I do. I hate this whole process and I won't miss it when it's gone. (Please tell me it will be gone someday?!)
When I went back in, we continued our routine of singing bedtime songs together. He started getting edgy again and just as I was about to give him a second period of alone time, he lunged out of bed and said, "I wanna huuuuug!"
In that moment, I realized he actually did need me to show him some affection. Though he can be a difficult little thing at times (and only at times, we are so very fortunate that way), he still needs me to be the person he can always call on for a dose of comfort. And though I was still a little riled from his previous outburst, and was trying to hide it, I couldn't deny him that. He asked me to sit down. He crawled up into my lap and snuggled up to me with every inch of his body that he could. He sighed contently as I rocked him back and forth in the dark in the middle of his bedroom floor.
And then, the creature who'd been screaming at me minutes before and demanding that Daaaaaaddy do night-nights... whispered to me...
"Mommy? I love you to the moon and back."
He'd never said that to me before. Hubby and I both tell him that all the time, but this was not a reply to a statement from me. It was completely organic and quite obviously genuine. And in that second, I was confused, because I was completely melted by his sweetness, and also feeling like it must be a trick. I rocked him a while later, set him gently in his bed, covered him up, told him I loved him, and was delighted at the lack of protest as I left the room.
In fifteen minutes, we'd run the full gamut of funny, cute, hyper, sweet, furious, devastated, and back to content again.
And that, in a nutshell, is what it's like to parent a three year old.