It happened first with breastfeeding. All I ever heard was that it was healthy for my newborn and a great opportunity for us to bond. No one ever told me that for the first six weeks my breasts would burn like fire and feel like I was carrying twice my newborn’s bodyweight from a hammock attached to my nipples. I’m just saying, a little warning would have been nice.
And then there was all that hype was about the terrible two’s. Imagine my surprise when my three-year old son began acting even more terrible after his third birthday. When I mention it now everyone says, “Oh, three is definitely harder than two, especially with boys…” Do we need to hold a press conference or something so we can all agree to a moniker change? For simplicity’s sake, the Terrible Two’s can stay, but maybe we should expand a bit: the Even-Worse Three’s, the Horrible Three’s, or the Threatening Three’s (in order to maintain alliteration). But let’s do something to warn all those unsuspecting mothers around the globe anxiously awaiting third birthdays. We owe it to them.
Now my oldest is six and, as far as I can tell, six seems twice as bad three. His aversion for me is apparent since he has no problem shouting any variation of the following when he doesn’t get his way: “You’re mean, Mom!” “You hate me, Mom.” “You want me to be sad, Mom.” And my least favorite, “I hate you, Mom” which he reserves for the severest occasions. Now you can say all you want about three, but at least then I was still the center of his stratosphere. I didn’t appreciate just how sacred that was. Now I am a gnat on the periphery. And a very loathsome one at that.
So I approached this parenting obstacle like I have any other: I googled it. And after sifting through all the listings (the first of which being the behavioral development of the Humpback Whale. No thanks.), I found the following snippet in the description of Your Six-Year Old by Louis Bates Ames:
The six-year-old is a complex child, entirely different from the five-year-old.Though many of the changes are for the good -- Six is growing more mature, more independent, more daring and adventurous -- this is not necessarily an easy time for the little girl or boy. Relationships with mothers are troubled -- most of the time Six adores mother, but whenever things go wrong, it's her fault. It used to be, at Five, that she was the center of the child's universe; now, the child is the center of his own universe.
Again, a little heads-up would’ve been nice.
So my oldest child has reached a development stage that’s taken him further from me than any other. And it’s breaking my heart. In those moments when my Six adores me, I hold him tight, ruffle his hair, and kiss his cheeks, afraid there will soon come a time when he won’t even let me do that. Thankfully there’s a glorious reprieve; at unexpected moments he’ll say, unprompted, “I love you, Mom.” And I swear it’s like the sun is breaking through the clouds to the tune of a hallelujah choir. I don’t mind being knocked from the center of his universe. He can be the sun now, and I’ll take pleasure circling him for the rest of my life.
But he is so grounded for all those other things he said.