Right from Terrible Twos to My Little Threenager

The middle child. The younger and far more spicier bruise.

HOLY MIDDLE CHILD!

No seriously, I don’t know if it’s just a stereotype or some funny joke that people make but our middle child is the epitome of MIDDLE CHILD. And I’m tired. Like I can’t fight the exhaustion any longer. And when his daycare provider starts asking me questions about his ability to listen, attention span, you know, all the things I’m frustrated with at home, I get that pit in my stomach like oh gosh here we go he is that child.

A few nights ago we started weaning him off the pacifier. And he was addicted so we fully anticipated it’d be hard. We used the “snip the tip” trick. If you don’t know, now you know. Our pedi recommended it when the oldest bruise was having trouble weaning from his…after we had tried both cold turkey and the binky fairy. And it was a miracle. But we also weaned the oldest at just over 2 years old, and Dominic is closer to 3 years old right now (I know, I know, we’ve been lazy about it but ehh who cares!). He’s only been using it at night/naps since turning 1, but still he was addicted.

Honestly, it’s been easy…he whined a little bit night one, but we told him his binky was getting smaller because he was getting bigger and offered him his favorite stuffed dino instead and eventually he went to sleep. And then he was fine at daycare and each night as I’ve snipped a little bit more off the 5,000 binkies he has, he’s been totally fine.

BUT let’s talk about awake time, because since the first snip, during awake times he’s been a monster. He’s always been our more emotional, loud, intense, mischievous, physical (any other adjectives I’m missing?) child but these past 5 days have been a whole new monster, a bigger one. Of course I love this monster with all my heart so please don’t take this post that way. I’m really wondering if this new monster was birthed out of the pacifier transition. Could it be?!

It’s this new monster that inspired me to write this post because it also got me thinking about terrible twos and threenagers. And I realized we’re probably in the heat of it because we have the best of both worlds colliding since he is turning three in a few months. I feel like we were lucky with Luca because he didn’t really give us a terrible two phase or a threenager phase. Maybe that’s just because he was the first child. But it’s got me thinking and I want some advice. Here are the things we are struggling with right now:

  • Voice volume: On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no voice and 10 being outdoor-voice-scream-as-if-you’re-in-trouble, he’s at a hard 10 most of the time.
  • Patience: If he asks for his water and I don’t give it to him before he’s done asking, it’s an immediate whine fest, which leads to the next one.
  • Whining: 24/7 whining to the point where he needs to be reminded to “speak like a big boy” or “ask nicely”…I’m at that point where I model for him what he should be saying/doing, and it often sounds like this: “Dominic, try saying ‘Mommy can I please have a snack?’ instead of ‘I WANNNNTTTTT SNACKKKKK NNNOOOWWWW!'”
  • Anger and Biting: The oldest bruise was long over the biting phase by now. But when Dominic is really, really, really angry – at his brother – he still bites, and he bites hard. We have had a handful of occasions where he has bitten Luca so hard that there is blood, and a full teeth circle bruise left over on Luca for weeks. The good news is he hasn’t done it to anyone other than Luca in a year, but I still worry so much about his anger management if, at his worst, it comes to this.
  • Listening: This one doesn’t make me lose my temper, instead it just makes me worry. Any time we give him a direction or ask a question, he definitely hears us, but doesn’t actually listen to us. We have to tell him to get his shoes from the bin 20 times, each time more aggressively and loudly before he actually gets his shoes. His daycare provider says he’s always the last one that everyone has to wait for during transitions (because, and I quote my daycare provide, “He’s usually still in the middle of the room dancing or jumping around.” Yup sounds about right). Or sometimes we will even tell him something, he’ll look at us and smile, and completely ignore (or do the opposite!) of what we just asked. It’s maniacal actually.

Before I go running to the pedi at our three year appointment with all of these concerns (that are probably just normal but when it’s your kid you worry way more right?), what’s your take? I want all the tips and tricks for everything above, because I can’t keep losing my patience any longer. Is this all related to the binky? Or some type of bigger developmental phase? (Usually I’m pretty good at understanding these phases, but this just seems kind of out of the blue.) And if it’s some bigger developmental change, what can I do that’s different from my usual lose-my-patience-then-lose-my-sh*t approach? Help a sister out because I need it!

This one goes out to the…

  • Single moms/dads/caretakers
  • SAHMs/SAHDs with partners who work 24/7
  • Moms or Dads whose partners travel for work all the time
  • Military moms/military dads
  • Anyone else who spends days and nights on their own caring for kids
  • Parents and families who live long distances from other immediate family members and support systems

I put this picture up on my Instagram stories last night as a half-joke because my husband’s been on a (one night, one point five day) golf trip this weekend. And I captioned it “Dad’s away for a golf weekend we’re fine I swear.”

In reality, he will have been gone for a total of about 28 hours. Kind of pathetic for me to complain. But whenever he goes away it feels like an eternity. So behind this half-joke picture is a mom whose anxiety is through-the-roof high.

…whose spending the entire time watching the clock and coaching the seconds to tick by just a little faster…

…whose setting the tiniest goals for her own sanity (just make it to nap time, just make it to bedtime)…

…whose engaging in the great mental debate of whether or not to spend the 45 minutes getting the kids ready to leave the house and get out for a bit vs. staying home to avoid all aspects of the real world so no one has to see my single-parenting…

…whose sleeping with all lights inside and outside the house on and the TV on, and actually not really sleeping at all because of the fear of being alone in the house overnight with the kids…

…whose chewing off all of her cuticles and putting bandaids on bloody fingers because it’s the epitome of the manifestation of her anxiety…

Literally my world stops and time stands still because of how much anxiety I have doing this on my own. I am SO grateful that most of the time I get to do this life with my best friend, the greatest dad, and the handiest helper. So I suppose it’s SUPER selfish of me to throw a tantrum when he asks to get away for a little bit, or when he works late nights and has meetings leaving me to handle dinner and bedtime on my own.

I’m not quite sure my whole point in all of this but I think there are a few. First, behind every happy photo or what looks like a put-together mom could be something entirely different. I try not to judge or compare; I know we are all doing our best. And second, I think it’s important to normalize NOT being ok all the time, admitting when you need help (usually I’m the first to call in grandparent reinforcements, it just so happened that this weekend all grandparents were busy!), or letting go of things that aren’t going your way.

And, lastly, I try my best to put mind over matter and keep the most positive outlook, to enjoy the QT with my QTs, to not be afraid of leaving the house because I know it’s better to be out and about playing and interacting with others rather than hiding in my own safe-haven of a home going stir crazy and allowing myself to dwell in my anxiety. Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it goes poorly. But the thing is, it ALWAYS goes. I try and find peace in that.

Bottom line, SO. MUCH. RESPECT. for the people who do this all the dang time. And if that’s you, I hear you and I see you and I feel you. You are a freaking superhero!

Winkies and Whoo-Whoos

I had a moment last night. A moment of “pinch me am I delirious or is this really happening?”. Felt like it could have been out of an SNL sketch. It was happening. Here’s what happened.

Look at poor Tessa. What do you think is going through her head? THESE TWO NUTBALLS I HAVE FOR BROTHERS, HERE WE GO AGAIN! P.S. She’s happy if she has her sponge. Doesn’t let that thing go when she’s in the bath. Loves her dang sponge.

Threw these three into the bath together because Daddy was still in work meetings and Mommy was already running wayyyy past bedtime. Usually the bow gets a bath first by herself and then while mommy puts the bow to bed, the bruises get a bath together. I wasn’t prepared for this, and honestly, I see-sawed between just straight up laughter or parenting meta-moments wondering if I should really be jumping in and being the voice of reason? Or explanation?

Luca started it with “Mommy, me and Dommy have a winky and Tessa has a whoo-whoo!” Just randomly. Like no big lead up and no precursor studying of naked baby bodies before the onslaught of questions and comments. I immediately buckled up.

Dommy: Why does Tessa have a whoo-whoo? Where’s my whoo-whoo?

Me: *Crickets* (I’m too tired for this so I’m sitting there quietly weighing my options for how I want to proceed.)

Luca: Because girls have whoo-whoos and boys have winkies.

(Luca for the win!)

For the record, I tried to explain the appropriate anatomical word for female part and male part a while back, but it never stuck and just made my husband feel awkward (He says it’s weird if they say “vagina”). Who knows, if, to this day, they even know the real scientific words for private parts. But regardless here we are in the middle of bath time tossing around “winkies” and “whoo-whoos” like it’s our job.

Dommy: My winky’s right here! *Furiously pulls on his winky in his best effort to show me…as if I haven’t seen it before…and as if it can detach from his body.*

Luca: Dommy, my winky’s bigger than yours!

Dommy: NO! My winky’s bigger! (Is this a boy thing? Why do they compare winkies so freaking much?)

Luca: *Giggling and pointing* And see that’s Tessa’s whoo-whoo! That’s where her poop comes out!

*Dommy leans down and stares intently at Tessa’s whoo-whoo trying to process that’s where poop comes out, which it is in fact NOT where poop comes out.*

For this fleeting moment in my head I had to think about whether or not I actually wanted to explain the difference between the poop hole and the pee hole but honestly I was so exhausted I just let it go.

And then Luca did it for me.

Luca: My pee comes out of my winky! See! *Begins peeing in bath straight across Tessa (she’s in the middle) towards Dominic and thinks it’s hilarious.*

Dommy: *Looks down at his own winky, which is still submerged in the bathwater (thank goodness – otherwise we would have had criss-crossing fire hoses straight across Tessa).* And I start seeing a stream flowing and now know he is peeing in the bath too, right in Tessa’s direction.

Poor girl is sitting right smack in between her two nutball brothers getting her whoo-whoo scrutinized while being peed on.

So I guess my question is this: That was normal right?! That’s totally what happens when kids start to notice private parts and think potty talk is hilarious. I handled it fine right? Maybe I shouldn’t have put Tessa in the bath with them? But goodness they’re only 4 and 2, that’s fine right? Or is Luca or Dommy going to tell everyone at school that they showed Tessa their winky and they saw her whoo-whoo?! Oh god oh god oh god.

Also, how do I get boys to stop peeing in the bath? And to think it’s gross instead of funny?

And, like, how on earth am I ever going to handle the birds and the bees conversation? Actually, I won’t have to, at least for the boys. Gona make dad handle that one.

I think I’ll just keep bath time separate from now on, that was too much for my exhausted brain at 7:30 at night on a work day. Time for wine. And bed.

Good thing they’re cute.

Boy Toys: Cars and Dinos and Blocks…Oh My!

Ok so I have to admit I have a major case of third child syndrome. Don’t know if that’s a thing, but we definitely had/have second child syndrome with Dominic, so poor Tessa doesn’t even stand a chance.

I did everything to a T for that first child, followed ALL the rules. Kept up with all the cleaning protocols, didn’t use a single product that wasn’t all natural. Talked to the pediatrician before trying anything new and talked to the pediatrician about every little worry or question that creeped into my mind. You know the drill. Back then, Whole Foods was my jam; now I consider it a weekly win if I make it down the organic or all-natural aisle in Stop & Shop. (For the record, Whole Foods is still my jam, there just isn’t one close enough to me right now for me to consider it a worthwhile trip.)

Second child meant the 5 second rule turned into the 60 second rule, we no longer carried the high chair/shopping cart cover with us everywhere we went, and Welch’s fruit snacks vs. Annie’s bunnies = same difference. Ditched the Babyganics shampoo and body wash for good ole-fashioned Johnson’s baby shampoo and body wash because it just smells so damn good.

You get the picture, let me cut right to it. This poor girl lives out her days playing with toy cars, dinosaurs, legos, and trucks. I wish I could say it is because I’m ignoring gender norms and raising this bow to shatter all the glass ceilings. That would be noble of me- and philosophically the beliefs and values I want to and try to instill in all my kids align with this. You better believe I want her to shatter ALL the glass ceilings. But this was just serendipity I suppose – causal result of laziness on my part.

I was talking to my mom about it – feeling guilty I don’t really have any feminine (girly?) play things for her. She made a good point. She said, “That’s not true all your baby toys are gender neutral, you just don’t bother to actually take them out.” New Year’s Resolution 1: make an effort to take out the baby toys more often (I’m allowed to make a New Year’s Resolution in August because I’m a teacher so technically my New Year starts at the end of the month.).

I thought about it more; it’s still kind of weighing on me. On one hand, there is zero reason I need to add any more crap to the already-overflowing playroom we have. But I do sort of have big girl dreams to be able to play dress up with my girl, to watch her play with a doll house, to see her take care of her baby dolls. Or at least let her have the option of choosing this (because I know if she chooses diggers over dolls or dinos over dress up, I’m totally fine with that too – believe it or not I was the BIGGEST tom-boy athlete growing up!). And if this is the case – to even give her the option to choose what toys she wants to play with – then I need to drastically overhaul the playroom. It is head-to-toe all things BOY right now. Time to make way for girl! New Year’s Resolution 2: Clean, purge, clear out (not a bad excuse to do this!).

No need for me to rush into buying all playthings girl right now, she’s still too young for it to matter. But thinking about Christmas and her birthday in January, I’m going to need all the ideas from all the girl moms out there. What’s the best girly gift for a one year old? Is there even one? Or is it really completely gender neutral until the toddler years? Do I just wait till she’s old enough to realize what she wants and wait for her to ask for it? Would love for you to drop me a comment below or follow me on Instagram to give me your insights!

Insta handle is Bruisesbowsandbooks. See ya there!

Empty Threats (And Other Discipline Techniques That Never Work)

Send help. I damn near lost my mind last night. We went to the drive-in and, I swear when I say it, the bruises were the craziest kids on the block. They were SO BAD. I was straight up embarrassed – like throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and drink-a-whole-bottle-of-wine kind of embarrassed. I even accidentally butt-dialed my boss (Sorry Carrie!) mid-curse rampage because Dominic decided to act like a puppy all night. The poor, poor people who happened to have spots around us. We were THAT family.

I don’t know why the automatic preset for this video is to display it the wrong way. Need blogger help. At least when you click it, it plays the right way.

So it got me thinking about all the things we do for discipline…which never seem to work. I’ll admit, for some of them, I know why they don’t work. Others, I really don’t. I’m just trying to survive and keep my kids alive over here. And I have a two year old who doesn’t listen to a word I say. EVER. Like a puppy. I’ve compiled a list of all the discipline techniques we use, ordered most used to least used.

  1. Empty Threats. You know. “If you don’t stop wrestling you’re brother we are going home right now.” And, “Dominic. STOP. If you want to go to the lake you need to STOP. Ok you’re not going to the lake. I guess you’re staying home all by yourself.” *Whole family leaves for lake 20 minutes later.* This is one of the ones I know why it doesn’t work. Follow through. No follow through means they don’t believe a word I say.
  2. Time Out. Luca responds to time out really well! I deliver the time out and he heads right over to whatever spot I’ve designated. He sits and waits, and most of the time I forget he’s even in time out. He eventually politely asks if he can get out yet and I quickly remember he’s there. Dominic though. I deliver the time out and the little devil stares into my soul and smiles or laughs maniacally. So I deliver the time out again, this time a little sterner and a little louder. He straight up runs away, to the point where I chase him and drag him to the designated spot. If I happen to go in the other room, he’ll slither his way out or quickly find Luca to continue poking and prodding.
  3. Take away the item or toy or food in question. Usually results in immediate (crocodile fake) tears from Luca, and immediate attempted biting from Dominic (followed by tears post-bite). It seems to work for a hot second, until they find something bigger and better to be sword fighting with.
  4. Ignore completely. I believe the experts call this extinction. If you ignore something long enough the behavior supposedly happens less and less over time and eventually becomes extinct. You’re telling me the beat-each-other-up will become extinct if I do this enough? Ha. I think my kids would be dead before this happened, thus defeating the entire purpose…right? Side note, everyone knows when I ignore completely it’s because I’ve lost all energy and am waving my white flag.
  5. Tell them Santa’s watching, or tell them Elfie’s watching. Christmas. Don’t mess with Christmas. I have to say, this one DOES work if it’s close to Christmas. But when I whip it out mid-May, Luca will come back with some fresh response like, “But Mommy it’s not even winter yet.” Touche kid, touche.
  6. Mimic them. This one usually just results in a good laugh or doesn’t register with them at all. And I don’t do this one in public. I don’t think it’s a good idea to flop myself down in the toy aisle of Target and scream and cry till I get what I want. But if one of them is throwing a tantrum, have you ever tried flopping yourself down on the floor next to them and doing the exact same thing? They look at me like I have five heads and ask, “Mommy what are you doing?” They don’t even realize I’m copying them exactly. Whiney voice too – if I talk back to Luca in the same whiney voice he’s using he’ll innocently ask, “Mommy why are you talking like that?”
  7. Scream like an absolute maniac (but close the windows so the neighbors don’t hear how loud it really is). This is that last straw, I’m-gona-lose-it, are-you-ok, do-you-need-a-second kind of thing. The one where I hope and pray that the volume as well as pure and distinct rage in my voice is going to strike a chord and they GET it. Also the one I’ll never admit to anyone I actually do here and there. Usually, both boys immediately start crying – not because they feel remorse but because I scared them, and then my heart melts and I feel terrible and I run over and hug and kiss and apologize and proceed to have mom guilt for the next month and swear I’ll never do it again. Yes, I do need a second.

So I guess if you’ve figured out something that works for your toddler boys, send it my way. I’m begging you. Otherwise I think I’m just going to be a hermit and not allow my kids to leave the house ever again. Either that or I’m running away. Far, far away.