Saturday, April 26, 2014

Toddlers and Goats


Our three year old is going through this unreasonable, illogical, difficult growing phase that three year olds often go through. I know it's officially here because it has happened two other times before with our other children, and I recognize the signs. I don't know who came up with the phrase, "terrible twos." It never seemed to match our family's experience! The twos are happy, delightful, adorable, and fun!  It's these trying threes that test the limits of my patience as a mother. It's these threes that remind me everyday of the vulnerability of my emotions,  and my ability or inability to hold up to the strongest changes in the currents of motherhood.
"I can do this," I encourage myself. "He's only a three year old! I can take on a three year old! Can't I?"

A typical morning in a day in the life of the trying threes goes like this: 
We wake up and eat breakfast, then after breakfast everyone does their important things. Our eight year old and six year old rush downstairs to complete their tasks. I wait patiently for our three year old to saunter slowly down the stairs, dragging his little feet behind him. 
"I can't brush my teeth today," he says. "It takes too looooooong,"he finishes with a whine.
"Let's get it done fast then! Let's go pick out a toothbrush!"I say enthusiastically!
He has a choice of four different toothbrushes and two different types of toothpaste. I read once in some parenting article that resistant toddlers often need more choices to motivate them.
He still can't decide.
"How about the electronic-vibrating-Angry Birds toothbrush today?" I suggest.
"Flashing-Star-Wars-lightsaber toothbrush?"
"Blinky yellow toothbrush? Blinky white toothbrush?" I continue, a little less enthusiastic.
Nope and nope.
He crumples into a ball on the floor, whining over the impossibility's of this horrible task ahead of him. I give him several moments to recoup, then talk as sweetly as I can:
"Right after you brush your teeth we can read books or go outside and ride your scooter!" I nudge him gently with promises of his favorite, fun things ahead.
"But it will take too looooooong." he complains again, even louder, with more dreadful screams and angry cries thrown in for added measure.
"Little one," I explain calmly, "The rule is that every morning we brush our teeth after breakfast. It's important that we keep our mouth-bones healthy and strong! We don't want them to get rotten with cavities."
He gives me the evil eye, and rolls into the other room, away from the impending threats of the big, mean, tooth-brushing-police-lady.
At this point I am feeling exhausted. Impatient. Frustrated. I think about the reward chart I made for him several weeks before, and how I was so sure this would help him to brush his teeth, get dressed, eat meals, get in the car, put on shoes, wash his hands, go to sleep at night--or complete any number of the things a person normally accomplishes in one day, if they're not a stubborn-headed three year old. However, the reward chart only caused more problems, more complaints, and more toddler-anger-management that I wasn't prepared for. I tossed it out the door.
The other method was to try leaving him alone completely. What if I let him decide when is the right time to brush teeth, get dressed, and eat a snack? He might surprise me by doing all these things by himself, without me even reminding him! But after several days all I had on my hands was an overly-hungry, overly-grumpy little boy, with bad breath and the same, dirty pajamas on. Not good.

Back to brushing teeth: After several more minutes of cajoling him, pleading with him, and downright begging him to brush his teeth, he decides to give in. But only after he says his prayers, pets his kitty, and rearranges his stuffed animals on the floor properly. It takes us less than 2 minutes for the actual teeth-brushing, then he is done. The task is finally done. 
I feel like all the energy I had reserved for the entire day was put into that 2o minutes, and now I am feeling done. I feel like doing nothing but going back to bed, crawling under the covers, and reserving my energy for the next toddler challenge. 
Except I can't do that at all, really. Because I am the mama.

One morning this past week I woke up feeling rebellious. I didn't want to do any important things. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the lilac blossoms were blooming, and Spring was exploding through my front windows like fireworks in summer!
We ate a quick breakfast and got in the car. 
"Where are we going?"the kids asked.
"To a farm!" I told them excitedly. "We're going to visit the animals!"
"But what about chores?"my eldest asked. "And what about Jonah? He's still in his pajamas."
"It's all good," I told them reassuringly. "We'll do it later. Right now we're going to a farm." I felt determined not to let anything stop us.

We drove a few miles to Red Acres Farm here in Cedar City. It's an adorable, little, family-run farm that grows herbs, vegetables, as well cow milk, goat milk, and eggs. I had never before been here, but had been itching to go for a visit since we moved back. 

It felt so good to be out of the house, away from domestic responsibiltiies for a moment.
The smell of the dirt, and the animals, and the freshness of the earth was intoxicating to my soul.
I took my children over to see the goats first.
There was a large pin of billy goats, mama goats, and kids, all running around happily.
As we watched them I looked over to see my children smiling, then laughing, then getting excited about all the silly things they saw.
 They started to quickly spew out their observations at me: "One goat was head-butting another goat! Another goat was trying to ram another goat off of a crate! A small kid was trying to get milk from it's mom, while it's mom was running away! Another goat was sticking it's head through the fence trying to lick Jonah's fingers!"
We exploded with laughter at all the crazy goats. We watched them for a long time. We pet their ears, and tickled their goatees, and gave them funny names.
I am so grateful for these magic moments with my children. I know that someday (soon) these hard parenting phases will pass, and I won't remember the exhaustain or the frustration of a trying three year old who won't brush his teeth, but I will remember standing at the farm with my kids, laughing hysterically at the silly goats. I will also remember the big smile on my toddlers face while he pet his first baby goat, and the excitement in his voice on the car ride home, as he told me all the amazing things he saw at the farm. 

I know now that I need to fill up my life with more Springtime, more sunshine, and more goats, to counterbalance the hard stuff. Or maybe even out-weigh it completely.

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