Everyone warns you about the “terrible twos”. But what people fail to tell you is that life with a 3-year-old is no walk in the park. 3-year-olds are cute and funny and silly.
But within that sweet little body is a threenager just waiting to unleash it’s holy terror upon the world.
In a Facebook post that is quickly going viral, one mom, Valerie Johnson, knows firsthand the um, joys, of life with a 3-year-old. Valerie begins her post by saying:
I’ll start with laying it on the table that we’ve been having some behavioral issues with our 3 year old. I could write a novel on it but I’ll just leave it at saying it’s been crazy so we literally don’t leave the house unless it’s with both parents, to drop her off at a grandparents, or I absolute have to.
Because if there was a reality show about 3-year-olds it would be called, “The Real Jekyll And Hyde: My Life With A 3-Year-Old,” or “Craziest People On Earth: Toddler Edition.” Or simply, “Survivor.”
Because sometimes? Surviving is about all you can hope for. For you and your 3-year-old.
Don’t get me wrong. There are good days. Great days, in fact.
Days where you wake up, the sun is shining, and you’re feeling hopeful. (aka: denial). Valerie was having one such day. After spending the past two days in the same pajamas, she “showered, put on makeup, and picked out an outfit.” She was “feelin’ extra” and decided it was the perfect day to attempt an outing to Target. The second happiest place on earth.
And here begins her descent into the fiery flames of toddler hell.
We are on our way to Target (it’s only 7 minutes from our house). She starts yelling she’s hungry. Fine, I’m fun mom today, lets get nuggets. Nuggets are in hand. Then slowly, she starts to progressively lose her mind over me not turning the way she wants to go in the car. Stay calm. It’s fine. Fun mom pants are on.
So far Valerie is doing an admirable job of keeping it together in the face of a borderline lunatic.
But the crazy train has barely even left the station. They make it to the Target parking lot and start heading into the store, a bag of returns and a car seat carrying her 5-month-old in hand. It is the perfect storm and the threenager has decided to come out and play.
She wants a cart. NOW. But Valerie, not yet aware of the tsunami about to hit, innocently responds, “No babe, let’s get inside and return this stuff first then we’ll get a cart.” Which is a perfectly reasonable request. However, 3-year-olds are not reasonable.
“CUE DEMONIC POSSESSION.”
For any parent of a 3-year-old, THIS is a real thing.
Valerie notices that there is an older gentleman one parking spot over, sitting in his car, windows down, a firsthand witness to the shit show that is going down.
And yet, she persists. Because it’s just what moms do.
They finally reach the doors and it is here that her “beloved hysterical honey badger” decides to protest with a sit-in of the non-passive variety. Strangers step in to help but the ship has already gone down.
Valerie calls it quits. But it’s not that simple.
We are now back within eye sight of our car and the dude sitting in his car. She stops walking. She “doesn’t want to go home”. HYSTERICAL. I’m stuck. She won’t walk. I’m sweating. I’m tired. I’m flustered. I squat down and pick this 37 lb 3 year old up like a football.
She is tucked safely under my arm on my hip, like a sack of potatoes, and is LOSING HER SHIT. Kicking, swinging, slobbering. I feel like I’m carrying an XL rabid raccoon. The baby in her car seat and the bag of returns is on the other arm. I’m carrying a collective maybe 65 lbs. We make it to the car. I make eye contact with old dude, who’s jaw is physically open and he’s staring. In my head I’m thinking “Baby boomer white dude in a nice Lincoln…I’m about to get a ‘you should discipline your children’ speech”.
Unfortunately mom-shaming happens.
What is even more unfortunate is that moms these days have come to expect it as a default response of strangers.
Rather than feeling like we are raising our children in the collective safety of a village, we worry that we are going to be harshly judged by the outside world for our children acting like children.
And Valerie is having NONE OF IT. After wrangling her tasmanian devil into her seat, she takes a moment to regroup.
Lincoln Baby Boomer opens his mouth and I can feel him about to say something. I immediately get defensive, thinking “Please say something- I will make a scene so big what my child just did will look like a Daniel Tiger episode….”
But his response shocks her. And, quite frankly, reminds us that there are still good, kind, compassionate people in this world. He says:
“You mothers have all the patience in the world. Chin up, it will get better” and offered the sweetest ‘I’m so sorry’ smile.
And that, my friends, is exactly what a mother needs to hear.
Valerie made it home that day. But not without further drama. Because life.
We get home. Get inside. I call my mom and break down. I’m asking her to talk me off the ledge. Days like this are a REGULAR occurrence right now. I’m exhausted and sobbing to my mommy. Then…..my dog walks up and barfs in my lap. IN MY LAP!!!!!!!!! I’m in the middle of a mental break down and my DOG BARFS IN MY LAP!!!!!!!!! I scream “ARE YOU F&$@?!G KIDDING ME?!?!” and jump up. Without skipping a beat, my mom says “Your dad will be there in 20 to get Piper. Clean up and make it through the next 20 minutes.”
I am happy to report that Valerie survived the next 20 minutes, as did her 3-year-old.
Valerie tells Filter Free Parents the reason she decided to share her “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” is thanks to an amazing mom group that she is a part of. A group which she says “has seen me go through some serious garbage fire episodes and shown zero judgement.”
And thankfully? The response to her post has been overwhelmingly positive, with the majority of people saying “Me too!” Valerie shares with us:
“Too many women to count were coming forward saying they too had potato sacked their kid out of a store before which was obviously comforting to know I wasn’t alone.”
Trust me, you are NOT alone.
The one takeaway Valerie hopes fellow parents remember about 3-year-olds?
“They’re little people too; they’ve got opinions and feelings and thoughts they may not be able to fully vocalize. That’s helped me stay a little more calm in situations like the Target incident.”
And getting enough sleep helps too.
Being a parent is an amazing journey. But it’s also really hard. The more we can come together and support and encourage each other through the challenging times, without judgement, the better it is for all of us. So the next time you see a mom struggling, take a moment and let her know she’s doing a great job.
It means more than you know.
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