The joys of having a 3-year-old come at a certain cost. You know, like the fact that you have a 3-year-old! I think it's best to describe Simon as going through a Jekyll and Hyde phase. One minute he's the sweetest kid ever, the next minute, holy terror. I think about how nice he was meeting one of our friends last weekend for the first time, and then a day later having some really quality meltdowns.
This is a more emotionally challenging time for parents. When he was much younger, sure, we would be driven to the brink at times by his behavior, but generally we could roll with it because it was easy to accept his babyness. Now it's more complicated, because there's a little personality in there that tends to understand right from wrong, and clearly pushes to see where your limits and boundaries are. That he "knows" better makes misbehavior feel intentional and personal. Now throw a big box of flip-outs on the fire, because at that age, you just don't know how to process intense emotions. Go ahead, think back to those tantrums you had, and how hard it was to calm down.
What makes this so hard for us isn't what we have to do with Simon. Sending him to timeout or invoking consequences isn't a big deal. There is enough research and advice on this to satisfy my understanding. The hard part is trying to keep our own feelings from flying off the handle. You start to wonder if you should abandon your rational position against spanking, you want to be visibly angry toward him so he can see it, and you want to yell at him.
I'm sure there's nothing special about Simon's behavior, and by that I mean the frequency of his negative shenanigans. We're just struggling right now to deal with them. And of course, there's always some component of, "What am I doing wrong?" My theory, however, is that we're likely to turn a corner soon, in the way that we have with any of his previous phases of difficult interaction. Once we know how he pushes our buttons, we stop allowing him to do so.
Still, tomorrow we're having a little grown up time away from him. We need it.