Rules & Reasoning

As you may know, miss Marleigh turned three on September 3rd and along with being a “big girl” now, she’s also developed quite a big personality. Our once well-mannered, super sweet, good listener of a child is now a “threenager” by every sense of the word — needing constant reminders to be nice, remember the rules, and turn her ears on and listen. The transition to three hasn’t been an easy one, and we’re only about two weeks in. I have been finding myself sitting on the verge of tears at the end of the day from what my mom always used to tell me she felt when I was Marleigh’s age: “You’ll feel like you didn’t say one nice thing to her all day.” Even bedtime has been a struggle — getting her to go potty and brush her teeth without fuss and whining without fail every time we leave her room after tucking her in with a story and bedtime songs.

Something’s gotta give.

I have been trying to remind myself that this is normal behavior and that it won’t last forever. Our sweet Marleigh is still there under the surface of defiance and the occasional naughty behavior. She shines through more than not with hugs and requests to carry her and when I glimpse in the rearview mirror while I’m driving and see her reaching out her hand to hold her little brother’s.

But when the other Marleigh comes out, she comes out in full force. On any given day, we can’t be too sure of which child we’ll be greeted with when she wakes up. It usually starts first thing. A whine and pouting because she can’t eat marshmallows for breakfast, demanding apple juice instead of asking for it the right way with a please and thank you, not listening when we tell her to stay in her seat while she eats and proceeding to accidentally spill said apple juice all over the kitchen floor. She comes and goes throughout the course of the day, ignoring the rules of jumping on furniture and running in the house, forgetting to share with her little brother, so. much. whining.

The other night, I had reached my limit with the naughty Marleigh when she splashed water all over the bathroom floor after Luke and I both told her not to splash in the tub. Soaking wet, I pulled her out of the tub, wrapped her in the towel, and sat with her on her bedroom floor. At first, she refused to make eye contact. That little smirk stretched across her face. The one she gets when she knows she was naughty and thinks she’s going to get away with it. I felt my blood pressure rising and forced myself to take a deep breath and get down on her level.

When I asked her what was going on lately, why she wasn’t listening to mommy and daddy and following the rules, her response was, “Because I just want to do what I am doing…”. That’s when it hit me. She’s three. She’s still so little. When she hears us telling her not to run in the house, she doesn’t understand why. Running is so much fun — so she continues to do it. Our little talk made me realize that at three years old, rules and reasoning need to go hand in hand. Even if it’s exhausting, frustrating, and downright overwhelming, even if it tests my patience and stretches me to my limits and I sulk on the couch at 8:00 after tucking her in, even if she thinks I’m mean from time to time, it will all be worth it in the end.

In the meantime, I’ll be thanking God for wine… and lots of it!

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