Parenting a 3-Year-Old: Emotional Whiplash

I felt instant recognition when reading the poem “Duality” today by the blogger Ineffable Mr. Jones. (Here is a link to his beautiful poem.) I realized as I finished reading it, that it described today (and almost every Saturday for the past year) perfectly. I adore my three-year-old, but the tantrums and the screaming when I ask him to do or not do something, put me in a tailspin.

One minute I’m breathless and shaking. He’s thrown something again. He’s hit me. I’m struggling to pick him up, while he kicks, and put this 40 lb bruiser into his time out chair that I literally have to strap him into. I’m trying to stay positive, but typically fail. I wonder why I was chosen to deal with this all alone.  And then, maybe 10 minutes later, when he calms down, all I can think is how grateful I am he is here with me. I learned a few weeks ago that my rough and tumble three-year-old isn’t creating antibodies. Yup. It’s like he’s never been vaccinated. He has no antibodies to Tetnus, for instance, or Pneumococcal. That’s why he’s sick so much. That’s why he’s a cranky bugs most days. That’s why his adenoids are so swollen ALL the time and he can’t sleep well. That’s why he’s had pneumonia so often and is vulnerable to getting it again. After 20 days straight on antibiotics last month, I found a specialist and had his blood drawn. Thank God. We’re going to solve this. He’s going to be okay.  My heart swells with unconditional love and fear just thinking about it.

But…WHY he has to scream, throw things, kick and hit when he doesn’t get his way—to the extreme that he does—is driving me to the edge. It’s like emotional whiplash on a weekly basis. Today, I went from being madly in love with my little guy while playing sweetly with him—to choking down dark anger and frustration when he threw books off his bookshelf and screamed full tilt because I dared to ask him to put on his shoes a few minutes earlier. It’s the emotional equivalent of one minute cruising sweetly down a dirt road through the countryside on a gorgeous summer afternoon—to banging your head and neck on the back of the seat as you are jolted into Mach 5 speed—thrusting you madly into outer space. And this happened over and over again today, as it does on our weekends. I want so badly to stay in pasture thoughts and soul snowing love as Mr. Jones so eloquently put it. But my weekends with my little guy propel me like an emotional pendulum back and forth, again and again. I can’t let him get away with his tantrums and bad behavior. I have to be firm and put him in time out every time. I do. But it’s hilariously exhausting as I carry him up the stairs, still limping in my boot from my injury, to put him in his time out chair. But it’s what I have to do right now.

For those of you who may think I’m missing the forest through the trees, know this: Of course I’m madly in love with my little boy. Of course I’m meant to lasso this challenge and grow spiritually because of it. Of course he will grow out of this or I’ll find a specialist to help me if necessary. He has to get better physically and emotionally. I CAN do this. I HAVE to. So even though it’s been one month without a weekend off and I’ve got two more months to go, I’m going to mentally strap myself into this pendulum and remind myself to try to enjoy this maddening ride. Single parents out there, can you relate?
Here are Mr. Jones’ simple words. See if they resonate with your world:


by: Ineffable Mr. Jones


an ocean mind..

spiritual avalanche…

bleeding….             bleeding…


* * *


Pasture thoughts.

soul snowing.

breathing …. breathing



4 responses to “Parenting a 3-Year-Old: Emotional Whiplash

  1. You are not alone. Many days I am shaking my head wondering why is it only MY child screaming at the park, the market, Target or slamming his head in his carseat! Somedays I’m so scared my neighbors will think I’m hurting him his tantrums are sooo loud and destructive. I too try to remain calm but when it continues (um nonstop all day) I start to unravel. We can go from laughing and smiling to indescribable anger!!! I have been kicked, slapped, bitten-ive had to take toys away for fear of losing an eye-and the fact he will stab himself with his toys, smack his head, pull his hair etc. Makes things even harder. I’ve tried to be soothing and calm but when kids get violent that just DOESN’T work. I love my son more than I can even express and often wonder if he HATES me because I’m a single parent-yes dumb thought I know-but many days I just wonder…why, why, why is he so angry and his tantrums soooo intense. He’s such an angel-he really is full of love, never is like this towards others and is so good with his little friends. Ooops gotta stop he’s up from resting…..

    • Laura Roe Stevens

      Thanks so much for your comment! It’s so hard to remain calm during the insanity. One friend told me wisely that our children have us because we don’t lose our cool and lash back. Maybe true … My neighbor, a 78-year-old man and father of 4, came running over one day when my son was screaming because he wanted orange juice. The man banged on my door demanding to know ‘what’s going on!’ When I told him my son,was having a tantrum over OJ, he rolled his eyes with disgust and said none,of his kids behaved that way. I kind of think they did and he was clueless at work. SO many men just don’t see or have to deal w this, so they can’t understand why it’s so hard. But our tantruming kiddos have to grow out of this, right?? I’ll check back w you in the high school years so we can compare! 🙂 hang in there. XO

  2. Breathing really is the key! My little ones are now 5 and 9, and somehow, this post still rings true in many ways. Hang in there!

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