Age three has been lots of fun, but also somewhat challenging, from the start. I counted the months since Kaspar actually turned three the other day and was shocked to discover it’s only been a few… It’s felt pretty intense and I could have sworn we were at the half-year point by now (nope). Not that I’m rushing things – my boy is growing up WAY too fast and I wish constantly that I could just hit the pause button and soak in his innocence, curiosity, creativity and sweetness. Even his challenging behavior. All of it. But at the same time, age three has been a doozy on the daily and I was surprised to realize we’ve only been riding this crazy train for four months. 

It started, right around his birthday in February, with tantrums, out of nowhere and at the drop of a hat, usually after school. They were pretty low-grade compared to what I know a lot of parents deal with from early-toddlerhood on (seriously, I have seen some things in the supermarket that make me thank my lucky stars for the comparably composed child I’ve been gifted), but our guy has never been the tantruming type, so we were caught entirely off-guard. He got over that initial phase pretty quickly – thankfully –  and has, for the most part, been his usual happy, non-tantrum-prone self since, but he’s also been more physical and just more wired than he was before. There’s a definite boy-energy about him. He also negotiates constantly, over everything, but without a hint of logic, which just gets exhausting. That said, I love that he’s developing his sense of confidence and independence. We encourage it and provide outlets for it as much as possible.  But, still, I’m saying “Please don’t ___,” a lot more than I want to say it in a day, because Kaspar also has to stay safe, and has to accommodate other family members’ needs and desires (sometimes I just have to make a phone call, you know?), and that’s something I also want him to internalize as he grows.   

It’s a daily dance we do, and it’s usually fairly smooth overall, but yesterday, well, we landed in the ER for the second time this year after Kaspar hit his head, at full running speed, on the edge of our bedframe. Aaron had asked him to choose his clothes for school and I was about to get in the shower before work when I heard a horrible thud, followed by Aaron shouting, “Oh, shit!” and Kaspar screaming. (A good sign under circumstances like that, actually… you do not want a head-injured kid to go quiet). We beat rush hour traffic – which is not to be underestimated in Austin – by about fifteen minutes and arrived at the hospital with a still-screaming Kaspar, a towel on his head. (I ran him in – I was barely dressed, barefoot and splattered in blood -- while Aaron parked.) Kas got a heady mix of numbing gel, morphine and valium, as well as six stitches, before we left. He calmed down pretty soon after we arrived, though – the bleeding had slowed significantly during the ride – and he took the experience like a total champ, smiling and laughing (even pre-drugs) through most of it. He’s such a trooper, and a charmer. The doctor said he sees these injuries all the time on the littles, but still, it gave us a good scare, and I think we’ve all seen enough of the ER for a long while. Aaron and I were both shaken. If it weren’t for several stories related by friends throughout the day of similarly gruesome injuries sustained by their kids, I’d have questioned my parenting creds… I’d woken up beside him only hours before his injury; his arms were wrapped around me and he’d looked so peaceful. And now he had a giant gash in his head. It was awful. 
This is post-numbing gel, pre-drugs. K took it all like such a champ.
We spent the rest of the day keeping a close eye on Kaspar (looking for possible signs of concussion) and attempting to keep him quiet. I kissed him about three thousand times and we made some gummy bears. (We used this recipe, replacing the stevia with raw honey. Yum.) When he got restless, I took him out for a walk in his race car (I push, he rolls), so he’d at least still be sitting down. (Realized during that walk that Texas heat and third trimester pregnancy are, as everyone’s been warning me, a daunting combination. I had to take breaks on the hills, no joke.) He slept like a rock all night and has been back to his normal self today. Which is to say he’s run into a chair and fallen two or three times, per usual, and without major incident. But I’ve been looking around at our furniture and wondering what kind of kiddo-proofing might be in order to get us through to age four. I’ve also instituted a “no running inside” policy. We’ll see if that sticks. And I think we’re going to get rid of our bed. This was Kaspar’s second injury on its frame; the first was a hole in his lip when he was about 17 months old, which did not require stitches and healed quickly enough. Of course, I’m actually talking about Aaron and my bed, not Kaspar’s – he’s never gotten hurt on his own… Maybe we just need a frame with a better design. But we have a baby on the way, right? A mattress on the floor will do just fine for the time being. (Ideas for styling a room around this so as to downplay the college-days look?)

I’m also brainstorming ways for Kaspar to get his energy out when we’re home. He loves to push his trucks around in our front yard, which is nice and physical, and we’re going to get a sandbox for out back. I’m just thinking ahead to breastfeeding, when I won’t be nearly as mobile, much of the time, and wondering how I’ll tire him out when he needs it. He often sits and works on puzzles or plays with his trains when he’s less excited, but sometimes he’s just got that wild look in his eye and, unless we channel it in the right direction, it’s not long before I’m saying “Please don’t try to jump on my head,” or he lands squarely on his own after flipping over the back of the couch…

Have any of you encountered the challenging 3’s? (I’m not going to say they’re terrible, because they’re not… but they are challenging.) Survival strategies, for parents and kidlets alike? How do you get your kids’ crazies out while keeping them safe and, you know, not bleeding?    
When life gives you gaping wounds, make gummy bears.
PS. You may have noticed that my blog hasn’t updated in some time. That’s because Parenting mag and dot com were bought up by a competitor; publication on the print magazine is being ceased in September (these things are finalized a few months out, so actually it’s an immediate cancellation that won’t take effect until then) and the fate of the website remains unknown. None of us bloggers have heard anything, and the entire perma-staff was laid off, so… RIP, Parenting, we had some good times! I’ve got another major parenting website blogging opportunity in the wings, so I’ll keep you posted on that, but in the meantime all things pregnancy and family life will be documented, more or less, here on Alt-Mama. I know I’ve been pretty quiet in this corner lately, but I’m actually in the making-things mode and have some good stuff coming up to showcase. 
Cool stuff preview: onesies and diapers get a dye job.
06/15/2013 20:10

Oy, sorry you had to deal with all of this. Scary stuff, indeed. A parenting coach in town recommended parents creating a kind of obstacle course of sorts to let kids get out their "Go to the tree, hop 10 times, then go to the bush, crawl to the patio", etc etc. I never really tried but it seemed like a good idea at the time, and especially helpful for those not able to hang at the same pace, etc.

06/22/2013 19:43

Great suggestion! I'm definitely going to use that one. I could see Kaspar getting into an off-the-cuff obstacle course, for sure! Thanks much. :-)

06/17/2013 06:25

Oh yes the 3's...I called them the trying 3's
As far as the bed, we actually did go to a mattress/box springs on a plain metal frame about the time my oldest turned two because of several near misses. We ended up loving the simplicity of it and have only just recently started talking about doing some sort of headboard only for it to keep the room from being so cluttered.
To keep injuries from happening on the legs that are technically under the bed but with an active child and my ability to stub my toe on anything, we bought one of those cheap pool foam noodles and cut a piece off for each leg, split it lengthwise and placed around each leg.
Hang in there, the trying 3's disappear almost as fast as they appeared.

06/22/2013 19:47

Love the foam noodle idea! Aaron was actually checking out foam bed-frame padding (I guess we are not alone in this injury-prone situation) online. Way more pricey than a pool noodle and totally the same thing. I still voted for the mattress on the floor scenario, since I think this'll be nice with baby and tot in the mix (harder to fall off of very far) but when we go for a bed with a frame again -- I know Aaron wants to sooner rather than later -- we'll be wrapping that sh*t in foam til the kids go to college... Thanks for the funny comment and great suggestion Amanda!


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