My three and a half year old son is frequently a challenge to me. I had heard of the terrible two's but naively thought that when two was out of the way things would get easier.
I think there was a couple of days, just after he turned three, when he took a breather from wreaking physical and emotional havoc and seemed to calm down. I now know he was merely regrouping and reassessing his tactics so as to intensify the ongoing assault on his beleaguered parents.
I do get why. I get that being three and a half means yearning for more independence, and resenting the stranglehold your parents have over your every waking moment. I get that curiosity and excitement make you want to strain against the boundaries, and I get that the qualities my son possesses, which currently drive me mad, will be the defining qualities which I love and admire in him as he gets older.
I love that he is quirky and mischievous, at least I have funny stories about the latest thing he has got up to. I love that he is outgoing and boisterous, but I do long for the day when he can learn how to reign this in somewhat. I love that he tries to cheer up his sister and his friends by hugging them when they cry, even though it is often his over-enthusiastic style of play which causes the tears in the first place.
I am sometimes overwhelmed with the responsibility of being the significant grown up in this child's life. I don't get it right all the time and yet I have such power and authority over him. I can say yes or no to his hundreds of daily requests, send him to bed early, condemn him to a boring day around the house or arrange a fun day out. I find it unbearably poignant that even though I am the one who most often shouts at him, I am also the one who can stop the tears and whose love and approval he most needs.
The responsibility of being a grown up is a tough one to bear, and for that reason we should always celebrate the upsides. These are a few of my cherished grown up benefits:
1. Grown up dinners. I don't mean the finest cuisine. I mean the dinner that you would have killed for as a kid. For me it is crisps, probably a family sized selection pack. Yep, crisps for dinner.
2. Having a filthy car. My dad was obsessive about keeping the car clean. Still is. Therefore I never fail to get a pang of rebellious delight when casually casting aside my empty starbucks cup and watching it being engulfed into the primordial soup which is the bottom of our car.
3. Ridiculously inappropriate shoes. So many years of having to wear sensible, ugly, flat lace up shoes has left me with an abhorrence for footwear which is remotely practical. I am recklessly gleeful at buying suede winter shoes.
On reflection given my son's challenging, rebellious and reckless nature, there may well be some truth in the saying that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.