I know there are always lots of struggles-with-three-year-olds posts, and I wanted to share a really wonderful moment with my three year old this week! I haven't posted about our struggles because, well, probably because I was too busy trying not to kill her. I seriously don't know how the human race survives the age of three--I wanted to eat my young for the past six months. But I think we've turned a corner.
We have barely been to church all summer because she got kicked out of Vacation Bible School at the beginning of the summer because of her behavior. I am still mad at the woman who directed it (henceforth referred to as Evil Lady Who I Really Need to Forgive) and, well, haven't found the heart to face her--much less leave my daughter in her care ever again (she sometimes helps with the childcare during the service). Last week I finally worked up the courage to go to church, and wouldn't you know it? That awful lady was in charge of childcare.
I was just about ready to just turn and go home at the sight of her, but DD really wanted to go. She loves the childcare, and it's a much more calm and routine environment than VBS, and she's never had a problem there before, so I thought she'd be fine. She marched into her classroom and sat down, ready for snack, and I was about to go downstairs to the service. But as I was leaving, I heard DD burst into tears.
I went back in the room. "What's wrong?"
"I want goldfish!" DD sobbed. They were serving animal crackers for snack, but usually they serve goldfish. Uh-oh. Change in routine. Disaster.
"We have goldfish! She can have goldfish," says Evil Lady Who I Really Need to Forgive, and I breathe a sigh of relief.
"You can have goldfish," I tell DD. "They're bringing you some goldfish."
DD just sobs harder. "But I don't want to be with the big kids!" she says.
Only then did I realize that because there were so few kids that day, they had combined the older kids with the younger kids. Again, change in routine. Double disaster.
I picked her up and carried her out in the hall, because she clearly needed a minute. I tried to calm her down for a while with no success, until it occurred to me to ask, "Why don't you want to be with the big kids?"
"I'm afraid they'll play games I can't play!" sobbed DD.
I sat there for a minute, totally stunned, because her fear was so completely logical and reasonable. Here I thought she was just acting three, freaking out because of some little change in routine, probably because she didn't get enough sleep the night before. But no. She had a real reason. One that I could understand. I would probably feel the exact same way if I were in her shoes. It just amazed me, because she's only recently become capable of verbalizing her fears like that, and it may have been the first time she told me something specific like that that's bothering her that makes so much sense.
"How about we find out what game they're going to play?" I asked her. "Maybe it's something you can play."
"All right," she said reluctantly, and we went back in the room.
Evil Lady Who I Really Need to Forgive had been listening, apparently. "We're going to play Pass the Secret," she told DD.
DD's face lit up. "I can play Pass the Secret!" she told me. And she jumped out of my arms and ran to sit down and eat her goldfish.
Mind you, she's never played Pass the Secret in her life. I'm sure she had no idea what it was. I think she was desperately searching for something to grasp onto, something semi-predictable that would make her feel safe, and just knowing the name of the game was enough for her--it didn't sound too hard, so she felt okay about it. But it really struck me how much she wanted to participate and how reasonable her worries were. It reminded me again about that principle of Unconditional Parenting, to ascribe to kids the best motives consistent with the facts. It would have been so easy to look at DD melting down over "nothing" and feel like she was just having one of those days. But she wasn't. She had really good motives. And once I understood them, they were really easy to understand and address.
Now I just gotta figure out how to ascribe good motives to Evil Lady... :)