During a recent discussion of family size and spacing with a friend of mine, I remember saying that as hard as it was to have our first two within less than two years, I was glad in the long run that we had ended up pregnant again when our first was just a year old.
"Because, honestly?" I'd told her, "If we had waited until Becky was in her twos or even three, she'd probably be an only child."
Three for Becky was the hardest, the flat-out most challenging, demoralizing, and trying time for me as her mother. I've mentioned it before here from time to time but I've never really given full voice to what I went through with her in between her third and fourth birthdays.
Tantrums, epic ones in public made even better by the full force of her very good vocabulary.
Screaming, "I HATE YOU MOMMY!" at me when I put her in a timeout on the stairs.
Pushing her little brother, usually in a toddler-greed fueled fight over a toy.
Hitting me in anger or pulling my hair as I carried her up the stairs to her room for a timeout in her room.
What she needed more than anything was a daily nap but she had long since given up her afternoon nap. While I tried to enact a daily "quiet" time, I had two choices: be played by my very savvy three year old and her boundary pushing behavior or choose my battles wisely. After all, I had her brother Huck, still not quite two and desperately needing a nap each day, to add into the equation. Exhausted, I finally let go of trying to enfoce "quiet time" knowing full well that three-thirty of four o'clock would likely usher in the longest, hardest hour of the day.
Three wasn't all bad; don't get me wrong. Becky was and is sweet and kind and ever so bright and all those elements of her character were in place when we struggled through those tough months. She was and is a wonderful person; she simply experienced a great deal of emotional growth during her three's and there was nothing to be done most days than to just wait the tantrum storm out.
This is why I found reading Hope Edelman's book, The Possibility of Everything, hard to do. Granted, it's a well written book an evokes the beauty of the setting as well as the history and culture of Belize, the place where she and her family ultimately journey for vacation and for the aid of a faith healer for her three year old daughter.
I read the book through the eyes of a mom who's been through life with a challenging three year old daughter (and her equally challenging youngest brother; for Tom, at least, I was well-prepared by Becky and didn't take his tantrums so seriously or personally) and I know that my experiences colored my reading. I simply couldn't step into the place of believing there was anything more to the behavior of her daughter she described in the book then just a very bad case of the threes.
But I wasn't there, I know. That's the difference. I wasn't that mom with that child, sick with worry just as none of you reading this weren't there the days when Becky drove me to tears with her shaking, glassy-eyed, raging tantrums. While we can empathize and offer advice, we can never really step into the shoes of the mom next to us and live through those dark moments. We as moms all do what we have to do to survive the worst of our children's behavior, and for each of us that takes a different shape and form.
The beauty of The Possiblity of Everything is the journey the author takes in faith, in opening her mind to the possibility of, well, everything. It takes courage to make that kind of journey and even greater bravery to share your story with others. It's a good read and worth the trip to the library.
This post is part of the February SV Moms Book Club's reading of The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman.