Living with a pregnant, hormonal… 3-year-old
“*sigh* I’m a bit stiff today. It’s hard walking up these stairs… carry me!”
“No, I can’t pick that up for you. My belly is too big for me to bend over anymore”.
“My tummy is all sore. Because the baby is kicking me and is all upsides down inside it. The bum is here *points* and the head is down here”.
“I’m too tired to pick up all my toys. You do it!”
It’s bad enough when the reality of the third trimester hits you with a ton of extra weight and inflexibility. But when your 3-year-old keeps stealing your thunder, it’s the last straw. Can’t even have a good moan anymore without fierce competition!
We’re going to have a gap of a bit under 4 years between our children. In a lot of ways this is a good thing. Breaking the news that a sibling would be arriving this year went very smoothly when I casually suggested that this might actually be happening. At 3 years old, the Rascal understood the concept and was totally on board with the idea. Obviously this was something that was happening in the distant future, but he liked the plan in theory. He understands what’s going on physically. We check the baby’s size every week (coconut!) and he knows how big the baby needs to get before it’s ready to come out. We talk about how much hard work little babies are. All they do is cry and feed and sleep, and soil themselves because they’re too little to do anything else. But then they grow bigger and are fun to play with. We discuss our plans for looking after the baby together and on a good day it all sounds vaguely manageable even though I know the reality will be totally different when he actually has to deal with a sibling for real.
While he’s a bit young to fully understand cause and effect, he’s been less enthusiastic about the inevitable side effects of having a sibling on the way. Namely, a mother who has been almost totally incapacitated some days. Whether due to awful morning sickness early on, or growing difficulty moving without assistance in the latter months. We’ve waited (im)patiently for an Irish summer to arrive, and now that it’s here – I’m just too awkward, uncomfortable and generally tired to contemplate any of the fun activities we were supposed to do when the sun finally made an appearance. The baby isn’t even here yet, and is already having a negative impact on big brother’s life. Thankfully, he’s blissfully unaware of a lot of this.
Instead of making the most of the rare weather, he gets to help me tidy the house every couple of days for yet another viewing, though chances of a house move this year have almost reached zero making the past 12 months of effort amount to nothing. In between the humdrum chores we might drag the new beach shelter across the road to sit in the small park a whole 100 metres away from our front door and have a picnic (which is actually very convenient and still ticks the box for having some fun in his book). On adventurous days we’ll even go out to see other people. Then spend the next couple of days recovering from the effort of socialising that much. It doesn’t help that he constantly drains my dangerously low energy levels further by pitching excessive temper tantrums that often derail any plans to do enjoyable activities together. Not that we aren’t doing lots of nice things together, but it would definitely be easier to do more if he was cooperating better. And yes, I realise that it’s stupidity to expect a 3-year-old to cooperate with much of anything for long, even if it’s in their own best interest!
Life as a 3-year-old is hard (apparently). Having to deal with a heavily pregnant mother doesn’t make it any easier. I’m trying to remember that when he has his twentieth hysterical meltdown over something inconsequential before we’ve even managed to eat breakfast. I’m sure it’s just the pregnancy hormones though. After digesting the news that I was busy growing a baby, he informed us that he too, was in a ‘in a delicate condition’. Because 3-year-olds never like to be left out of something interesting. He comes along to all the antenatal appointments and listens intently to the whoop-whoop sound of a doppler heartbeat before going home to inform his father about his baby’s latest health check.
He pats his belly and tells me how big it’s getting. He has decided that he’s going to have a baby girl called Dino-rowa. I’m to have a boy called Boo. He carefully selects baby items from the storage pile that will be for his baby, not mine, cooing over ‘how cute’ the little baby gros are. It would be impossible for your heart not to melt as he’s talking about the babies. He proudly picked out a special cuddly toy for each baby in Penneys, and handed over the €4 I’d given him to pay for them all by himself. He plans to have us all sleep together in his bed and has reluctantly decided that he should probably feed his own baby seeing as I might be a bit occupied with mine. Sadly his baby doll is the wrong gender, so it looks like we better order us a baby girl doll asap before his due date gets too close. 3-year-olds don’t take kindly to fate changing their plans on them. Overall though, he’s as enthusiastic as we could possibly expect about having a new sibling.
But there really is no happy medium these days. I never know which little boy I’m going to get from one minute to the next. Sometimes it’s this happy, kind and amazing little person who loves to help me with everything and says the most hilarious things. Other times I have a psychotic weeping mess of a demon to deal with. One minute he’s rushing over to pick things up off the floor for me for the fiftieth time without being asked for help. The next he’s sobbing because I’m not wearing the right shoes, or the sky is the wrong colour. Or worst case scenario, I see the expression on his face change as some source of suppressed frustration or anger bubbles up and he inevitably endeavours to pick a fight. He grins as he starts doing things that are dangerous and he knows I won’t allow him to do. Or he flies into a rage and wants to inflict some physical hurt. Now that I’m barely able to physically restrain him safely it can mean being forced into choosing between risking injury to my unborn child, or accidentally injuring him. There will be floods of tears all round, and then suddenly he snaps back out of it racing off happily to do a jigsaw and sing to himself. Coming back to me occasionally to have a big bear-hug of a cuddle, just because.
There are obvious contributing factors to his humour (and mine). It’s a guarantee that on the days where we have fixed appointments and schedules to keep that everything will go wrong and the day will descend into a mess of anger and tears. The days where we have nothing particular to do and I’m not under pressure to achieve much will go more smoothly. I can take the time to accommodate the strange demands and expectations that are so vitally important to him. There’s plenty of time to lounge about and talk nonsense. To revel in having got ‘nothing’ done all day. Too many of those days though, and cabin fever sets in. Getting the balance of activity, socialising and downtime right is a tricky one. Especially if we’re each in need of a different kind of day to revitalise us.
Yep, life as a pregnant and hormonal 3-year-old is tough. I strongly suspect that life as a normal 3-year-old is just as tough though. And almost as awesome when the sunnier side of his personality shines through the clouds. In the meantime, what the heck am I complaining about as I waddle about after him? Things could be worse. After all, I could be a 3-year-old…