9 Things I Need To Remember When My 3-Year-Old Acts Up

by Kristin Anderson
Originally Published: 

Dear Self,

Hi. It’s me. The me who is up to her elbows answering the question “why.” The me who is so ragged from chasing my two kids I can barely stay up past 9 p.m., but whose kids like to stay up till 10. Yeah. Hi. I thought I’d drop you line for when things change and you forget how much you adore this stubborn little girl of yours.

So here it goes.

It’s super cool that you took her to all the children’s museums and zoos and taught her her ABC’s and taught her to poop in the toilet. But guess what? She doesn’t remember any of that. What she will remember is how you behave right now. In just a few short years, she will be off to art school or whatever, and THIS is the moment she is going to remember. When she thinks back on her mother … she’ll remember this.

I know it sucks.

But Carpe Diem! Let’s rock this! Here are a few ideas to help you be remembered as the kick-ass mother you really are:

1. She’s you. You have always been stubborn as hell. You have always been right about everything and a little holier-than-thou. It’s in your DNA. You come from a long line of hard-headed women. She is no different. Step back and see that she’s you.

2. Don’t tell her what to do. She’ll do the opposite. Seriously. If you tell her to stay away from elephants, she will join the freaking circus. Guide her in all the subtle ways you can, but understand that she’s going to do whatever the hell she wants, so just enjoy the show. There will be a show.

3. It is your job to lift her up, not to tear her down. The world will do enough tearing down. She is already too hard on herself. Just like you. She expects to be the best at whatever she does. Remind her that life is not a competition; it is a classroom. Help her learn to be patient with herself. Remind her that the expert in anything was once a beginner.

4. Give her other women to look up to. She will most likely think you are super-duper lame while she’s a teenager, and she will need a role model that’s not you. Tell her not to read Anne of Green Gables. She’ll love it.

5. She’s smarter than you. I know that you’ve lived a lot longer and that you, like, invented her and that you are right about everything but … she catches things you don’t. You can learn from her. She has been teaching you since the day she was born. Remember that.

6. Push her. There are some things that you are going to have to push on her for her own good. She’ll hate it, but one day she will sit back and wonder where she would be if her mom hadn’t pushed her. The things you are allowed to push are: horseback riding, athletics, education, family get-togethers … end of list.

7. Give her space. She needs time to figure it out on her own. She is smart, and she knows the answer. But SHE is the one who needs to figure it out. Not you. So zip it.

8. If all else fails and it looks like you’ve broken up, try a fart joke. There is some genetic glitch in this DNA of ours that makes us unable to resist a well-placed fart joke. I think most wars could have been averted if someone along the way had broken the tension with a little bathroom humor.

9. And lastly, be nice. Sometimes you can be a total bitch. Is that how you want to be remembered? Seriously. Be nice.


Your younger, less experienced, less mature mother-of-a-stubborn-3-year-old self.

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