I am a tired mommy because I spar daily with a 3-year-old. Advising Jrue to “take a break” or to “sit still” or to “sit down somewhere,” and expecting him to remain at that status, is hopeless.
I do not believe that my son is any more or any less physically active than other children his age. Yet, society tells parents that we should continue to make attempts at forcing these little collections of frenetic cells to take a seat and be quiet, a task that, if successfully met, is usually fulfilled only in short spurts at a time.
Our inclinations can be to frown upon too much mobility out of the fear–banged into our heads by our overly-medicated Western-ism–that something must be wrong with our children. God forbid if Jrue displays so-called symptoms of any number of attention-deficient, hyperactivity disorders, the kind we have excuses to run towards as “answers” for our child’s lack of ability to sit still. The reality I live is that my toddler will not remain silent and motionless because…he is 3.
He’s only 3 years old.
We do our children a disservice when we forget that the world lingers so new to them.
This is not to discredit the fact that there are many legitimate conditions existing that involve chemical imbalances and the like. Many children are on healthy dosages of medications that match the conditions and are effective at balancing their moods and behaviors, much in the way a pain pill knocks out a headache. The human body and brain are such complicated vessels that, if not responding harmoniously, may require a bit of tuning.
When a child is 3, they primarily seek independence, transitioning into preschoolers whose separation will become the thrust of decision-making and value development. Their physical growth clocks in at a quick rate while their bodies try to balance so much work associated with cognition, emotions, language, and imagination. This rate, of course, sometimes gives a child the energy level of a cheetah. A cheetah on speed.
According to an article on Parents.com, “Living with a whirlwind of a toddler can be trying, but it’s actually a common challenge: Kids this age have lots of physical energy–and a great sense of curiosity that drives it. ‘The world is very stimulating for 2- and 3-year-olds, and they love to explore,’ says Parents advisor Kyle D. Pruett, MD, clinical professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. They’re also pretty agile, so they can get where they want to go–sometimes surprisingly quickly.”
With all of this intrinsic electricity, a child may, understandably, find difficulty in resting still. Think moths in a jar. Their internal elements are bursting forward with cellular development.
For me as a mother to try to halt these standards of biology is unfair to my growing boy, especially upon my realization that the way my child expresses love is through activity. Painting with mommy has become a pastime of exploration, when he is able to expose emotions that his language cannot yet express. Sometimes his brush strokes are aggressive and deep, so roughened on paper that they cut holes through onto his plastic table. This shows his frustration. At other moments, he paints lightly or with two hands, happily laughing, babbling descriptions, and repeating shapes and colors.
Dancing is a way for him to invite our laughter. He recognizes and mentally stores away just which moves daddy likes and what can be done to encourage a fun dance-off. He now even repeats movements with Jai, recognizing that, when she laughs or claps in delight, he is glad.
He seems to understand that running is freedom; running to daddy is a freedom most rewarded with words of affirmation and lots of hugs. Music prompts him more than anything on the globe, so we infuse musical impressions on the spot into mealtimes, bath times, and art hours whenever possible. He jams, bobbing his head, shaking his hips, taking in lyrics and instructions of life, and rehearsing them later during his isolated times of innovative play or during explanations to us of things he has learned recently.
The good news in allowing Jrue a realistic range of motion and maximizing his chances to “go, go, go” is that I now see how all of the members of my family show active love: my husband through his good cooking, my baby girl through tasting everything to make sure it is safe to stay in our house, me through my need to clean. Jrue’s activity level is the hook of the introduction to his life’s purpose. I could never discourage this.
Rosen, Margery. “Your High-Energy Toddler Explained.” Parents.com, n.d., http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/high-energy-toddler/. Accessed 14 Feb. 2017.