The Struggle That Is Parenting Threenagers


It usually starts like this. A relatively calm, happy evening. My three-year-old son and I discuss our days: what we did, how we missed each other SO much. Out of nowhere, in the middle of our sunshine and rainbows and sparkles conversation, an unkind, unprompted remark comes out of my sweet boy’s mouth. Something like, “I don’t want you to look at me like that!” Or, “I want to watch MY tablet, RIGHT NOW!” “That’s random,” I think, as I respond with a simple, “That’s not how we talk to people.”

And then it begins. Grab the ammunition (wine); I’m in for a fight.

My small remark has now fueled something inside my threenager; he is now going to battle me to the death. Or, he’s at least going to make the rest of our evening an absolute struggle where I can do absolutely nothing right. And by the end, if he is successful, this mama will feel like a parenting failure, and will literally be searching the internet to see if Nanny 911 is still a thing because surely I need to call professional parenting help.

Once I have poked the bear that is my toddler son, there is no going back. I will now pick out the wrong pajamas, sing the wrong songs, brush his teeth the wrong way, and no mama, you absolutely can NOT put him to bed.

What do I do in the midst of combat? Honestly, most days this mama just wants to survive. I avoid the toy trains coming at me like missiles (man DOWN if I am hit…they hurt!), try not to internalize the verbal abuse (“You are NOT nice, mama!”) and try my best trickery to get the opponent to relent (“You seem like you need a hug. Would you like a hug!?”) .

Somewhere among the battle cries (probably from both of us), there is a moment of tranquility that washes over my child. And it wasn’t anything I did! Just as quickly as he decided to engage in conflict, he decides to wave his white flag. And it’s over.


At the end, I feel truly defeated. Not only did my child display ridiculous behavior, but nothing I did corrected the behavior. On top of that, my kid said some hurtful things to his mama that loves him more than anything on this Earth. My wounds are deep.

When it comes to instances as described above, I have to tell myself that parenting isn’t winning all battles. It’s surviving the battles, and winning the parenting “war,” if you will. And I’m not just talking with the battles with the three-year-old; it’s the internal battles I have with myself, too. The mental games that I play, telling myself I’m surely doing this parenting thing all wrong, especially when my child displays such horrendous behavior.

It is important for me to continuously remind myself that these battles with my toddler are not indicative of who he is. Sure, my child just acted completely out of line and didn’t respond positively to any sort of correction. But when I really think about it, I also know that a majority of the time my son is a sweet and ridiculously bright boy who is great with his “thank you’s” and gives me the best bear hugs I have ever received -THAT is who my child really is.

Parenting will never get easier, but I do have the confidence that as long as I can keep my mind focused on the overall mission, rather than the scuffles, I will raise a decent human being. My goal as a parent is to arm my son to face the world with a good head and a big heart because he too will have his own battles to fight.

While these parenting battles, both with my child and myself, can hurt, I focus on the fact that I have acquired far more parenting wins than losses; and in that, I find my peace.

To all the mamas fighting the good fight, I raise a glass of ammunition to you.

Previous articleStop Policing Women’s Bodies: An Open Letter to the CDC
Next articleNew Mom, New Bod with Reforming Indy Pilates
Elaine is a proud Southsider, spending a majority of her life in Franklin, Ind. She didn’t even venture away for her college years, as she is a graduate of Franklin College, where she studied Broadcast Journalism. Prior to motherhood, she swore she would get out of Central Indiana, but now as a mama to her (mostly) sweet and seriously handsome three-year-old son, Charlie, she can’t imagine a better place to raise her child. For her career, Elaine works in operations at a local granite fabrication company. When Elaine isn’t running around in circles trying to do life, she pretends to like working out and loves to eat. Also important: if you happen to see her without coffee, please check for a pulse.