“It is just a phase, it is just a phase, it is just a phase” – this seems to be my mantra and my secret to surviving motherhood some days. How can I as a mom get too frustrated with my kids, if I keep in mind that this too shall pass and it’s just a rights of passage for the little boy? Well – I can still get frustrated, but remembering that “it’s just a phase” helps me to pick my battles – and THAT is one thing I feel that we are pretty good at in our house.
Currently, Jansen (2) is the one testing our sanities with his toddlerhood/ teenage behavior. He loves to hit and scream “NO!” at the top of his lungs, which is something neither of the other two boys ever did. But… I have to remember that he is also his own person, he is the third boy and on the verge of becoming a big brother, so a lot of things are changing in his world – so I grit my teeth, smile and tell myself “this is just a phase”. Surely he will take a break from the defiant “NO!” screaming for at least ten years…
However, his more lovable traits these days is his choice of socks. He is exhibiting his independence by insisting on choosing his outfits daily. This process alone can be rather maddening, but all is well that ends well. If Jansen is happy wearing mis-matched socks every day, then I am happy to help him put them on. I am not sure what started the trend, I do fold his clothes nicely including his socks. But he methodically goes through them and picks out one dark and one light colored one to wear – every day. But… it’s just a phase and before too long he will either completely refuse socks or comply with society’s standard of wearing matching socks – this one doesn’t worry me too much.
Jacob (7), however was the king of maddening phases through his toddler and preschool years. He is now the sweetest, most sensitive, sensible and patient boy, but there was a time where everything had to be a certain way or else… Thankfully it turned out just to be a phase, or two, or countless, but merely phases none the less.
For years he would not drink from a cup unless there was a dinosaur or other animal on it. He would rather remain thirsty than to drink milk from a cup displaying a picture of a soccer ball or a car. You could not even pull a fast one on him, and perhaps give him an “unapproved” cup during the night, if he woke up thirsty – nope – his cup radar was constantly on high alert.
Of course we had to read the same books, in the same order for long periods of time. He brought the same toys with him in the car and on stroller rides – his long standing favorite was a Duplo black and white cow. However, the funniest and most tiring phase (and thankfully it too had an end) was his clothing phase. OH MY GOODNESS did this one test our patience and sanity, until we just threw our hands in the air and reminded each other that “it’s just a phase”.
I have attached pictures of Jacob’s favorite outfit. He was always very sensitive to tags, seams in socks, shirts and pants and the softness of the fabrics. But those are all fairly normal sensitivities that we all feel, more or less, at some point in our lives. It never bothered me that he didn’t want to wear socks with seams above the toes, jeans because they were too “rough around the tummy” or even that all his shirts HAD to have a picture of a dinosaur or other animal – all those requests were gladly fulfilled – for years. But then came the day that he fell in love with what he deemed “the perfect outfit” – and this love affaire lasted three (long) months.
Jacob chose a Gymboree t-shirt with a lion head appliqué on the front. The main colors were brown and orange. The shorts he thought would best match (clearly from a comfort standpoint with zero consideration of color) were a pair of plaid Polo shorts in all the colors of the rainbow. These two pieces of clothing could not be more mis-matched, even if we tried, but apparently each item met his high standards of comfort, itch-less tags and what ever other requirements were in this little three year old’s head at the time. He loved this outfit so much that he decided he would wear NOTHING else during the day for (wait for it, wait for it) THREE WHOLE MONTHS! That’s right, this horribly mismatched outfit was ALL he would wear, day in and day out. He would come home from school, take a bath, put on PJs and then I would have to wash it – preparing for another day of “the phase to end all phases”.
I even had a talk with his preschool teacher, just informing her that he did own more clothes, but that he currently was going through a phase, and we were embracing it because surely at some point he would start to vary his wardrobe – at least a smidge. And true to form, this phase did have an end – and another one eventually took its place.
Many of my friends tried to give me advice of how to prematurely end “the phase”. But we still just chose to let Jacob end it on his own time, saving us a lot of tears and unnecessary struggles. Personally, I love that we respect the kids’ various phases and quirks, because my parents always did the same with me.
I know I must have driven my parents nuts with my specific requirements, and I recall even trying to justify them with an explanation. But even though my phases did not always make sense to my parents, they still obliged me when I HAD to drink milk from a certain glass. I could drink juice from any glass, but milk tasted best in this one particular glass. My cereal had to be eaten with my silver baby spoon. It just felt the most natural in my mouth. God forbid they tried to give me a regular spoon, or even my sister’s… no – I would rather go hungry then. Soup had to be served in the china bowl with chicken and hens around the rim, and Danish meatballs (not to be confused with Swedish meatballs) could not be eaten with a knife and fork – clearly they had to be consumed by using two forks.
So when they say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, there really is some truth to that… But because my parents respected my quirks and phases, and I know how secure and empowered it made me feel, I am able to pass that onto my kids today. I am not sure how many times a day my mom would have to remind herself that “it’s just a phase”, but I am sure it also became her mantra over time.
Tomorrow when it’s time to get dressed and Jansen brings me his worn and faded Batman shirt (for the 37th consecutive day) and a white and a black sock… I will smile, help him get dressed and remind myself that it truly is just a phase, and an adorable one at that.