A recent inquiry to the Family Matters advice column in the Washington Post asked for help with a three-year-old who was going through some growing pains. There was a reference made – in either the question or the answer – to molting – shedding the skin, growing out of a confining structure and sloughing off old growth in the process.
Welcome to my world. First of all, we’re literally seeing our son grow out of his babyhood. There are remnants of what I guess is cradle cap that are only just now flaking off; as E’s hair is finally coming in en masse, those tough bits of skin are being pushed away from the rest of his head.
When I pick at the pieces, it doesn’t hurt him – the skin is ready to be detached – but once the hard crust (and a few hairs) are lifted off, the pink underneath does look a little vulnerable. I picked off a few bits of this last month, and today I noticed more ready to let go.
At the same time, we’ve been seeing the push-pull of dependence/independence for several weeks now. First there was the renewed interest in nursing multiple times a day after we’d gotten down to a regular two sessions – morning and before bed – per day.
Then there were the contradictory assertions that he’d do something himself coupled with requests to be picked up, sometimes giggling, “carry me like a bee-bee.”
These days, although we still see daytime nursing requests if mom and son are both home for several hours without an activity, we’re generally seeing less of the dependence and much more of the willful individual. “I’ll drive for a minute,” he informs me, climbing into the front seat instead of acquiescing to being strapped into his Britax. “No, I’ll get it!” he protests when I try to get him out of the refrigerator.
We’re also seeing a whole awful lot of whiny “Why?” when the world does not reflect the reality he envisions for himself.
Some of the recently exposed skin is not so raw anymore, so the almost-three being underneath it all is ready to take more risks and assert himself with more force. The problem is when that force buts up against a timeline, common sense, practicality or safety. Then, his world falls apart.
E has started melting in public, in front of other people. He used to reserve his frustration for us. He generally no longer hits or bites us; but he does lose it and become a red-faced, teary floppy rag doll if told something fun has to come to an end or that no, we can’t go over to the fun neighbor’s house because it is time for dinner.
There are still bits of the old E head clinging to the new. I envision more rounds of helping the old skin lift off and more rounds of feeling frustrated as he tries his new self out for size.