Friday, January 6, 2017

Little Master Mischievous

Our three year old has me in a frustrated state of parental consternation.  I am quite at a loss as to how to train up this child.  I'm not kidding when I say that I have a mental countdown until his 4th birthday, sure that the simple change in number will change the child (don't laugh).

First day of Sunbeams.

He is trouble from the moment he wakes up until the moment he finally falls asleep at night.  And even then, he's only conditionally receptive (he sometimes has night terrors and he really likes to sleep with me).  Whether it's caring for his sister's fish (feeding it the entire canister of food), drawing me a picture (on the wall), or helping with the dessert (two fistfuls of cake straight from the pan), he is constantly on a creatively destructive path.

Tonight, after he fell asleep with his arm carefully around his baby sister, I remembered an old favorite poem by Edgar Guest.  It goes like this:

Little Master Mischievous, that's the name for you; 
There's no better title that describes the things you do: 
Into something all the while where you shouldn't be, 
Prying into matters that are not for you to see; 
Little Master Mischievous, order's overthrown 
If your mother leaves you for a minute all alone. 

Little Master Mischievous, opening every door, 
Spilling books and papers round about the parlor floor, 
Scratching all the tables and marring all the chairs, 
Climbing where you shouldn't climb and tumbling down the stairs. 
How'd you get the ink well? We can never guess. 
Now the rug is ruined; so's your little dress. 

Little Master Mischievous, in the cookie jar, 
Who has ever told you where the cookies are? 
Now your sticky fingers smear the curtains white; 
You have finger-printed everything in sight. 
There's no use in scolding; when you smile that way 
You can rob of terror every word we say. 

Little Master Mischievous, that's the name for you; 
There's no better title that describes the things you do: 
Prying into corners, peering into nooks, 
Tugging table covers, tearing costly books. 
Little Master Mischievous, have your roguish way; 
Time, I know, will stop you, soon enough some day. 

If there is one thing I've learned in these 18 years of parenting, it is that the hardest parts come and go in phases.  While I'll obviously keep using every trick I can muster up to teach him, help him feel safe and loved, and avoid the serious disasters, I'm going to take a deep breath and remind myself that
"Time, I know, will stop you, soon enough some day."

Or as JM Barrie wrote it, 
"Young boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older, and then before you know it, they're grown."

I should know.  After all, I used to reference the exact same poem to this wild three year old . . . who is now on the cusp of his 18th birthday.

Four will come soon enough.  Enjoy him, Mama.
Take a deep breath, remove the sharpie/scissors/sucker/stick/gallon of juice out of his hands
and enjoy him.


  1. Try this book:
    My friend has a little girl who is quite a force of nature, and she said this really helped. It's beautiful and helps kids control their impulses. -Sarah

  2. The strange thing is while reading that poem I felt a pang of want for those days to return. I would have never thought that I would miss the constant mischief.

  3. I feel the same way, Emily. My baby, now just 16 months old is like this. Sometimes I feel like he alone is worse than my two that were 11 1/2 months apart. It takes the whole family to keep up with him- and he's not yet 2! But he is such a cutie and a sweet, snuggle little boy that will grow up soon enough.