The Way I Feel books: for the dark side of 3

People talk about the Terrible Twos, but I see their Terrible Twos and raise them the Trying Threes. When Nica turned 3, she became very willful, stubborn and disturbingly moody. Starting school was part of the problem: As much as she loved preschool, it was a lot of change for a sensitive little kid. Of course, this is all normal, and I knew that her outbursts and her acts of defiance were her first clumsy steps toward becoming an independent individual. Knowing this did not make it any easier to deal with the little savage.

Her teachers told me she was an angel. But even as we drove back home after I picked her up, I could feel the transformation happening.

By the time I pulled into our garage, Nica would be in a foul mood—sometimes surly, sometimes just whiny. Sometimes she’d suddenly burst into tears. I called that her Holly Hunter moment (ever see Broadcast News?). Once the tumult passed, Nica would revert back to her usual sweet, funny self. We were living with a crazy person.

And then, just as things were starting to settle down, Ham was born. Nica was suddenly up to three Holly Hunters a day, and anything—a misunderstood word, the wrong spoon, an itchy spot on her arm—could set her off. I had many talks with her, trying to explain what was happening, why Mommy had to help the baby sometimes, how much Mommy and Daddy loved her and would always. I gave her as many hugs and kisses as I could and cuddled or played with her whenever the baby was asleep or chillin’ in his baby seat. Her dad made a point of spending all his available time with her, hung out with her and only her as soon as he got home from work. But of course it was never enough; by having a baby, we had ruined her life.

Around this time, I started getting some The Way I Feel books: When I Feel AngryWhen I Feel SadWhen I Feel JealousWhen I Feel Good about Myself and When I Care about Others.

And I must say, even though obviously they did not solve Nica’s problems (i.e., they did not make Ham disappear or clone Mommy), they did help me help her identify what she was feeling, see that it was perfectly normal to have these feelings, and learn ways to deal with them. The books offer good examples through sweet drawings featuring various furry creatures. The best part of all is that, even though the pictures are darling and the prose child-friendly, the books somehow manage to avoid being pukey.

Oh, pukey children’s books. So many of them.

Anyway, today is Nica’s first day of school, and I’m confident this year there will be very few Holly Hunter moments. She’s a big girl now, after all—yay, 4!—and she loves her little brother. Most days.