This is where you are right now; caught somewhere between the shadows of who and what you're becoming, and the light of what you already know.

And I'm beside you.

In the thick of it all, bobbing and weaving between the pendulum of your emotions.

I'm beside you, and kid, let me tell you, this is punishing. Because in the most demanding way it's not physical, a sore muscle that needs rest; it's unrelenting and arduous, because it's emotional.

Whomever coined the term "terrible twos," clearly had not yet encountered a three year-old. I've become quite familiar with the phrase "threenager," and it seems to fit Lucy perfectly. We've also used, on occasion, Lussolini, as when she gets into a mood, there's no room for democracy, only a vehement dictatorship. I have made many jokes this summer about how I may not survive this year, and while I chuckle, inside, I'm desperate to help us both through this necessary, yet aggravating challenge.

I've reached out to the wiser, more experienced, and they've all returned the same trifecta of sentiments: this is normal, we will survive, and it's only a phase. All three remain close to my heart and nerves, and I repeat them like mantras when the little turd refuses to sit still long enough for me to comb out the rat's nest that has formed in her hair because she refused to let me braid it and keep it out of her face for the day.

Exasperation doesn't even come close.

When researching the psychology and developmental stage of an (almost) three year-old - the stark contrast of emotions, stubbornness, need to feel independent whilst still screaming for mama because the shadows in her room made it scary - I'm not surprised. Watching her deal is one thing, and then experiencing my own reaction is another: one moment rage seethes just beneath my flesh, and the next, I want to wrap her up in my arms and never let her go.

Parenting this little girl strikes me as a parallel to what she's actually undergoing. Maybe that's Nature's way of helping us through this seventh circle of hell? Some twisted sort of empathy?

I reached out to her pediatrician, whom I adore, never judges, and always reassures. I needed some validation from a professional. When I described what was going on, she responded with:

"I wish I could make this all go away, as it is very stressful. Her behavior is normal. 3 year-olds think they can do it all on their own, especially bright articulate children. Remain calm, loving, but firm...often what they need is recognition of their feelings. It's just a phase. The hard part is not knowing the duration. Surely it will go up and down."

It's a carousel, Lucy. We're on your beloved "carouself," going up and down, round and round. Sometimes the view is spectacular, and sometimes it isn't.

While she's navigating the choppy waters of her emotions, the sharp corners of what she's feeling, overwhelmed and unable to cope, I'm sourcing stores of patience at the bottom of what feels like a nearly dry well. Most days I can manage, but there are plenty when I look at her - screaming in my face about needing to watch Wonder Woman right now and wanting to drink chocolate milk from the blue cup - that I turn from her and walk away. Like actually walk away to another room, telling her not to follow me, and give me a minute.

Then she panics. And follows me, screaming louder, no mama, don't be sad, don't go. She knows. She knows and somehow that's reassuring, that in the midst of all this bullshit, she's beginning to understand that actions come with reactions. The other day, after a series of infuriating behaviors, what they were I couldn't even tell you because they were so inconsequential (but there were about thirty billion that happened in rapid fire succession), I started to cry. Full on ugly cry, right there on the couch. Lucy became distraught, and began to cry herself. She hovered over me, wiping my tears, repeating, no mama, please don't cry, don't be sad, I love you so much. And that made me cry harder.

Because I'm her mama and I want to help her understand these big feelings that are inundating her. Because she's growing up, and I'm desperate to sleep well again and not have to go into her room when she cries out for me. Because I'm terrified she won't cry out for me. Because it's all so big and amazing and demanding.

And then I look at these photos taken this morning, dark images of this little person in between worlds, the light catching her profile, and in that moment, I forget all the yuck.

Because I love her so much.

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