Holy Hell. What is happening to my sweet baby boy?

I called my sister and Mother last night in hysterics. One has raised five children, the other is raising six, and both are educators with masters degrees in child development and early education. Naturally, I felt that they should be the first to hear the news that I feel that my son needs a psychiatrist and may be headed toward a future as a psychopath.

OK. So that statement is ludicrous and far from any realm of possibility, but I do feel that we are at a pivotal stage in which our proper handlings of his recent behaviors are monumental in his understanding of what it means to make a loving and positive impact on society as a human being.

Zachary is pushing three and a half and spends one half of the day completely out of control. He seems to have two personas. The one that wakes up in the morning, happy, calm and perfectly lovely – “Mommy, I love you.” “Can I help you with that? I would really like to help today, Mommy” “Isabelle, would you like me to hold your hand?” This child walks with a steady gait and exhibits manners that would earn us a “Parents of the Year” certificate.

Then there is the other, who rips through his clothing and transforms our perfect child into the Incredible Hulk. This horrifying transformation is somewhat predictable, and while we do see glimpses of his green eyes throughout the day, he mostly lies dormant until around 4 pm. He tears through the house singing like a 70-year-old chain smoker in a way that causes polyps to grow on my vocal chords just by listening, tackles his sister to the ground in the name of “play”, grabs toys, barrels into us with a force that has knocked the wind out of us on several occasions, (or, has left my poor husband doubled over in the kitchen for at least ten minutes trying to ease the excruciating pain with happy thoughts that perhaps he is now infertile), and throws us all into a black hole while trying to get out the door to run errands. Dressing him is like trying to shimmy a unitard onto a baby donkey, and reasoning with him is like begging an intoxicated person to stop slurring his speech and bumping into walls.

During these bouts of complete and utterly painful chaos, there is absolutely nothing that works but waiting it out. We have tried time-outs, taking toys away, going into a dark room, away from stimuli and holding him, and deep breathing (the last one is for us). I have even gone as far as to lock Isabelle and I in her room as a way of removing ourselves from this behavior (because I can’t in good conscience lock him in his own room). While that does seem to be the only consequence that actually seems to bother him, it still doesn’t exorcise the demon. He falls asleep exhausted at 8:30, after umpteen “Zachary, you are too smart and wonderful, and have too much to offer the world for us to allow this behavior” talks (all of which go right over his head, of course. He’s three for heaven’s sake), and wakes up in the morning, fresh and lovely again as if his alter ego didn’t have his mother up all night crying the evening prior.

The obvious issue here seems to be that there is a food allergy of sorts. But anyone who has tried to pinpoint a food allergy causing something short of anaphylaxis, knows that this can be a wild goose chase of frustration and confusion. But, we will continue to look into this theory. The other is that he is extremely over-tired. Try as I may to get him to nap, he refuses. If we are in the car at 4:30 or 5:00, he is out within 30 seconds. But, napping this late and going to bed at 10:00 p.m. is not an option. We are strict about bedtimes and covet the post-8:30 hours that are OURS. We are not forfeiting those.

So, while I do encourage thoughts from all of you on this, I also encourage you to read this article that my blessed sister sent to my inbox at 1:00 a.m. This is comfort to anyone in the midst of the “half-years”, or anyone experiencing PTSD from living through them years ago.


This article describes my son to a tee, and gave me much comfort this morning as I read it and thought perhaps he is not going to become a mass murderer after all.

How many months until age four?

*Fact Check- All statements are true and correct….Unfortunately


26 responses to “Holy Hell. What is happening to my sweet baby boy?

  1. I can relate…oh so well. I read the article, that really sums it all up, trouble for me has been it came on at 4, he had previously been the super coddled, “center of the universe” sibling of young teenagers, his transition came when my older children began paying him less attention, based on thier own newly found “narcicism” for lack of any better term for teens. He took his “abandonment frustation” out on my husband and I, that was really tough, hang in there Em, we now only see the Green eyes occasionally.

  2. I too can completely relate. Cooper just turned 4 and is very slowly beginning to work his way through the madness that is 3. Maybe because we keep emphasizing what a ‘big boy’ he is now that he’s 4 and how ‘big boys’ do not act that way, etc. He is very fixated on making us proud so we really use that to our advantage when we need to. It’s a lot of trial and error and praying for patience. Lots of speaking nicely through gritted teeth, as well as extra tight squeezes. ;0) We all go through it, it seems. So, if nothing else, please take solace in the fact that you are not alone, Zachary isn’t the only “mini incredible hulk” out there, and with patience and love, it will pass.

  3. You just described my daughter. To a tee. It breaks my heart. She’s almost 3.5 and the tantrum and roughness with her little brother scares me so much. I know she’s exhausted but I can’t get her to sleep. But if we are in car, she’s out. Thank you for writing about this!!!!

    • Your daughter and Zachary are so close in age that we must find comfort in knowing this is a normal phase! Phew! But seriously….will we survive it?! ;). If you get a chance, read my sisters last comment on this thread. She is responding to someone about teenage behavior, but I found it to be extremely insightful.

  4. I can relate. This breaks my heart. My daughter is 3.5 and we are seeing this too. It scares me.

  5. Sadly, I giggled through your blog… Does that make me insensitive? Probably, but as I read it, AFTER our phone conversation where I had to keep asking you to stop talking for a minute and listen (not even sure if you were hearing me), I replayed those 3 1/2 phases of my kids. Josh was my perfect little baby, despite not sleeping outside of my arms for four years… And then, he turned 3 1/2! HOLY HELL doesn’t even begin to describe the transformation! I cried the entire summer, sure that someone should take my children away from me because I clearly had no business being a parent! But then, a silent alarm sounded one day, and the next stage started, and he was wonderful again! I don’t know who coined the term “terrible twos!” it was clearly someone who thought they knew it all and wrote a book before their child turned three and a half! Emily, don’t read this next part! Okay, folks, let’s not tell her that the beast within returns again at 4 1/2, 5 1/2…. 17 1/2!! I don’t think she is emotionally equipped to handle that right now! Okay, Em, you can read again! You’re great, you’re wonderful, you’re imperfect, you’re normal! You may feel like you’re co-starring in your own version of Groundhog’s Day right now, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel! It may appear around the first day of summer… Meanwhile, book some out of town gigs (man, am i jealous of your ability to do that! I went to work in an early kindergarten classroom for my reprieve during those days). Sorry Steve, but us Rozeks aren’t exactly known for our easy temperaments or lack of ability to imagine tsunami scaled scenarios! Love and patience to you all!

  6. Oh Emily, this time too shall pass. I know it seems an impossible feat while in the trenches, but you will get through it. I think I have mentioned before about a horrible period of time my oldest went through when he would throw fits and as an effort in self-preservation (for both of us) I would retreat to my bedroom. However, that infuriated him so much he would then sit outside my bedroom door kicking and screaming at the top of his lungs. I can’t honestly remember what worked best to get past that stage as I have conveniently erased the most unpleasant of those experiences from my brain. 😉 Out of my 5, three had much worse times with those periods of disequilibrium when they were in that toddler/pre-school age. The other two seem to be proving to be more challenging in the pre-teen/teen stage. The advice in the article your sister shared is great. You have to have a big bag of tricks and techniques for maneuvering through child rearing stages – and you do get better knowing which ones to use and when to use them – of course that knowledge only comes with failing (occasionally) to pick the wrong one. Consistency and a loving firmness goes a long way, in my opinion. A glass of wine at the end of the day and time with your spouse are pretty helpful too. 🙂

    • So interesting Rita. And a reminder that every child is different. I remember my Mother saying that by the time she got to baby number 4, she stopped blaming herself for certain things. She said “well, we’ve raised them all the same and they all behave differently so it must not be completely in our control”. I love that. I’m sure you can relate.

  7. Oh wow. I remember these days! People like to talk about the terrible twos… for me it was the threes. Both my boys went though this and it is an exhausting, hair pulling, build a cage outside for them to stay in kind of period. Thankfully we have moved passed that (although most days I wonder if my just 5 year old is still clinging to this behavior) and you will move past it too. Hang on… love him and hug him when he is not green. He will move through it and be better for it. Just in time for your youngest to be three and a half 🙂 Hang in there Em, you are doing an amazing job!

  8. Emily, I feel for you. Those times are so very trying. I know you want them to go away quickly. However, I can now say…I wish for 3.5 year old tantrums, so badly. 13 is KILLING me. I can honestly say I’d trade places with you in a hot second. Teenage girl….anyone, anyone???

  9. Dear anonymous, This is Emily’s big sister again! I just happen to have had a 13 year old girl! And, I ALSO had the privilege of being an 8th grade teacher, prior to moving to kindergarten! While there are so many tumultuous days with 13 year old girls, I’ll share some of my most encouraging tidbits. My 13 year old, now 15… Has always been stubborn and not one to be talked into anything- an outfit for school, a particular hairstyle for the day, performing on demand, putting on a good face for the sake of public appearance, etc. However, I always enjoy recalling a parent teacher conference I once had with the parents of another 13 year old girl. It went something like this- Parent: “I don’t understand! She always did everything we asked of her! Now she’s drinking, smoking…” My response was, “and now she’s doing everything everyone ELSE is asking her to do…”. There was a flicker of realization there. Many obedient children, of course not all ( and what the heck do I know outside of my own experiences and opinions!), may continue to be just that-obedient. People pleasers, or children who do not question or challenge authority, sometimes do not develop their skills in critical thinking of consequences of choices. They do what they are told. Mine has challenged almost every statement or request I have made for 15 years, but she uses that same sass and defiance to question the requests and statements of her friends! While that sometimes affects her “popularity” among the “in crowd” (aw, shucks!) it has kept her out of many a sticky situation… Of course, we have conversations that go something like this: “well, honey, maybe you didn’t need to tell Mr. So and So he was wrong about such and such…” her response is usually something like, “but he WAS! And, he was being a jerk!” or, another one that was fun was when I got the call from her stating, ” mom, I think I’m going to get called down to the principal for telling this really mean girl that no one wants to see her stomach in school and that she isn’t following the dress code! She got mad and walked out of class, but mom, it was a completely inappropriate outfit! My response: “honey, while you are really good at defending those who are being bullied, you sort of just embarrassed her and could be construed as the bully. And, it’s actually not your job to enforce the dress code. They have teachers for that.” To which I got the, “Mom! I’m your daughter! You’re supposed to take MY side!” ME: “no, honey. You’re my daughter, I’m supposed to tell you the truth.” While she is generally right, and most definitely right in her own eyes, I’ve had to remind her that there is a delivery she could work on that might de-escalate a situation rather than simply angering the people around her. She will be a strong adult, and has thus far stood up to peer pressure in the same way she has challenged adults who have made “unreasonable” requests of her… Let’s hope she keeps up this irritating habit of questioning the suggestions of others (except when it’s me!). Summary: compliant children sometimes make compliant friends… Is that our goal? Yikes! Not mine!!! *All of my statements could be hogwash!! I believe in their validity but I COULD be as uninformed as all those parents who believe their children are perfect…. Man, are THEY in for a rude awakening! Best of luck! From The bigger sis!

  10. Em-I remember locking myself in a closet so I could scream when Betsy was about 3 1/2 and Carrie was a year and a half old. My mother’s voice saying “this, too, shall pass” often came into my head while I was raising my girls (who incidentally wanted to grow up being the Rozek girls)! On a practical note, I found that when my kids were hungry on top of being tired it often set them off. Maybe experimenting with/adjusting snack time might help Zachary, especially if he won’t nap. Just a thought…..hang in there, Mom, this, too shall pass!

  11. I have to share this with you after reading this blog post. I found this link the other day and recently shared it with my childcare families, including many parents of 3 year olds. It is comical and sooooo true! Someday, sadly they will be all grown and I think I might even miss the challenging days.


  12. Many books and friends talk about the halves. We had it spread all the way through Three and Four, but the point is the Same: it’s normal. There is a reason child development experts staff preschools…preschoolers are simply awful. Wonderful and AWFUL.

    • So true. He melts my heart and has me wanting to jump out the window 70 times a day.

      • For all of Three and most of Four I spent the half hour after he went to bed sobbing. What did we do? How do I get out? Are the gypsies still buying children, and if so, how do I find them? What did we do wrong? Is he broken? If not, I’m gonna break him.

        It was terrible. Just freaking terrible.

        And our Two is about to turn Three.

        Dunh dunh DUNNNNHHHHHH.

      • If you haven’t, you should check out my sisters comment in response to another comment concerning teenage behavior. You may or may not agree but I found it very interesting.

  13. Thank you Emily for sharing all of this insight. I especially liked hearing about the 1/2 ages because right now we are at 4 1/2 approaching 5 and we are in one of these weird stages right now that I’m not sure what to do with so I found comfort in reading your post and all the other comments too. Thanks.

  14. Thank you for sharing. I can now walk into my son’s preschool with confidence and tell them he is not Jekyll & Hyde, he does not need medication he is in fact normal. He is 3 1/2 and his school has been telling me for about 2 weeks that he has completely changed. He has become combative, will hit for no reason, runs away when they call for him, basically he does what he wants. Nothing seems to phase him. We’ve tried time outs, positive rewards for good behavior (which is not happening all to often lately), taking away toys he tells us so what I don’t want that any how. He has begun to push our older son (age 5) for no reason. The school was starting to make me feel as if I had done something wrong. I am going to print this and have his teacher read it. I don’t think I noticed this behavior with the 5 year old but then again he had my full attention. No siblings to compete with or push. Thank you for bringing light to the end of my tunnel.

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