Since the dawn of man, it was written about the terrible two’s. For centuries, the terrible two’s have been known to bring fear to all parents. A period of time in a new beings life where they want to show their independence in the most obnoxious and frustrating ways possible.
But I believe we have been deceived, us first time parents, as the THREE’S is where the real terribleness lies!!!
Three is when these little talking, thinking, independent, stubborn creatures wreak havoc on their parents mental well-being.
They have caused the most patient of people to lose their cool. The youngest of parents to have grey hair. The most soft spoken to scream at the top of their lungs. The most confident of people to question EVERYTHING. The most even-tempered person to lock themselves in the bathroom to cry.
I am fairly certain they could bring down empires just with their incessant whining. (OH THE WHINING. THE WHINING. It is the bane of my existence. If only that ONE thing could stop. Oh it would be such sweet relief…)
When my son turned three in September I could already see the change. Yes, there were struggles during two. Looking back, those struggles were controllable. READ: I still had control!!!
But I was deceived, as I thought when he turned three things would “get easier”.
Oh, I laugh at my ignorance….HA. HA. HA.
I believe since this lie has been told through many a generation, no one wants to tell a first time parent the awful truth regarding the three’s.
So here it is….the three’s are an emotional rollercoaster of happiness, anger, pride, frustration, laughter, tears, stubbornness, independence and grasping to have control.
And that is for BOTH parents AND toddlers.
See, the thing I am quickly realizing is that my highly independent and stubborn child is testing the waters. He can speak like an adult but rationalizes more like a primate…focused on certain things. So when this little creature wants, to open the door as we come out of the pizza place, and the women coming in opens it instead….well then, World War 3 has been started. His sole focus is now on opening that door and why he didn’t get to open that door. No other thought is in his mind. Nothing else matters. That freak’n door is HIS WORLD and it was taken away from him be the evil lady just trying to get her pizza and help a mother with her hands full. How dare. How very dare....
And when something like this happens, it is hard to bring them back to reality.
You first try to explain: “Oh Henry, the lady opened the door, it was her turn.”
I wanted to open the door!
Then a proposition: “How about you open it next time!”
I want to open the door today!
Perhaps you try the distraction: “Hey what is in my purse? Could you hold this XYZ for me as we go to the car?” (Though be careful with this one, do not give them anything that they can throw across the parking lot and damage.)
NO! I want to open the door!
I typically skip that and go with the bribe: “Hey, do you want to watch TV with mommy when we get home?”
NO! I WANT TO OPEN THE DOOR MYSELF!
By this time far too much time has been spent trying to prevent the inevitable meltdown that is moments away. However in one last effort as to avoid more eyes on you and judgment from the people coming out of the Party Mart and Chinese place you take it down a couple octaves with the firm voice and try the Warning: “Henry, this is your warning. If you do not get in the car there will be no XYZ for the rest of the night!”
NO! I WANT TO OPEN THE DOOR MYSELF AND DON’T TAKE AWAY XYZ!!!
Now we are to Demand: “Henry. GET. IN. THE. CAR. NOW.” As I grab his arm and move him across the parking lot to our car about 5 feet away.
(Ok, let’s be honest. Sometimes I go straight from explanation to Demand)
Then, he crumbles.
He losses it.
Falls to the ground like his bones were instantaneously removed from his body, all in the MIDDLE of the parking lot where cars are coming.
OH NO YOU DIDN’T CHILD!!!!
With purse and pizza in one hand, I reach under and pick him up the best I can. This 40lb beast that now has managed to summon gravity to help him in his cause and now weighs approximately 246lbs; requires me to practically drag my him to the van.
(Probably the only time I have liked the fact we have automatic side doors on the van.)
Then you put him in the car and now comes the fun part. Putting a 40lb, unruly, highly emotional, extremely bendable, child in a carseat.
7 minutes later, one scarf removed (for what I only deem as my own safety), lots of sweat, a slap to my face and my yelling about how dangerous it was to sit in the parking lot with cars and how the behavior is unacceptable which then turns into total silence from me……he is in his carseat.
The silence continues from my end, as Henry is doing more than enough screaming for the both of us, I hear the entire way home:
“I WANT TO WATCH TV. YOU CAN’T TAKE AWAY TV. I WANT TO WATCH TV!!!!!!!”
The arguments continued for another 25 minutes and featured goodies like:
Me: “Get in the house or I am closing the garage door whether you are inside or not”
H: “No. I don’t want to walk.”
Me: “Wash your hands for dinner.”
H: “I don’t want to wash my hands.”
Me: “Do you want help?”
H: “NO, I can do it myself!!!”
Me: “Eat your dinner.”
H: “I don’t like pizza!!!!” (That is just a bold face lie right there.)
See, when he was two (at least the early two’s) he couldn’t plan this all out. He was frustrated but I could distract him with a toy or food he wanted. I could also pick him up a lot easier. Yes, he was still irrational but now he is irrational and thinking and that, my friends, is a bad combination.
Now, don’t get me wrong….three is not all bad. I mean, when it is a good moment it is a really AMAZING moment. They are cute. And HILARIOUS. And smart. Henry has me laughing….like real laughing where my stomach hurts. And you can carry a conversation on with him. And he can be SO AWESOME much of the time.
But it is a roller coaster of emotion and one minute he has you cracking up and the next he says “DON’T LAUGH LIKE THAT, IT WASN’T THAT FUNNY!”
A constant testing of boundaries. "I know I am not suppose to say stupid so I won't say stupid because stupid is bad to say and stupid is an adult word."
A hint of defiance. Henry, pick up that toy. "No." with a smirk.
Basically, if someone our aged acted like three year olds they would be considered bi-polar and on meds. Alas, it is just considered normal.
But I do get it. They are also trying to find their way. Their place. Learn boundaries.
I mean, Independence (aka I DO IT MYSELF) when done right is wonderful!
Like when Henry goes through his entire bedtime routine by himself!! Gets his toothpaste on his brush, brushes his teeth, washes his face & hands, gets his pull-up and PJ’s on, put his chapstick on, turnes on his humidifier, and gets into bed!!
But Henry asserting independence (aka I DO IT MYSELF) can also be frustrating and a struggle.
Like when it takes 10 minutes to leave because your child wants to zip their coat and you can not come within 3 feet of them but then screams and throws their coat on the floor because it isn't working right. And now doesn't want to leave for school even though you are already late.
Or like when I am upstairs getting ready for work. I hear “Mom, I pooped!” Come rushing downstairs and he is sitting on the couch.
Henry, I thought you said you pooped.
I did, I wiped my butt all by myself! I don't want you to help me.
At that moment I knew. I knew there was poop on the couch because a three year old wiping his butt is nothing more than grabbing about 20 sheets of TP, tapping his butt and flushing it down the toilet.
so, I get it. I get him and what he is going through. And I know as a parent I need to be there for him, guide him, help him establish positive outlets for his emotions and find ways to control his frustrations all while letting him explore his independence. But as a human being I am not always going to be at my best. And if I loose my cool or have to lock myself in the bathroom every so often and cry, then so be it.
It is a phase and it will pass in time and a new phase will come. Thank goodness this kid is SO DAMN ADORABLE. And let’s be honest, the “I Love You’s” at the end of the day make it all go away…well those and a big glass of wine while watching TV in peace.
*This long post was created for my records. So I can look back in a year when my child is 4 and it is so much easier. Ha. Ha. Ha.