Aaaaaah. Three.

Some of you might not know that Three-Years-Old is the portal to the Seventh Circle of Hell.

I’m here to tell you, again, that it is.

I know about Threes’ seven-layer dip of insanity, lack of impulse control, emotional immaturity, irrationality, impatience, illogic, and incontinence because I still have PTSD from my eldest’s year-long bout of The Threes. The day he threw furniture at the closed door that signaled “Mommy Needs A Timeout to Keep from Beating You.” The day he assaulted me, apologized to get me closer, then attacked again. The day he raged because I wouldn’t go out in the rain and drive alone to the store to bring him back mushrooms, a food he didn’t like. The day he peed in the cat box because he didn’t like my rules.

Three. The “at-least-it’s-good-for-a-laugh” antithesis of good times.

I’ve braced myself for Butterbean to turn Three. I’ve girded and steeled and all other architectural metaphor-ed. I’ve prepared.

So when he spun into a tantrum because I dared to say that being grown up means I won’t, in fact, get taller, I tried not to laugh. He screamed for half an hour that I have to get taller right now.

I wish, buddy. But you are not the first to try nonsense tactics. And you will not win. Not only do I not refuse to get taller right now, I refuse to talk about it.

When Butter recently threw himself out of the stroller and writhed and yelled and tried to hit me as I asked how I could help, I dispassionately plopped him back in the stroller and kept walking. And repeated one house later. And another, and another, each time offering to carry him, cuddle him, or let him push the stroller as long as we kept going. When it didn’t work I just kept breathing and tossing his enraged body back into the stroller. Because I know what happens when you negotiate with Three-Year-Olds. All of this blog from 2009 is what happens when you negotiate with Three-Year-Olds.

But a new calm has come over me. I can outlast Three. I have done it before. I can survive earthquake and fire and oncoming traffic that smashes my ride at 106 miles an hour. And graduate school. If I am still standing after all that, I can survive another three-year-old. I’m not alone in my plight, and there are experts whose advice can help.

In fact, my newly crowned Three’s tendency toward batshit insane actually has his seven-year-old brother taking a turn for the avuncular. Battles of wills are being dropped rather than pressed, sharing is increasing, and feelings are being calmly listed more this month than in all of last year. Today Peanut explained to his brother what to do when you’re really mad and draw back to kick someone. “Change your mind,” he said, “and talk about how angry you are instead.”

Maybe there’s an upside to Three. Or an upside to Seven. Or to the synergy between them.

I hope so. We could really use an upside or two or Three.

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31 thoughts on “Aaaaaah. Three.

  1. I know what you are talking about. The mood swings and the freaking volatility are killing me– and then there is how my 3yr old acts. Oy. It’s a long road. We are at 3.5 and 2 so I am in the trenches. Deep in the trenches. send medicine and food.

  2. This is what I love about the second kid — you know that it will pass. You have fucking evidence, man. It’s so nice to have that moment where you start to get a little panicky and freaked about how you don’t know how you can deal with the jerky little 3-year-old, and then you look at the 7-year-old and say, “Oh yeah. This is just a phase.” And then, you can face it. Second kid is awesome. :)

    • Six is defiant. Trying to be adult by defying. I let more things go at six than I ever thought I would. A lot of, “oh, I see. This is going to take four tries, eh? Okay, get your shoes, get your shoes, get your shoes, and my final offer, get your shoes.”

  3. So true! My son turns 4 tomorrow, so we’re still kind of “in it”. We get into so many irrational and nonsensical arguments while driving in the car, that I usually just end up turning up the radio and ignoring him before I drive off the road.

  4. Hey, your Peanut grew out of 3. Some people never get past 3. I work with some of them, I know. You have progress in your genes, so when you want to scream GROW THE PHUCK UP, you know they will. Someday. Maybe 20 years from now, but it will happen.

    The upside is that they can’t get younger. So there. BOOM.

    • Congrats on making it to 3.5. I wish I could say the second half is easier.

      I wish I could say four is easier. I had a newborn for peanut’s four, which was awful. But better than three. But several friends call them the F***ing Fours. The final year of the Trying Twos, Throw Me in Front of a Bus Threes, F***ing Fours.

      Did I mention congratulations on both being alive at 3.5?

    • It all makes so much sense on paper, right? Individuating, assessing boundaries, setting neural grooves. But it’s just hell on parents.

      Good luck with Five, I guess? ;-)

  5. Oh my! Do I EVER remember the threes with my daughter and oldest child. She breezed through the terrible two’s with such ease I congratulated my parenting skills. But then, after that 3rd birthday I remember crying to my sister on the phone, “I knew about the terrible twos but nobody ever told me about the terrible threes!” She must be a close friend of yours, because she replied, “Oh. Just you wait until the f*&%$ing fours!”

    Hang in there, Mom!

    • Ah, Jane. I remember that week where we unclenched a bit, assessed just how white our knuckles were from Two, and proclaimed, ” well, that was tough, but we handled it gorgeously and we have bested the Twos.” Then Three kicked us in the teeth and left us sobbing ruefully about child labor laws cramping our need to apprentice Three to a blacksmith.

      You made it, I made it, we will all make it. But the collected stories…oh, the Grimm brothers have nothing on our stories of the Threes and Fours.

  6. My kids definitely had their issues (and all the other numbers – oldest turned 9 yesterday), but I don’t remember anything quite that bad. Maybe, I am forgetting. What a great thing memory or lack thereof is.
    Anyway, the positive affects on the 7 year old are very cool. The big brother thing is certainly helping you and hopefully the 3 year old as well.

  7. Oh, yes. This is all too familiar. We are rounding the corner, my Three will be Four in May, but i’m convinced that everyone who talks about the “terrible twos” doesn’t actually have children, or sold them to the zoo before they hit Three. I don’t know, but if one more person tells me “just wait until she’s four!” they’re going to get a handful of goldfish crackers to the face (inspired by my little terror). I need my light at the end of the tunnel, dammit.

    • Wait! They buy kids at the zoo?! Gotta go!

      (Light at the end of the tunnel? College is nice for parents, I hear.)

      Hang in there, hang tight, and hang around here so we can commiserate!

  8. Ah Nap, as my grandfather used to say, “You will get your reward in heaven.” Unless, of course, you don’t believe in heaven, in which you’re screwed. It sounds like you have a perfectly reasonable approach to the 2nd time around. No less crazy-making, but survivable, right?

  9. Oh boy, good luck! Three was the WORST age for both of my boys (now 16 and 9). We sailed through the 2s no problem. But they were so bratty at 3 and didn’t really fully come out of it until 5. Hopefully you’ll cruise through!

    • Doubtful, Stacie, that we’ll sail through. Three through five as a living acid bath was our experience with the older guy. I hope it ends early this time?

      Good to hear from you again. I’ve missed you! :)

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