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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Poised on the verge

Well, seems we’re set pretty well on the whole Almost-Three thing.

Butter has composed his own song and sings it loudly in all scenarios: backseat, library, market, backyard.

“Bob the not builder
Can we not fix it?
No, we can’t.”

For all those who haven’t had a three-year-old, that song is the epigraph to your instruction manual, a book in which the pages are stuffed with only coping mechanisms and a benediction that if you make it through you’re clearly one of the Chosen.

My dear Two-and-Three-Quarters has further decided that “no” and “yes” are for two-year-olds and now answers questions either “Poopy Yes” or “Poopy No.”

To everyone. See above references to public places and relatively staid audiences.

Yes, I’d say we’re doing pretty well on the “are you ready to be Three” checklist. Now I just need some sign from him that he’s aware of the importance of this new phase.

Could the signal I’m waiting for be that he threw a massive fit today because he wanted more sandwich? Probably, since the second half of the sandwich was in his hand during all the writhing and keening. And when I told him to that he had sandwich in his hand and isn’t that silly, and told me, “But Mommy, when you say ‘no,’ I say ‘yes.'”

And there it is.

See you some time in the summer of 2014 when I come up for air…

Perspective

A sweet family member saw some pictures of Peanut on facebook the other day and said something to the effect of “I don’t understand how someone so cute can be such a terror…”  And I need to clarify, for my own sake (and for his grandma, who reads this blog and did a damned fine job raising Spouse)

Peanut is wonderful. Sweet, gentle, spirited, intense. But compounding that is the fact that he’s three. Before that he was two. Right there, ‘nough said, right? Two can be like having all the poles on your batteries reversed as they are attached to your watering eyeballs. And three can be like peeling off your skin and diving into grapefruit juice. And I just can’t take it. Doesn’t mean he’s actually a terror that Spouse and I talk, daily, mutually, about a 4:30 bedtime for Peanut. He’s not the problem. WE are the problem. We grownups who can’t seem to find the patience and willpower and energy to make it through 15 hours of this every day.  Without a break. Without formal training. Without the benefit of a spare in case we actually sell him to the gypsies. (Anyone know if they’re buying, btw? And where to find them? I know the economy is tough and I don’t know the going rate, but…)

He’s not a terror. We are terrified and terror-stricken and terrorized. But it’s not the boy’s fault. I wish I knew whose fault it is, because I’m all about the blame and the downside and the cloud within the silver lining. But until I find some perspective, my friend is right. It’s a good thing he’s cute.