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Three is Worse Than Two...But in Some Ways, it's Also Better

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Three is Worse Than Two...But in Some Ways, it's Also Better

If I have learned one thing about the Terrible Twos, it's that the Terrible Twos don't end when they turn three.

Nope.  In gets WORSE.  

In our case, Jack went from a sweet, cuddly little toddler to a defiant, tantrum-throwing maniac (ok, I'll just say it...he went from a cherub to sort of a mini poltergeist) almost overnight.  I was pretty sure that the Terrible Twos were something that happened to other people and other people's I was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) when Jack started acting like a moody little teenager (less the self-control and reasoning abilities) just weeks before Claire was born (excellent timing, Jack).

The Terrible Twos sent me into a tailspin.  Not only was I heavily pregnant, but I was also wrapping things up with my job of five years while Charles was starting a new job (after being laid off twice in twelve months), and we were moving.  So, I did what any mom in my situation would do - I turned to the internet for the sage advice and reassuring words of Mothers Who Had Survived the Terrible Twos.

But the internet made it worse!  Sure, occasionally there was some good advice for diffusing a meltdown or coping with the craziness, but mostly I was finding the same thing over and over again.

Things like: Three is worse!  You'll wish your little one was two again once three hits!  You think the Terrible Twos are bad - just wait!!

And so, rather than getting any real advice, I ended up steeling myself for what was surely to come.


And it turned out, they were right.  No amount of wishful thinking or positive reinforcement could divert Jack from the path that he was (and still is!) on.  I'm not holding my breath, but I've been told it gets easier around three and a half or four.

And you know what?  The last few weeks, we've actually had a taste of what I imagine four will be like...all "yes, please!" and "no, thank you," and "Mommy, may I?" rather than "NOOOOOO!!!!" "I want a CAKE POP!!!" and more "NOOOOO!"

I don't know what has prompted this respite from our daily battles, but I'll take it - no questions asked.  And it's done more than giving me some breathing room and a chance to regroup (I know better than to expect things to just magically stay this way!).

It's given me time to appreciate the fun parts of having a three-year-old and realize that there really is a lot to love about this age (because when strangers ask how old Jack is and then say, "Oh what a fun age!" I usually respond with, "Really?!").

Yesterday, while holding my wedding ring in his little hand, Jack told me he was going to get married when he grows up.  So I asked him who he was going to marry.  He answered (without even pausing to think about it), "Wooby!" (Wooby = Ruby, the neighbor who is a few months older than Jack).  But then he thought about it for a second and said, "When I get older, I'm going to marry YOU, Mama!"  And my heart swelled.  "Not until later though...when I'm big!" he insisted.  "Little kids don't get married, only grown ups."

And as if that weren't sweet enough, he tells me he loves me...all the time.  OK, this is kind of rough when it's a school day and he's crying and telling me he loves me and he's going to miss me when he's at school...but for the most part, it's just awesome.  I love how well he's able to express himself now.

I also love to see where his imagination takes him.  It's amazing to me, to hear his little stream of consciousness coming out in stories, while he plays - I love how he marries reality and fantasy and sometimes can't seem to tell which is which (and isn't that really what childhood long dream that over time sharpens into a more concrete grown-up world?).  Today he built a "birdie house" of blocks and topped it off with a toy caribou (of all things!), and I thought, "Now THAT is what being a kid is all about...who doesn't want a bird house with a caribou on top?"

When we go on walks, he picks me flowers.  Sometimes I have to get on to him about this, because he'll rip flowers from someone's garden as we're walking down the street without thinking twice.  Often, he picks me a weed and I have to drop it when he's not looking because I have flashbacks to the time I picked some wild flowers for my mom and a day later we had aphids crawling all over the kitchen counter because apparently, there had been aphids hiding between the petals.

He cares for his sister.  He's protective of her when strangers approach her and asks to hold her every morning (which is cute, but is really more of a pain than anything - he can't actually hold her up so she's usually hanging off his lap in seconds as she tries to crawl down the couch, and it often ends with tears as they bump heads or Claire scratches Jack in the face trying to escape).

When he really wants something and asks (begs) for it and I say yes - be it a walk to the park or a cake pop - he rejoices like only a three-year-old can.  He will jump up and down and yell, "THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!" or, my personal favorite, "Yahooooooo!"

When he wants to tell me something and forgets what he was going to say, he defaults to his stand-by conversation starter: "I like steam engines!"  And then he'll keep going..."I like steam engines and orange juice and milk shakes and ice cream and cement trucks!  Are milk shakes healthy, mama?"  Etc., etc., etc....

He is full of joy and wonder and curiosity.

It's so easy to let that get lost in the tantrums and meltdowns and tears and defiance that come with the  Terrible Twos.  It's easy to feel defeated and like I'm losing at Parenting, like my kid is somehow the only kid on the planet who has ever run up to a little girl at the playground and growled at her so ferociously she cried (come on, tell me your kids growl at other kids...please!).  So when Jack throws me a bone and goes to his room and gets his shoes when he's asked, or puts his own underwear on, or finishes his cracker when I tell him to, my batteries get charged just a little bit, and I think about how awesome my kid is, and I forget (temporarily, at least) how challenging the last few months have been.

A few weeks ago we were at the park and a dad, chasing his 16-month-old around the playground, asked me if it was going to get easier (for the record, those early toddler days were my favorite!).  I said, "No" without skipping a beat.  "No, really," I elaborated (just to make sure I was clear), "it doesn't get easier.  It gets harder."  I was just being honest, and surely my short and decisive answer was also indicative of the kind of day I had been having (also, some context here...we were having a light-hearted conversation and our kids have played together on several occasions - I wasn't just shooting this poor dad down for the fun of it).

But I wish he would have asked me that question today. I would have been honest (sorry, dude, it does get harder!), but I also would have told him awesome it is when your kid can put his own undies on or comes up and gives you a big hug and a kiss on his own free will.

So, to all of you parents with kids who are still sweet and angelic and not-yet-two...hang on.  It's going to get worse (sorry), but there are brighter days to come!

And to all of you who have been there, done that...when *does* it get easy?  I'm assuming between the ages of about 5-12 I can get a little break before the teen years kick in...any possibility that might be true (please say it is true)?

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At March 2, 2012 at 4:36 PM , Blogger kijjet said...

My step kids came into my life at the ages of 7 (boy) and 9 (girl). The boy is currently 12 and he is still pretty easy going (moody sometimes and sneaky with a side of mean to his sister) but overall he's a good kid. And it is so fun seeing him find interests and explaining things he is excited about. The girl started getting tricky around 11. I think the teen years start earlier for girls. So many hormones. But what I *thought* was bad at 11 was NOTHING compared to 14. :) But every age has its moments.

At March 3, 2012 at 6:23 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

I guess you're right...everything is a trade-off! The newborn days were exhausting, but at least there was no talking back...poopy diapers are no fun, but potty training is kind of worse...etc., etc.

I am terrified of the teen years!! And so far, my daughter is doing everything much earlier than my I'm sure you're right, and the teen years will come earlier for her, too. :::SIGH:::

At March 3, 2012 at 9:38 PM , Blogger kijjet said...

Everyone is always terrified of the teen years, but you make it through them generally in one piece. I think the teen years are kind of like "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named". We need to call them what they are (Voldemort) so that they aren't these scary years ahead. :) Instead of teen years, they should be called transition. It is a transition for them as they figure out who they are, who they want to be and a struggle when they realize they can't necessarily be that person right away (because they have curfews and homework, etc.) and it is a transition for the parents as we start to shift how we see our kids, see that they are starting to be adults or at least striving to be adults. LOL. It is hard, just like any transition. But it is also amazing to see them venture out and succeed, little by little.

At March 5, 2012 at 11:43 AM , Blogger Carrie said...

Thank you for this! This is a very positive way to look at mostly hear about how awful it is, and I remember my own teen years and I'm sure my parents would have gladly skipped over a few of them (HA!) so I've pretty much got myself geared up for several years of unpleasantness. But you have the right idea - it's all in how you look at things, and surely will be much more awesome than I ever imagined. :)


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