Let me start by saying, I feel slightly betrayed by my parenting predecessors.
I got warned about things like sleepless nights, explosive nappies, teething, and the start of the tantrums, right up to the Terrible Twos. So you could forgive me for assuming that once we cleared those murky waters that it would be more or less plain sailing ’til the teenage hormones kick in.
Let me introduce the Threenager.
For those of you with first children under 3, or those of you lucky enough to be given children of relatively sound and logical reasoning minds, a Threenager is your worst nightmare of emotions all bundled up in one big knot lodged in the already unstable mind of a developing child.
This recipe makes for very confusing times for everyone involved.
The most surprising thing about becoming a parent was just how much I have learned about myself.
I used to wonder what sort of a mother I would be, promising myself I would definitely do this, and I definitely wouldn’t do that. What I wasn’t expecting was to be confronted with aspects of my own personality that I didn’t know about – and, honestly – that I don’t really like! First up – turns out, I am not a patient person.
There is nothing, NOTHING more frustrating than trying to get a three year old to eat his dinner.
It is a form of mental torture. ‘Eat your dinner….. yes haha I can see your snot; eat your dinner. No, I don’t know what kind of dinosaur that is or why he is purple, but eat your dinner. Stop licking things please, just eat your dinner. Yes, you do like it, you’ve eaten this dinner a million times, happily. EAT. YOUR. DINNER!’ … …..breathe. Repeat.
I’m sure this torturous experience must surely have been used on prisoners of war to try and break them. ‘Tell us what you know, or we’ll force you to convince this here Threenager to eat his carefully made, lovingly prepared nutritious meal.’ Ten minutes max would have done the trick. I’d have cracked anyway, in a matter of seconds! Just don’t make me try and reason with a three year old, anything but that!
Another factor in the Patience department is the sheer repetitiveness of the questions firing at you like bullets. Anything from your standard ‘Why?’ on repeat to questioning your driving skills. If we are stopped in traffic, for example ‘ Why are we stopped, why are you not driving, drive please, where are we going, why are we not driving, why are we stopped? ‘ All the way to ‘ Ok, who is driving, Mam are you driving? ‘ (he is still rear facing so can’t see which particular chauffeur is on duty ) – honestly it’s a constant interrogation designed to break you down. IT WORKS. Temper. It used to be easy enough to predict the temper tantrums, (not that you’ll ever understand them, LOL, silly you) – but you can learn to predict what might kick them off. Like if you cut toast the wrong way, or if you peeled a banana the wrong way, or even if you just peeled the banana. Even if you only peeled it because they asked you to.
Don’t waste your time thinking how unfair and unjust it is, just try and learn to go with it.
Expect some random outbursts – once you learn to expect them that’s half the battle. Eventually you figure out the triggers of the tantrums, you even start to feel a bit smug about the fact you figured out what starts them. But then they go and change the rules again. Sometimes all it takes is for you to walk into the room. ‘NO MAMA DON’T DO THAT OK?!’ ….’Ehhhhhh ookkkk’… and he’s off. Melt down. Then approximately 4.2 seconds later they’re skipping up to you, hugging you telling you they love you and asking can they have chocolate for dinner.
To be fair, I would love chocolate for my dinner too. WTF you might wonder? Beats the hell out of me I’m afraid. I’m sure I wasn’t this bad when I was three; they must get it from their Dad…
Ok, I’m just going to come out and say it: 3 year olds can be proper A**HOLES.
The main difference here between your Threenager and your Terrible-Two year old, is that the fear is gone. They don’t care what way you try and bribe them, or what you threaten to not give them. They just don’t care. In fact they’ll almost encourage you to challenge them just so that they can say it. NO!
The fear is gone and they don’t give a sh*t. It becomes a battle of wills.
The worst bit is when they do it in a public place so the only weapon of armour you have is to glare forcefully at them and hope they comply. They don’t. (Side note, I’m not promoting fear as a parenting tool. I’m not for a minute suggesting anyone uses that to try and control behaviour! I just mean, they just do not care what toy they will no longer have, or what treat they will no longer earn for good behaviour. No fear!) So yet again I find myself in a battle of wits with someone half my size. And half the time I seem to lose as well. To be fair, half the time I admire his tenacity, his unwillingness to just accept a situation, and I hope he fights what he perceives as unfairness with this level of passion throughout his life! But while he’s in Threenage mode, and while it’s me he’s fighting… it’s just so mentally draining! Having a Threenager is often like carrying a mirror around, one that reflects not only a physical mini version of yourself or your other half, but one that reflects how you act, your mannerisms, things you say.
I’ve asked myself ‘Where does he get that from?!’ when I hear a frustrated ‘Come ON, I don’t have time for this!’ directed at his 19 month old baby brother. Or when his Playschool teacher apparently told him ‘ We don’t shout “Jesus Christ!”‘, or my favourite, ‘Mama says it’s important to share’ when he sees anyone anywhere opening a bar of chocolate or a packet of sweets. Chancer.
So I find myself in a constant state of utter confusion, frustration and admiration all rolled into one, being around my Threenager. However, I have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to picking your battles. This is as much a learning experience for me as it is for them. Don’t try and fight it, after much experimentation I find just to let them get on with it is the best method of defense in the almighty battle of wills. If they don’t want to eat their dinner, fine. If they want to wear some ridiculous combination of clothes, like a big woolly jumper on a hot day, fine. You know eventually they’ll eat when they’re hungry, and they’ll want to take off the big jumper when they get ‘too warmy’ as my Threenager says.
The main mistake I keep making is treating them like I would treat a grown adult with developed sense of reasoning! They have none. They don’t know what these emotions are or how to use them. With this in mind, I highly recommend a read of this article which gives a nice insight to what is really going on in that three year old bundle of confusion! And in the meantime, I shall continue on my quest of understanding my little Threenager and focus on the funny side of how his little mind works, the questions he comes out with and the little stories he tells and things he does. ‘Is that a deal?’ as he regularly asks after he has dictated to me how a situation will play out!
Four isn’t too far away, there’s no cutesy little ‘Fournager’ type phrase to give me any sort of heads up about what lies ahead, is there…?
Read more from Jen at The Scenic Route By Jen