On Being Three Years Old (and Living With Such a Creature)

Three is . . . difficult.

Three is anticipating the end of the Sesame Street episode about ten minutes before it comes, and asking incessantly, again and again, if he can watch another one?  Can I watch another again?  Can I watch another?  Pweeese?  Pweese pweese??  Mama?

Three is demanding to put his own shoes on, climb into his own chair, cut his own food, and then crying and whining in frustration when it proves too hard for him to do perfectly right.

Three is whining, constantly.  Three is perpetually getting the short end of the stick, and he has the language to express his displeasure with this state of affairs.  And he expresses it hour in and hour out, nearly every minute of the day.

Three is frequent time outs for whining.

Three is Mama yelling in frustration and anger literally for the first time in her parenthood.   For reasons I can’t exactly articulate.  The whining pushes a button that I wish it didn’t push.  It wears me down to a nub in seconds.

Three is occasionally yelling at himself before I have a chance to.  And then I crack a smile, and he laughs, and I laugh, and we move on.

Three is . . . complicated.

Three is an exploding vocabulary, an exploding imagination, and an increasing ability to express abstract ideas.  Three is thrillingly sweet conversations about the dinosaurs walking on his ceiling or the hot lava bubbling under the couch.  And three is screaming in fear, suddenly, about all of the pirates and monsters and unnameable horrors that lurk in the corners of his darkened room, about the terrifying alligator statue at the water park, about the terrifyingly enormous fake tree in the Zoo gift shop, and about sources of this wild animal fear response that make even less sense than toothsome towering alligator statues.

Three is alternatively pulling your brother up onto the dance floor of the living room for a great dance party, and shoving him roughly to the floor in the middle of said party for no apparent reason.  This is probably Four and Five and Six and Fifty as well.

Three is trying out some serious sassing, and then realizing that a line has been crossed and cringing in anticipation of the consequence.  Three cowers in fear in the face of as little sign of disapproval as Mom’s Raised Eyebrow, but still invokes it (and worse, Mom’s Raised Voice) time and again.

Three is guileless, wearing the pirate hat and shouting ARRGGHH MATEY! with glee, stripping off a wet swimsuit in the street without shame, dancing with complete disregard of what others think . . . but with an occasional hesitation that shows a glimmer of Shame to come.

Three is . . . fleeting.

Three is climbing onto the couch, pulling a blanket over his head, and then calling me to “come and sweep in my bed here on this couch, under dis bwanket,” which I always try to do, and where we huddle and hide from the world and whisper silly things to each other and giggle.

Three is still saying things like zweba (zebra) and bicycle (popsicle) and dawishuss (delicious), but also saying things like “I’m sorry I hit you on the head, Wiam, I no mean to hurt you, I was just being mean.”

Three is in love with me, in awe of me, still wants me above anyone else, except maybe his Dad, with whom he is also still hopelessly in love.  All of Three’s worst attributes melt away in the bright, joyful, sunshiney light of complete and totally focused attention from either parent.

Three is learning all the names of the different shark species in his shark book, and then taking all of his shark figurines to the aquarium so we can see them in the flesh.  Three is soaking up knowledge like crazy.  Three is fun to teach.

Three knows all the words to about a million songs.

Three is harder than two.

But it’s more fun, too.

I would write more, but One has just gotten his little hand stuck in the VHS cassette player, and Three is trying helpfully to yank him out of it, so Thirty-Two had better go and intervene.

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4 Responses to On Being Three Years Old (and Living With Such a Creature)

  1. Three is really, really hard. We were like, “Why does no one tell you your child turns into a demon at three?” Two was cake, relatively speaking.

    I was rereading some of my archives recently and can’t believe what I managed without falling completely apart. (Just mostly, some days.) I would have tantrum PTSD and flinch at the slightest raised voice. I would text M, “Bring vodka,” even though we don’t drink.

    But it gets better, so much better. I recommend: Brain Rules for Baby, Mind in the Making, and Raising Your Spirited Child. Particularly the last title, which I (unfortunately) didn’t discover until I was through the worst of it.

    What I learned from Pea was that there would be “the storm before the calm.” The worse a day went, the more she’d developed the next day. You could almost watch it happening. There’s so much going on in their brains at three, though, that it’s so hard to sort a good day from a bad day.

    Hugs from afar. Also: four is so much fun.

  2. sunni says:

    I thought you were going to announce that you were pregnant with #3! I honestly expected it right up until the end!

  3. RG says:

    Oh my Gosh! It was not my intention to be misleading, but now that you mention it, it does look like a great hook into that announcement! Which is not forthcoming! Not until Three is at least Five and One is at least Three and Mama is out of law school, the bar exam, and her first year of work!

    I think I’ll go change the title, so as not to give any more heart attacks.

  4. Proto Attorney says:

    That whiny voice drives me completely crazy. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. I actually started whining back to her, in an even more obnoxious whiny voice, so she could hear exactly how irritating it sounds. Then I’d tell her when she can ask for something in a normal voice, politely, she might have some success. It would stop the whining at that moment, but of course, there would just be more whining at a later time. At 3 1/2 she’s (mostly) grown out of it. Now we’re dealing with the mumbling. Like, seriously, if you want something, I have to be able to understand you. “Mommy, can I armmohsfapmddss?” Huh?

    I do love the language explosion though. It’s like overnight they go from saying just simple phrases to tell you what they want, to being actual people with a full vocabulary and the ability to have a full conversation.

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