Whoever coined the term “The Terrible Twos” clearly never had kids. He or she probably came up with the term “sleeping like a baby” as well. Babies don’t sleep. And the twos aren’t that terrible. In fact, they’re pretty darn cute if you ask me. It’s the THREES that are terrible. Compared to their three-year-old compadres, two-year-olds are downright angelic.
Two-year-olds are just learning how to talk and can’t say things like, “I hate you, stupid mommy poopy head!” like my three-year-old can. Two-year-olds are just learning gross motor skills and can’t ride a tricycle over their sister’s heads the way my three-year-old likes to. Two-year-olds typically still pee in their diapers, and not deliberately all over the walls like my three-year-old does. Even the tantrums at two are cute; tiny little flailing arms and adorable tears. I’ve had several injuries from my 40-pound three-year-old’s massive tantrums. Trying to change his pull-up is like being in the ring with Mike Tyson sometimes. And yes, like Evander Holyfield, I’ve had my ear (and hand, and leg, and cheek, and feet) bitten by my opponent. Two-year-olds act out because they don’t have the skills to express their frustration. My three-year-old spits on people on purpose. He knows how to “use his words” he just chooses not to. Instead, when he wants to express his discontent, he hocks up a big, juicy loogie and lets it fly … on me, his dad, his sister, on a random woman at Safeway (sorry lady, I’m doing my best here!). My three-year-old is so terrible he’s drives me to tears (daily). He’s so terrible, when I apologetically said to the babysitter, “The threes are tough” she said, “I feel really bad for you. Your life sucks.”
My son may be terrible, but of course I still love him more than anything in the universe. And when he’s not biting or hitting or spitting or screaming or peeing on the walls, he’s actually the cutest thing on earth. He’s loving and kind and funny. And I want to enjoy these fleeting preschool years. I want to be the best mom I can be, even when I feel like screaming and jumping out of the window. So I went on a quest for serious advice on how to get through the next two years (because I hear the Fearsome Fours are pretty bad too). Here’s what my panel of “experts” told me:
Tried it. Didn’t work. Not only did I find my patience was even shorter after a few glasses of wine, parenting on a hangover is pretty much the worst thing in the universe.
Tried it. Didn’t work. He ended up causing serious bodily injury to his sister and got peach pulp all over my new sofa. Plus it was hard to hear what they were saying on The Bachelorette over my daughter’s blood-curdling screams.
Give Him Time Outs
Tried it. Didn’t work. He dismantled his entire bedroom in 3 minutes (you know, I tried the one-minute-per-age thing. He used it to his advantage. Had I just gone in for a minute, he never could have wreaked that kind of havoc. I blame you, Super Nanny, for that one.)
Give Myself Time Outs
Tried it. Didn’t work. Kids kept coming in my room. Who was I kidding trying to escape? I can’t even pee alone these days.
Give Him a Time In (ie- Hold Him Tight Until He Calms Down)
Tried it. Didn’t work. Got a black eye. He’s a strong kid.
Try 1, 2, 3 Magic
Tried it. Didn’t work. Either I’m no David Copperfield or it’s no magic.
Cut Out Sugar
Tried it. Didn’t work. He went on a fast like a Tibetan Monk and lost like 2 pounds until I caved and gave him a massive bowl of frozen yogurt smothered in gummy worms. For breakfast.
Use Positive Rewards
Tried it. Didn’t work. He looked at me cockeyed as if to say, “If you think I’d rather have that stupid sticker than smear honey all over the walls, you’re smoking something.”
Give Limited Choices
Tried it. Didn’t work. Apparently when you want s’mores and lollipops, “broccoli or peas” isn’t an appealing alternative.
Tried it. Didn’t work. The kid has incredible focus. He once asked for ice cream relentlessly for 3-hours straight and didn’t even flinch when we produced a full-on impromptu Sesame Street reenactment, waving around his Elmo dolls singing “Dad da da da, Elmo’ssss world!”
Put Him to Bed Early
Tried it. Didn’t work. He bounced off the walls for hours until I passed out first.
Wait It Out
Trying it. It’s gotta work. I know the Terrible Threes can’t last forever so I’m just hanging in there, holding my breath, waiting for him to evolve into the loving, calm, caring young man I know is lurking in there under his mischievous little three-year-old grin.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that this too shall pass. Everything is a phase. The sleepless infant nights were a phase. The picky eating was a phase. Diapers were a phase. Hating the car seat was a phase. The incredibly scary, painful failure to thrive years my daughter suffered through were a phase. It’s so hard to remember that when you’re in it. When you’re exhausted and frustrated and can’t wait for bedtime. But it’s true.
And everything serves a purpose. My three-year-old’s acting out might drive me and my husband crazy, but it’s helping him learn to be an independent being. He’s testing boundaries and learning what flies and what doesn’t. And as much as I want to stop it, to give him time outs and distract him and drink a bottle of wine, I know in my heart that while those things may temporarily help, I just have to wait it out. It’ll get better when he’s five. Right? RIGHT?????