The Terrible Twos. Has a nice ring doesn’t it? And I guess it’s because of alliteration that the fabled age of two fills new parents with dread. But it’s all a lie, as any parent with a child approaching the age of three, like me, already knows: three is worse than two.
This is the big secret that my more experienced parent friends have discovered. When we got together to talk shop, I never noticed them winking to each other when the topic of the “terrible twos” comes up. But now I see clearly. I can see them silently saying to each other, “The poor schmo has no bloody idea what he’s in for.” You other parents out there are probably nodding at your computer screen as you're reading this right now, aren't you?
I’m quickly learning what three has in store for me as the kid I used to call the Bean, once calm and mellow, has transformed into Stripe from GREMLINS less than two months before his third birthday.
A quick parenting test—Do any of these phrases sound familiar?:
Let me do it!
I don’t want to!
I want you to leave!
I can’t do it, you do it!
I want it now!
If so, than you’ve experienced the magic and splendor of a three year old.
These days when I get home from work, the first thing I do is survey the debris around the house. This will indicate how bad the Gremlin was and what kind of mood I can expect from WonderWife™. I scour the house like a CSI agent—the kitten is eating scraps of food that have been dropped (or most likely flung) onto the floor surrounding the dining room table. Toys are scattered everywhere. There are piles of laundry, both clean and dirty, interspersed throughout the house. In the middle of it all stands WonderWife™, looking haggard, her shoulders slumped in defeat. The Bean’s eyes are tinged with red from crying. As tired as I am from the day, I know that even the mightiest of super-hero moms needs a break. So I kiss WonderWife™ and Sprout, and tell the Bean that it’s time for his bath.
“Don’t wash my hair,” he pleads. The Bean has never liked having his hair washed, but since becoming a Gremlin, he’s become downright petulant about it.
I turn to WW™, whose silent nod says, “Dude, he’s run around all day and played in the dirt. And I think there’s a fishstick from dinner stuck somewhere in his ‘fro.”
“We’re washing your hair tonight, Big Guy,” I say and immediately the crying begins.
Over the course of the next hour, the Bean will break down in spasms of
crying no less than three times. He will bat my hands away, swipe at me and try to hide in the far corner of the bathtub while I attempt to wash his face and hair. He’ll squirm, which will make water go into his eyes and cause the sobbing to escalate to a level I didn’t think possible from a human being. He will decide that he’d rather play with his trucks, naked and shivering, than put on his jammies. He will scold me for using the word jammies and tell me what he wants them to be called pajamas. He will not be able to decide what bedtime stories he wants to read. He will ask for milk, even though he knows that he never gets milk right before bed. He will refuse to kiss his mom good night. And he will cry before he goes to sleep because he doesn’t want to close his eyes, even though three minutes later he will be dead asleep.
Yup, three is definitely worse than two. And he’s not officially three yet.