The Trouble With Three

Have you ever spent a lot of time with a three year old? By a lot, I would have to say approximately 150 hours a week. There are 168 hours in a week, and I legitimately spend 150 of them with my son. Who happens to be at the ridiculously challenging age of three.

(This is a true calculation. My husband is very rarely home, and this calculation took into account the times my son goes to school or attends church child care. I am with him AT ALL OTHER TIMES. I am including the night hours because at nearly three-and-a-half, this child still does not sleep through the night. We’re working on it.)

I remember my mom and my mother-in-law both saying that they found three to be harder than two. As a mother of a two year old, I found that to be an impossible statement.

Then, I became the mother of a three year old.

Three year olds are, for lack of a more appropriate description, ridiculous creatures.

I could handle the terrible twos. Terrible twos are just about the word “no” and temper tantrums. Three year olds are constantly on a roller coaster and they are taking you with them.

Here is my parenting time line so far:

Pregnancy, delivery, recovery: Terrible

Baby phase: I rocked it. My emotions may have been going haywire as I struggled with postpartum depression, but I found parenting a baby very natural and I knew exactly how to do it in a way that worked for me and my son. We had a really great run for those first 18 months.

Terrible Twos: My son hit his terrible twos early, at 18 months. Even though the constant “No”s and temper tantrums were trying, I was (usually) able to deal with them and think, “It must be hard to be two.”

Two and a half to three: Dare I say it, but from age two and a half to three parenting was actually EASY. My son was a good listener, very cooperative, and very willing and excited to learn new skills. He practically potty trained himself at 29 months, received glowing reviews from his teachers, and was fun to be around.

Then three hit. It wasn’t an overnight change, but slowly my sweet, loving boy turned into a whiny, emotional, defiant monster. He forgot how to listen and pushes limits like his life depends on it.

I am finding threes to be worse than twos because at two they are genuinely still learning. Their protests are out of frustration and your job is to provide guidance. At age three, I KNOW my son knows better than some of these behaviors and he continues them anyway. It’s exhausting and infuriating.

The thing is that no one tells you about how bad the threes will be, or they can’t tell you exactly why it’s hard. It just IS. It’s incredibly, frustratingly, hard.

It feels like another one of those unspoken rights of motherhood. Your body will change in indescribable ways, your bladder will never go back to normal, oh, and the threes are going to be REALLY hard.

My favorite term for my son is a threenager, because he certainly teeters between being a little one that needs me and a teenager with an attitude ready to be independent. My threenager has got his role down complete with going to his room and slamming doors when he’s mad to uncontrollable bouts of attitude and disrespect to telling me the other day, “Mom, please be quiet. You’re interrupting my show.”

Sigh. The beauty of being someone’s mother is you can see them at all of their stages. I can look at my son and still see him as a baby, and I sometimes flash forward to seeing him as a teenager and see glimpses of the young man he will become. And then I see him as three, at this challenging age of pushing limits and being in between.

And I think, this won’t last for long. This, too, is just a phase.

But so far I must say, it’s a phase I’m ready to move on from.

Only 23 more days till 4.