I’ve been trying to come up with an accurate “terrible twos” type euphemism for the threes, which in my opinion are far worse than the twos, and I heard this from another mom. I think “threenager” is cute, and fitting. The threes, for both of my girls, were when the attitude kicked in.
I’m not sure how the terrible twos got such a bad rap. Maybe because it’s when the first tantrums start, and we’re all mildly horrified to see our sweet toddling little baby, who used to blow us raspberry kisses and giggle when we changed her diaper, turn into a red-faced beast who is completely out of control with emotion. But when your kid is two, they’re small, easily restrained or picked up to haul out of a grocery store, quickly distracted by shiny objects or food, and when they calm down, they come to you for comfort.
In my experience, the three-year-old tantrums are much more epic. When Peanut has a tantrum now, she doesn’t just want to huff and cry and blow off steam, she wants to harm me, her sister, herself. She bucks and thrashes and chases me around trying to bite me. She throws and kicks (aiming for your stomach or throat) and screams like some kind of wild animal in extreme pain. And she’s strong. Too strong for me to restrain without hurting her. She’s pretty inconsolable throughout the whole ordeal, so I just shut her in her room and wait her out until the animalistic screams turn to calls for mommy, and then I know we’re through the worst of it.
But my biggest complaint with the threes isn’t the tantrums, it’s the attitude. The threes, for both girls, were when the word “no” became the only word in their vocabulary. Peanut will say “no” to you before you’ve even finished offering her something. If I start a TV show for her, she immediately yells: “No, not that one!” before she’s even seen what’s coming on. Pick out an outfit, and she’ll shout “no!” from the hallway, where she can’t even see which outfit I’m holding. She also will get stuck on demanding the one thing she’s figured out we don’t have. Yesterday it was strawberries. We have 10 kinds of fruit in the house, all favorites of hers, but all she wanted was strawberries. The day before it was yogurt-covered raisins, which is only funny because she hates yogurt-covered raisins and spits them out every time (as she did when I finally got her to ask nicely for some, and gave them to her).
String Bean, who is finally coming down off the spectacular four-year-old attitude surge, will sometimes just put her hands on her skinny hips and shake her head at her sister, then look at me. “Was I like that when I was three?” she’ll ask. “Worse,” I tell her, which seems to amuse her greatly. Peanut’s got a stronger will than String Bean, so the stubborn part of the “threeenager” is more pronounced there, but Peanut’s got nothing on String Bean’s hyper-sensitive side. If String Bean had wanted strawberries when we were out, she wouldn’t just have asked for them ten thousand times in one day, she’d have been brought to tears by the disappointment.
So the sweet, mislabeled “terrible twos” are behind us, and soon I’ll be discovering what joys the fives bring with them. I’ll ride out the threenager issues as best I can, and try to keep a positive perspective, because I know that after the threes, come the fours, with haughty attitude paired with bizarre child-logic that runs you around in circles. I have a feeling Peanut’s really going to give me a run for my money in that phase.