PSA: Forget the Terrible 2s. It’s 3 That’s Going to Kick Your Butt.

In two separate timelines yesterday, I had conversations about 3-year-olds.

The conclusion is pretty much the title of this post.

Look, 2 is definitely challenging.

A newborn is like a soft little marshmallow. Or a houseplant. A very needy, demanding houseplant, to be sure — I don’t know of a plant that wakes you up for water at 2 a.m. And then again at 4 a.m., 5:30 a.m., and 6 a.m.

But, still, newborns stay in one place. They really just need food, cuddles, warm clothes, and sleep. (A lot of food sometimes.) Oh, and diaper changes. Lots and lots of diaper changes.

Then they start rolling, and army crawling, and walking, and after about 12 months, you have no more peace as a parent. And then they start talking. But they are cute as the dickens, and despite the constant monitoring and mess, there is not a thing in the world like smiles, hugs, and kisses from your toddler. They are pure id and pure love.

Two years old is challenging for all the reasons the baby books tell you. Here’s a completely loving and dependent child who is suddenly discovering she is a completely different entity than you. And her priorities are different than yours. You want to clean the kitchen, and she wants to draw. You want to put shoes on her so you can go to the store, and she wants to explore under the bathroom sink. You want to go in, she wants to stay out. You want to sit down, and she wants to turn her room into a toy dump.

Sometimes, absolutely, cleaning the kitchen can go hang, and you should sit down and draw or play dress up or watch a Disney movie with your child.

But sometimes, the kitchen really needs to be cleaned.

Two is the age where naps, in your child’s opinion, become optional, and vegetables are negotiable.

Now, take 2, and add a bigger, stronger child, a more willful child, and A CHILD THAT CAN SPEAK. She knows her own mind (or at least what she wants RIGHT NOW), and she’s going to tell you about it. Oh, and eventually, you’ll be trying to potty train her, too. This child will defy you in words and actions. She will pull away, pull away, pull away, then cling like saran wrap. She will do everything in her power to prove to you that everything is in her power.

She is, sadly, wrong about that.

Age 3 required more deep breathing and patience than I thought I had. Especially the year that Kate was 3 and I was pregnant with Michael. If you are going to have more than one child, don’t wait until you have a 3-year-old. Trust me on this.

Three-year-olds don’t go out of their way to drive their parents nuts. It only seems that way. This is the age of serious boundary testing (until they are teenagers). Your 3-year-old will push and push and push, and then push some more, and keep pushing well past the point that you feel is reasonable — because he or she is not a reasonable being, she is THREE, and if you give in at any point of that pushing, even after the temper tantrum and the dried tears, your 3-year-old will realize that he or she can get away with *anything*. As @MichelleSmiles put it on Twitter yesterday: “They understand their power by 3.”

Age 3 is the reason the phrase “pick your battles” was invented. Some kids will fight you on *everything*. Some kids will only fight you on everything every other day. But rest assured, fighting will happen. Know what is important to you when you get ready to engage.

The worst part of age 3 for me both times was potty training. I tried one thing with Flora and found it incredibly frustrating. I tried a different tact with Kate, and found it incredibly frustrating. Potty encouraging (that’s more or less the tact I tried with Kate) was especially no fun because I was so nauseous all the time. I have no advice. I’m pretty sure I’m going to let Michael train himself. Or offer Flora a million dollars to do it for me.

Minor aside: 3-year-old poop? Is vile.

In conclusion: It’s time that we spread the word to new parents far and wide. Forget about the terrible 2s. The terrible 2s will seem adorable after you have survived the terrifying 3s. The best advice I can give you is two-fold: 1. Pick your battles. 2. Hold on for the ride. It’s going to be a wild and wooly year. But you and your child will survive. Age 4 is right around the corner.

14 thoughts on “PSA: Forget the Terrible 2s. It’s 3 That’s Going to Kick Your Butt.

  1. So true. I look back fondly as 2 being one of my favorite ages now. And potty training my youngest isn’t going to happen. She will do it when she wants to. That is a battle I’m picking not to fight because I won’t win.

    • That’s exactly how I feel about my youngest, my son. I’m not “training” him. He can figure out how to do it. I have a feeling we’ll be outside a lot in the summer!

  2. I call it the Terrible Twos, the Terrifically Terrible Threes, and (occasionally) The F**king Fours.

    And I’m right there with you on the poop. *gag* Jamie turns 3 tomorrow and as of then, it’s all potty training all the time. MUST STOP CHANGING DIAPERS.

  3. If babies are like houseplants, I’m screwed. I can plant and maintain a lovely outside garden. Houseplants? Laugh at me before they keel over and die.

    • oops. I didn’t mean for you to take that metaphor quite so literally. I mean more along the lines of: newborns stay where you put them, and they don’t do anything very interesting. That starts to change around months 3 and 4. You’ll be fine. Unlike houseplants, babies cry to tell you they need something. 🙂

  4. I have always told people, threes are the worst! They don’t believe you though because they are dealing with a two year old. So as I have learned you just have to let them live it and help if you can. Live and learn.

    • I know. I am taking every moment to enjoy my 15month-olds giggles because I know the tantrum are right around the corner! I survived the girls’ third years, though, so I’m just praying for the best.

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