The New Terrible Twos

This mule is jealous of the amazing stubbornness possessed by three-year-olds everywhere.

When my oldest son was two, he was downright angelic. So consequently I was all, "Haha, we escaped the terrible twos, probably due to my innately superior parenting skills." (In my head, of course.)

And then ... he turned three. And I got totally bitch-slapped by karma for being so cocky before.

So when my second son Cameron was two, and he was good, I didn't read too much into it. Because I knew he would be three soon enough. And my friends? If you've ever had a three-year-old, you'll know: three is the new Terrible Two.

They're defiant. They get an attitude. And it all happens, like, the day they turn three. That is totally not an exaggeration; just one of life's great mysteries. It's like magic, really.*

*And by magic I mean the kind of magic that some kind of scary voodoo doctor conjures to totally eff someone up.

But by far the most taxing part of the Traumatic Threes is the fierce independent streak that they develop seemingly overnight. If you're anything like me (read: totally impatient), the phrase "I can do it all by myself!" becomes the bane of your existence.

Let me give you a few examples of my daily interactions with Cameron: the "I-Can-Do-It-All-By-Myself" Edition.

Before: Mommy puts on his socks. Time: 5-7 seconds
Now: He can do it all by himself. Sock gets snagged on big toe. He tries again. Sock gets caught up. He pulls it off. It's inside out. Refuses help turning it right side out. Tries about a million times. Tantrum ensues. Finally sock is on ... with the seam running across the bottom of his foot. Painstakingly turns it around. ... Now for the other sock. Time: 5-7 minutes

Before: Mommy fastens his seatbelt. Time: 7-15 seconds
Now: He can DO IT all by HIMSELF. Tugs on seatbelt. It's twisted. Tries to untwist it; requires help. Tantrum ensues. Attempts to buckle. Misses. Tries again. Misses. Repeat five or six (or seven or eight or twelve) times. Grudgingly allows Mommy to finish the job. Time: 2 minutes

Before: Mommy zips his coat. Time: 2-4 seconds
Now: He can do it all by himself. Noooooo! By HIMSELF!!! Fumbles with zipper. Attempts to fasten the two sides together. Attempt unsuccessful. Tries again, repeatedly (see: seatbelt). Allows Mommy to get him started. Slowly pulls zipper up. Accidentally zips shirt into zipper. Tantrum ensues. Time: 1 minute

Before: Mommy brushes his teeth. Time: 3-4 minutes
Now: HE CAN DO IT. ALL. BY. HIM. SELF!! Wets toothbrush with far more water than is necessary. Squeezes toothpaste too hard. Glob of toothpaste falls off brush. Tantrum ensues. Squeezes more toothpaste onto brush. Inadequately brushes teeth. Refuses to let Mommy help. Finally agrees to letting Mommy finish the job after brushing the same spot for half an eternity. Spits toothpaste all over sink. Plays in water before rinsing mouth. Time: 7-8 minutes.

Trust me when I tell you that these are just a few examples - everything from feeding to dressing to butt-wiping has become a challenge. But since each daily routine is an opportunity for him to learn, I just grin and bear it.*

*And by "grin and bear it" I mean grit my teeth and roll my eyes and think horrible thoughts and go in my closet and scream.  

Come bedtime, though? "I can do it all by myself" mysteriously becomes, "Don't leave me in here all by myself!"

Ironic, isn't it?


  1. To this day I wish I had someone brushing my teeth and wiping my butt. I can handle the socks though.


  2. ugh, not ready for Drake to hit this, although he is already in the "do it by myself" stage followed by loud "NO" and then ear splitting screams!

  3. Man. Jonah is the opposite of this. At 6.5 he does not tie shoes, zip things, button/unbutton, etc. He's happy as a clam to request my assistance. In fact, every now and then he'll request I "check" his wiping after he goes to the bathroom. Ugh. We're diligently working on independence. Yesterday evening he packed his very own lunch. And last week he buttoned his own pants. Progress!

  4. My kids were the terrible threes.
    By the way you have been tagged along with three other bloggers to complete a fun quiz which I was tagged in. You can find it at:

  5. I say daily prayers that 4 is going to be better than 3.

    please, oh God... please!

  6. It was when my oldest son was two that Hubby and I decided that we were clearly cut out for this parenting gig - SO EASY! - and got pregnant with number two. Uh, not so much... Then oldest was three and I was pregnant and I still have nightmares...

    @Anti-Supermom, I'm so sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but four is much worse. Because now they're smarter than you, too.

  7. while i agree with everything here (and grit my teeth through the few "i can do it myself" and related "can i help" occurrences i can bear to tolerate every day, i wish my 3yo had a little more "I can do it myself" about him. he refuses to do ANYTHING on his own. Will not take off his own clothes. will not put on his own clothes. Will not brush his teeth etc etc etc. And i have 3 kids I need to do all of this with. get with the program boy - I can't still be dressing you when you're ten.

  8. hahaha too funny...and oh, so true. I hate the "by myself" phase!!

  9. Yeah, three sucks.

    Good news, 4 is better.

  10. You kids were all "terrible threes," too. Fiercely independent, while at the same time monumentally uncoordinated. Ugh! But they have to learn somehow, so grit your teeth and pray for the "far-better fours!" ;o)

    P.S. This happens again between the ages of 15 and 20, only on a bigger scale!

  11. Girl, I feel you oh so much here!! Though Max is two and constantly telling me he can do it himself. Tragically for them, I have ZERO patience and usually just do it anyway.

  12. OMG, you are so right! Two was wonderful. Three was a NIGHTMARE. I tell everybody with a 2 year old who says how lucky they are to have escaped the terrible two's to WAIT because three is coming. I somehow made it through though and felt cocky. Oh, how the gods must have laughed when I found out I was pregnant again. My first thought (beyond how the @#$% did this happen?) was OMG, we have to go through 3 again! Best of luck and lots of wine to you.

  13. My son was semi-bad when he was 2 and I thought that was as bad as it was going to get. A month before he turned 3 all hell broke loose. While he is independent and wants to do most on his own he also thinks that things like putting his underwear on or his pants on is "my" job and not his....excuse me?!!! And that is just a small gist of the terrible 3's. Now I am pregnant with twins. Which means 2x the terrible 3's. Which means I am alraedy having a panic attack over this.

  14. Tyrannical threes turned into the Fuck you Fours to the Fuck OFF fives to the sassy six. Now at 7 she just thinks she is 15 and I mostly talk to the hand.

  15. Sorry to say but I don't think it gets any better. Jaiden (who is 5 1/2) is still going through his "terrible two's". Sometimes I wonder if Tavi (who will be 11 this month) ever outgrew them either.

  16. I agree with every. single. thing. you. said. Terrible two's my a**. Three was hell. Four? He was satan. Five? An angel again! It's why God made them cute, so we wouldn't give them away. : )

  17. Oh. My. God! This was perfect. My son turned 3 in Dec. and I don't recognize him anymore! I comletely understand where you are coming from! I ask myself daily, What happened to my sweet little boy??? I can really relate to all of your blog entries. Thanks for making me laugh about something that actually stresses me out more often than not! Great post!

  18. I quickly learned when I was a mom that the 'terrible two's' are not that bad. You're right, it's the 3's!!! At least for my kids too. (they're 5 & 2). My son had a hard time turning 3 also. I'm preparing myself for when my daughter turns 3 next year. I'd like to think I'll be ready for it, but I probably won't be :). If you'd like some tips on how to make teeth brushing more fun or how to care for your kids teeth, this Mom's Guide has helped me with that. It has some wonderful ideas!


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