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?