Tag Archives: Three year olds

Face Off

face-off-movie

The first four months after Addy and Zack turned three have been (yes, mostly adorable and amazing but) challenging. I, like many, believe that whoever coined the phrase “terrible twos” must have been referring to making the mistake of eating two back-to-back Reese’s Pieces sundaes at Friendly’s or having two chins. The real time to fear in the life of a child is the “throw-me-out-the-window-threes.”

I’ve been struggling to find ways to tame my two little beasts cuties and understand better how to head off tantrums before they begin. Part of this discovery process involves a post mortem analysis after each of our two to ten daily mini-Hiroshimas. In thinking about each situation and trying to pinpoint what went wrong, I’ve realized something earth shattering to me, but probably evident to my family and friends since my birth: I can be really f-ing annoying. All this time, I’ve been thinking there is nothing more irksome than a screeching, whiney, fist-pounding, frothing little kid but I have come to accept that I am a formidable competitor in the arena of irritation. Thus, I present to you a face off. Me vs. a three-year-old: who is more annoying?

1. Each morning, after breakfast, I brush Addy and Zack’s teeth. Getting them into the bathroom and up the stepstool to the sink is torture. What’s more annoying?

A. Having to yell “time to brush your teeth!” fifteen times before I get any response, followed by Zack whining, “Addy goes first!” Then Addy whining, “No, Zack goes first!” Then, “Addy goes first!” Then, “Zack goes first!” Then, “Addy goes first!” Then, “Zack goes first!” Then, “Addy goes first!” Then, “Zack goes first!” Then I lie and say “Whoever goes first gets a prize.” Which is followed by Zack screaming “I want to go first!” Then Addy crying “No, I want to go first!” Then, “I want to go first!” Then, “I want to go first!”, etc. etc. And then I tune it all out and fantasize about blowing my brains out.

or

B. Having a mom who wakes up late and rushes you through breakfast, but insists that you eat sufficient portions of your fruit, whole grain and dairy food groups while she eats a bowl of sugar cereal and no fruit. Then having her force you onto the toilet and bark, “focus on your poop!” when you are clearly busy pretending the roll of toilet paper is a tropical waterfall pouring beautiful white frothy water all over the floor. And finally, after dressing you in embarrassing t-shirts that say cheesy sh-t like “Rock Star” or “Captain Adorable”, she lies to you and says she’ll give you a prize if you brush your teeth nicely.

2. The most frequently uttered word in our house isn’t “love”, it’s not “cookies” and it’s not “microdermabrasion” (although it should be because I have some serious zitssues). It’s “no.” What’s more annoying?

A. Being a mom and repeating these conversations every single day: “Ok, kiddos, time to get dressed for school.” “Nooooooooo, I don’t wanna get dressed!” “Dinner time! I made you your favorite barbecue chicken with pasta and corn-on-the-cob.” “Noooooooooo, I want hot dogs for dinner, I don’t waaaaaant chicken!” “It’s a beautiful day, let’s go ride our scooters to the playground!” “Nooooooooo! I don’t wannnnna go outside. I wannnna watch TV!”

or

B. Being a three-year-old and repeating these conversations every single day: “Mommy, can I have a cookie?” “No, you didn’t eat your blah blah blah blah.” “Mommy, can I wear these shorts and this t-shirt to school today?” “No, it’s 35 degrees out, blah blah blah blah blah.” “Mommy, can I watch one more episode of Dora?” “No, you’ve already watched blah blah blah blah blah.”

3. OCD runs in our family. What’s more annoying?

A. After you slave away “cooking” a healthy, delicious, organic dinner for your family, having your kid wail for an hour, as if you just stabbed them in the eye, when one piece of your perfectly microwaved Amy’s mac and cheese touches their expertly toasted Applegate Farms frozen chicken nugget.

or

B. Having a mom who makes you wash your hands no less than ten times a day – after you go to the bathroom, after school, after you go to the playground, after you come home from a playdate, after you do arts and crafts, after you touch your feet, after you scratch your itchy tushy, after you fish your Barbie doll shoe out of the toilet, after you ride a carousel and after you washed your hands but didn’t suds up the soap for the full length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday three times.

So the next time I am feeling exasperated by the trials and tribulations of tres, I will try to remember to back off, and see if maybe there indeed is a little “maniac mom” to blame for the “throw-me-out-the-window threes.” Clear your conscience and share some of your annoying face offs in the comments section below!

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Break Point

The last few weeks have been a challenge.  Zack has begun experimenting with indecision.  I’m not sure if he is intentionally trying to drive me crazy, if he is truly having trouble making decisions, or if he has blown a fuse.  Whatever it is, I would sell my soul to make it stop.  When he wakes up in the morning, it starts:

“Mommy, I want my milk.”

I give it to him.

“No!  I don’t want milk!”

I take it back.

“I SAID I want milk!”

I give it back to him.

“Nooooo! I DON’T WAAAAAAAAAANT IT!!!!”

He shorts out like this all day long.  I’m done on the potty. No, I’m not done yet!  I’m not hungry for dinner.  I want dinner!  Tuck my blanket in.  I don’t want my blanket!  It feels like I am the tennis ball being whacked back and forth in the most epic, endless tennis match in US Open history.

My response to this behavior has ranged from fully indulging it, to trying to reason with him, to setting limits/channeling Regis Philbin (I’m going to ask you what you want one more time and that will be your final answer).  Nothing has worked.

Three years is a crazy age.  It is an age of contradiction, not just evidenced by Zack’s vacillations.  Three-year-olds somehow manage to simultaneously be the most adorable and the most maddening they have ever been.  They love saying “no” even if they mean “yes.”  They want their independence, while always keeping mom and dad within arm’s reach.  But the contradiction that most throws me for a loop is this: their intellectual growth is exponential, yet it’s never entirely clear if they really understand.

This last contradiction is what has gotten me into serious trouble while trying to navigate Zack’s era of indecision.  He has been learning so much and understanding so many new, complex concepts lately, that I became convinced his back and forth antics were entirely deliberate and that he was intentionally trying to drive me nuts.  This “realization” led me to take a much more no nonsense approach and I started yelling at him and giving him time outs (which also did not work).

Then, on Tuesday morning, I was eating breakfast with Addy and Zack and I made eggs.  Zack started in with the routine – I want eggs, no I don’t, I want eggs, no I don’t.  Just as I was about to shift into I’m-not-going-to-take-this-crap mode, Addy turned to me and said, “Mommy, I think that he wants….” and silently mouthed the last few words of the sentence.  I couldn’t read her lips so I asked her what she had said.  Very slowly, over-enunciating every word, she said, “No, Mom-my. I was tell-ing the ba-bies that we’re go-ing to the paaarty.” At that moment, with my son toggling back and forth between eggs and no eggs and my daughter looking me in the eye but pretending to have a conversation with her imaginary babies, I had the distinct feeling that I was in the psychiatric ward of a hospital and I wasn’t sure which one of us was the patient.

I suspect that my ultimate sanity will depend on this moment of insanity.  I’m beginning to realize that no matter how brilliant a three-year-old can appear, soaking up new ideas like a sponge and asserting their independence, it is critical to remember that their brains do not yet function at a level of optimal rationality.  As parents, it feels great to see our kids begin to function like “big kids” socially, emotionally and intellectually, but it will still be a long time before this is a constant.  Sometimes, for their sake and ours, we have to look through a different lens of lowered expectations and let that guide how we handle difficult behavior.

So while Zack still kicks into his waffle routine at least three times a day, I know that I probably won’t tame his outbursts with even louder outbursts of my own.  Patience, as hard as it is to gather, will go a lot farther than yelling.  Rather than assuming he knows exactly what he is doing and getting pissed about it, I need to remind myself that he may just not be capable of controlling this behavior yet.  This, I believe, will be the key to riding through such a tough phase a little more gracefully.  And if not, feel free to stop by and visit me in my padded room at Bellevue.