When my daughter turned two everybody warned me about the terrible twos. As she progressed through her twos, we dealt with general bratty behavior and temper tantrums but she was mostly well behaved. When she was about to turn three I declared my wife and I the best parents in the history of the world and prepared for parenting easy street at least until her teen years. Then we were hit with the truth. Three is a far more difficult age than two.
Two year olds may be troublesome but they’re generally clueless. Three year olds on the other hand are vested with a level of knowledge that makes them a dangerous group of people bent on world domination. Plus they still know the value of a good temper tantrum and will use it when necessary. I think the age two should hire the age three’s agent. Somehow the age two gets slandered daily as terrible while the age three gets away with murder.
Three’s a weird age. One minute my daughter is a perfect little angel. She’s helpful, fun and follows directions. The next minute (and I really mean sixty seconds later) you can’t tell her anything because she knows everything. If you try to help her that’s a tantrum waiting to happen. I watched her fight with the zipper to her coat for four hours one morning. All the while she’s yelling, “I can do it myself daaaaaddeeeee! I don’t need help!”
Then there’s the mouth. Most two years have trouble with a basic sentence so talking back is out of the question. They just throw a tantrum and move on with their day. Not three year olds. Since they know everything they have to let you know they know everything. I drive my daughter to school every morning. Her newest morning habit is “reading”. Since she can’t actually read it’s really putting the stories she’s memorized to the pictures. One morning while driving to school she asked me if her book was in her bag. What follows is real conversation with a real three year old. No actors were used in this conversation:
Me: No, It’s on the kitchen table. I saw it before we left.
Her: It’s in my bag. Let me see my bag, daaaaaddeeee (she rummages through her bag)
Her: It’s not here, daaaaaddeeeee!
Me: I told you it was in the house.
<span style=”font-family: verdana,geneva;”><span style=”font-size: 10pt;”>Her: Daaaaaddeeee, did you take the book out my bag?
Me: No, I didn’t
Her: Daaaaaddeee, you can tell me if you took the book out. I won’t be mad.
Me: Huh? Sweetie, I didn’t take it out.
Her: Daaaaaddeee, if you took it out just tell me. I promise I won’t get mad. Really, daaaaaddeeee, I promise I won’t be mad
Me: I didn’t take the book
For the rest of the ride to school she was mumbling under her breath, while giving me the evil eye, about how she knows I took her book and I should just tell her I took the book. Two year olds, they don’t do this.
At two they don’t scheme to get around your parenting. At three they know you don’t know what you’re doing and constantly working on plans undermine the balance of the household to their advantage. Every parent has said some variation of, “you do what your mother and father tell you to do,” to their children. My three year old figured out a loophole that she believes lets her do what she wants. You see she’s amassed an army of baby dolls. And these dolls are her “children”. Since she’s a mommy to these dolls she’s free to do what she wants when she wants. That’s how she carefully and passionately explained it to me one day.
You see what she did there? She flipped a basic parenting adage to her advantage. A little knowledge and basic logic skills are dangerous in the hands of a three year old. At two they just cry and throw themselves on the floor. At three they know they’re smarter than you and aren’t shy about letting you know.
I could go on for days about the very real danger of a three year old. This is a really small sample. I just wanted to warn parents in a way I wasn’t warned. Three year olds think they’er little adults. So if you’re child is turning two and you’re nervous about what’s to come don’t sweat it. Three is the real age to worry about. Be prepared!