Aug 18, 2010

Terrible Twos?

I have three kids, so this makes me an expert.  I firmly believe three kids means you can make general statements about kids and it has validity.  Like Bill Cosby said, you aren't a real parent if you only have one kid.  I would go a step further and say that having two kids still isn't a real parent.  Yes, you have sibling rivalry and all that.  But you are not outnumbered.  When the third little person shows up, you are now outnumbered every single day.  They can double up on you.  They can play a zone.  It isn't a fair fight.  That is when you really become a parent.  And you look like one too - you develop that slumped over look.  Bags under the eyes.  Looks like you haven't slept in a week because you stay up late to get "time to yourself" and then get dragged out of bed at ridiculously early hours.  You have that same world-weary look that every over the hill cop on tv or in the movies has.  Basically you have the same face as Bruce Willis in Die Hard.  He wasn't so grizzled because he had to constantly save the world - it was because he was a parent.

Anyway, once you have three kids you can make wild statements and generalizations and no one can really argue with you.  One kid can be an anomaly.  Two kids is a good start, but it still could be a freak happenstance (or something happening with your freaks).  Three kids is a pattern.  If anyone tries to argue with you, you can just hide behind things like "Well you're just a better parent than me" or "Well your kids are freaks - just look at them."  That's another thing about being a parent of three or more - you don't have a lot of patience for back talk.

This is my wild statement about kids.  You hear a lot about the Terrible Twos.  This is a crock.  The Terrible Twos is NOWHERE near as bad as Age Three.  Whoever did the marketing for this is amazing.  Age Two has been presented as this bad-butt terror of a year.  It's the TERRIBLE TWOS!!!  What else has earned the nickname "Terrible"?  Ivan the Terrible.  Terrible Terry Tate.  It is TERRIFYING!!!  RUN!!!  Age Three just sits there all quiet, snickering.  It doesn't want to be feared.  It was to sneak up on you, punch you in the groin and step on your neck.  You're sitting there wondering what the heck happened.  "I thought the Terrible Twos were over.  Why is my kids becoming Jack Jack from The Incredibles?"

Some of you new parents may not believe that.  Or, you have a two year old and are reading this - the blood running out of your face.  "He can't be serious, right?  Please tell me he's joking."  No, my friend.  I am not kidding.  Abandon all hope ye who enter this post.  Age Three is worse than Age Two.

When a kid is two, they are learning all the truly stupid and annoying things they can do.  They stop wanting to sleep, so they fight naps and pitch fits at nighttime.  They race around the house.  They are not coordinated enough, so this running usually leads to tripping and falling and busting lips and knees and foreheads.  They learn lots of new ridiculous noises and like to make them all the time.  They stop eating right and scream unless you maintain their strict regimen of McNuggets, Fries, and hot dogs.  They make some of the most horrendous screeching sounds - ones that feel like they actually are splitting your soul in two.  And everything becomes theirs.  Every toy, crayon, piece of furniture is subject to the "MINE MINE MINE" chant.  That is age two.  Age three is all of that, except with their newfound understanding that all of those things really bug their parents.

Somewhere near the end of Year Two, the child realizes that these things are very effective.  They have noticed the vein bulging out in our forehead when they scream.  So they do it more.  They see how frustrated we get when they don't go to sleep, so they stay up later.  They have picked up on how frazzled we get when they race everywhere, so they run faster.  Age Two is amplified, and enhanced with a extra infusion of nastiness.

The other thing is that they realize that their parents are largely full of it.  For the first couple of years, there is a healthy level of fear between child and parent.  We are these big tall creatures.  They are tiny and helpless.  So when we threaten to swat them or flick them or take a toy, they are afraid of what that means.  So they give in to our wishes.   By Age Three, they realize that most of what we have is hot air. We can swat them, so what?  They know that sting will end at some point and they can go on their merry way - continuing to wreck havoc.  And they also know that most parents are hesitant to actually swat for each offending action.  So the kid will do things like twenty times.  Who is going to swat the kid twenty times?  After ten, you start to feel like a jerk.  Time OUT!!!  The kid has learned that this is also known as "Brainstorming Time."  Those quiet minutes allows the kid to recharge their batteries.  It is actually a mini-nap for them.  But it also is a chance for them to come up with new ways to annoy and irritate.  You could argue that time outs are actually more damaging to the parent than kid.  So the child has learned that much of the sway we held over them was based on fluff - which encourages them to, by all means, continue.

What we have is a toddler, who doesn't look much different than the little angel we remember.  But in their brain, they have become a devious child in a toddler body.  Kind of like Chucky in Child's Play - except a toddler instead of a doll.  We, as parents, are kind of at a loss as to what to do to handle the situation.  We used to be able to write off a great deal of behavior to "they are young" or "they are tired" or "they are two."  Now, however, we begin to realize we have underestimated them.  Our first thought is "Did they do that on PURPOSE?!?"

I remember with Josiah that we, of course, struggled with him as a two year old.  But we kept telling ourselves it would get better.  We had heard all about the Terrible Twos and assumed that it would change on his third birthday - like a big present to us.  Instead, he got WORSE.  It was so bad that we actually sent him up to Heather's mom's house for a few days so she could tell us "what was wrong with him."  This is what Year Three does to you.  You begin to worry there is something wrong with your child.  No normal child would do some of the flat out stupid things that your child is doing.  It happened with Josiah.  It happened with Natalie - except intensified by the fact she was a girl.  Now, Gabe is about to turn three.  What do you think is happening?  That's right . . . he's morphing as well.

He does ridiculous stuff like refusing to sleep when he's dead tired.  I don't get this at ALL.  If you're tired, go to bed.  Don't claw your face, smack yourself around, and scream like you're screen testing for a horror film.  GO TO SLEEP!!!  He wakes up in the middle of the night and refuses to go back to sleep.  He pinches people.  He takes his tools and toys and hits his siblings - all under the guise of "playing with them."  There is this new thing he does where he flails his arms up and flings whatever toy he is holding into the air: stuffed flamingos, rockets, toy food, drink cups.  "WHOOSH!!!"  Everyone is ducking to avoid the projectiles.  He runs all the time - even when I tell him not to.  Last night he woke up at 12:30 and didn't go back to sleep until 3:15.  He's been a big pain all day, naturally.  Earlier, he was running back and forth.  I told him to stop several times, finally forcefully.  He looked up at me and ran across the room - keeping eye contact the entire time.  He just smacked Natalie with his Wonder Pets Flyboat.  I think he was "giving it to her."  Despite his exhaustion, he managed to stay awake in the van while we were running errands in the rain.  I was having trouble staying awake because the rain made me so sleepy.  But he, through sheer strength of will, managed to keep his eyes open.  Now, if he holds to form, he will either fall asleep on his own at 4pm, which will ensure him staying up until 10:30 tonight OR he will zonk out for the night at 5:30pm, which means he'll wake up in the middle of the night OR he will hold off until 7:00pm and then pitch a fit when it is actually time for bed.

Such is the life of a Three Year Old.  My nephew does the same stuff - drives his mother and grammy nuts.  And when I tell experienced parents that I think Year Three is worse than Year Two, almost unanimously they agree.  "Oh yeah, you're right.  Year Three is the worst until the Teen Years begin."  If this is such common knowledge, it makes me wonder why I never knew that until I got blindsided by it.  It makes me wonder if parents have this big conspiracy against new parents.  "We won't tell them about Year Three.  Then we can laugh at them when it hits them unawares."  It's kind of like they feel that since they had to deal with it, than new parents should as well.  It's a right of passage.  Makes me think of Sinbad's character in Necessary Roughness when he tells the college students they had to take this one class.  "It doesn't make sense to me why you need to know this, but I had to learn it when I was in school, so you have to learn it to."

So, new parents, don't hate me for being so brutal.  Instead, realize that I have broken the Parent Code and shared a secret with you.  Brace yourself.  Year Three is coming . . . and bad things are coming with it.  Be prepared and aware - and make sure you duck those flying fire engines.  It will all be over soon.  Just try not to think about the fact that Year Four can be even worse.  (Oh, wait, I wasn't supposed to say anything about that either.)


Anonymous said...

Year 3 is definitely worse. If I recall, that was the year of Hannah's age when it was suggested that she might be autisitic. She's not. She was 3 AND on OraPred. Never give a 3 year old OraPred if you can avoid it. :)

Michael howell said...

Love the Neccessary Roughness quote!! My favorite Movie, lesser known by the public!