Maybe due to it’s rhythmic alliteration, The Terrible Two’s had always been the stage in life that everyone warns new parents about. With steely resolve, I remember Jackson and I preparing ourselves for the sh*tstorm that would supposedly reign down on us soon after Gray’s second birthday.
But it didn’t come. Sure, there were tough days and challenging phases, but that Jekyll/Hyde never moved in.
Until he turned three.
At three, he was bigger, stronger, opinionated, independent, had seen more of the world and what other kids in it got to do (JUICEBOXES!) and was quickly forming his own decisions about what he would and would not do.
I literally laughed out loud at this father’s account of his daughter’s Terrible Threes…
I looked my friend square in the eye and said, “F*CK the terrible twos. The twos ain’t got shit on the threes. The threes are where it’s at.”
Every day, I suit up for battle. It’s not just the usual twice-a-day stuff like “I don’t wanna go.” or “I don’t wanna eat that for breakfast.”
I’m talking about something every hour. Telling me that all the tags in her clothes are itchy and that she hates toast, even though she had eight pieces the day before. Getting up in her brother’s face like The Gooch, ripping anything and everything away from him so that he’ll never enjoy a moment of his childhood. Falling to the ground, claiming her “knees hurt” when I ask her to walk up the stairs, as I stand behind her holding eight grocery bags and her brother around my neck. Protesting that something is too cold or hot when it’s the exact opposite. Refusing to get in the bathtub because she thinks the flower petals from her bath fizzy are dirt. And reenacting Indian war dances as soon as I get on the phone with my student loan reps. Screaming, pushing, punching, biting, spitting, back-talking, karate kicks and testicle head butts. All in a day’s work.
In fact, googling ‘terrible two’s’ gives you pages of personal accounts of that horrible year, as well as many examples otherwise, like this dad.
We had a friend tell us that turning four would be the best thing to happen to our family, collectively. That Gray would suddenly blossom with maturity, healthy eating habits, self-sufficiency, and better control of his emotions.
We’re a month in and still waiting for that to happen.
In the meantime, here’s what I’ve realized. The Terrible Two’s exist…for some people. For others it’s the Three’s, Four’s, or Six Month’s. It completely depends on the kid.
Sure, developmentally there are common hiccups on the road of a child’s life, but each child’s emotional and physical response varies wildly.
It’s like with pregnancy. Strangers will tell you what to do to get that baby out once your duedate is in the rearview mirror. Literally, everyone. Pineapple, enemas, spicy thai food, walking, sex, eggplant, acupuncture, the eggs at Steve’s Diner, nipple stimulation, codfish oil, a scorpion bowl…the list goes on and on and on and on.
But other than the dreaded pitocin, there’s no sure fire way to induce labor. People will tell you what works, because it’s what happened to work for THEM. Eating pineapple when your water broke made YOU go into labor, but not me.
So wherever you are in your child’s life, here’s my advice.
Don’t worry about an age just because someone tells you to. The ups and downs of life with your child will depend on exactly that…your child. And though the blogs and books and articles out there can be helpful (and funny), they in no way can predict what you’ll experience with your child on any given day, month or year.
Put your phone down. Get down on their level. Look them in the eye when they’re talking. And try to figure out where they’re at, and what’s working and what isn’t, for your kid.
Good or bad and regardless of their age, the only guarantee is that something will change. And that’s about as exact as you can be.
So be present and thoughtful in your child’s life and try to make decisions based on your kid, not on the four-year-and-one-month post in babycenter. Though helpful, babycenter is not sitting at your kitchen counter on a particularly miserable morning trying to decipher through sobbing whines what the heck goes into a ‘banana swirl smoothie’.