Long before you become a parent, you learn about the “terrible twos.” The tantrums and volatility of toddlerhood earn our two-year-olds this “terrible” nomenclature. But in my experience, there’s nothing terrible about two. That is unless you expect your child to shirk normal human development in favor of adult social norms.
They can’t sit still, so you serve a roaming dinner. They want things NOW, so you learn to listen to them scream without also flying off the handle. They are wildly emotional, so you practice remaining present and calm while they sob and shout.
Three-year-olds, on the other hand, have a reputation that seems to fly under the radar. That is until you experience it. Some of my friends have called our kids “threenagers,” and I think it’s super appropriate. For my son, the tantrums have largely given way to bossiness and straight-up sass. Gone are the days of bashful boundary testing. In their place, we find steadfast defiance.
Thanks to ever-increasing communication skills, three also seems to be the age of “why.” Every single thing must be explained in great detail. Yet when my son is called upon to explain, why did you shove your sister? Why is every toy you own on the floor at once? – we don’t get responses that help us figure out what to do. We’re left instead to interpret. Is he looking for attention? Is he bored? Is he anxious?
It’s a real challenge to try and identify and sift through all the big feelings of little people. So through frustration and exhaustion, I’m focusing on compassion. Sometimes it’s not easy being three.