Is it The Terrible Twos, Threes, or Teens?

After having three of my own boys I am quite aware that it is possible that girls develop differently than boys. Ok, faster. So when it comes to boys, the “Terrible Twos” don’t happen until they hit about 3 and a half.

What I’ve noticed, and I am just speaking for myself here, girls are generally potty trained one year earlier, they learn how to speak in full sentences while the boys are still mooing and baaaing, and of course, they learn to dress themselves straight out of the gate, or so it would seem.

For the most part, all two year olds, aside from mastering the temper tantrum, are the cutest, most precious, lovable creatures on earth. They have huge, innocent smiles revealing a minimal amount of baby teeth. They love to throw their hands in the air and make gleeful, adorable noises that need to be boxed and sold at a high price to the movie industry. They are kissed to death by their family and love every minute of it. They put their little heads down with their bottoms in the air and hug their attached toy or blankie when they are tired. They are scrumptious, delicious, soft and round with rosy cheeks and most of all, they love their parents.

Than suddenly WAM they turn into 3 1/2 year olds and all bets are off. They are deceiving because they still have their big, round faces and look like little edible cherubs but they turn into screaming Whirling Dervishes at the drop of a hat. It is time for them to try to do everything on their own. Were we warned of this? It’s not as if we are given a time line to follow when the child is born which prepares us for each passing phase. If so, I could look at the timeline and warn Baddy that the independent phase is approaching. We would start practicing our patience and training ourselves to include an extra three hours into our day so that we could let them try to buckle their own car seat, put their shoes on their wrong feet, make their own breakfast, push the shopping cart etc…

It should be exciting that they have this new desire to practice independence but who has the time for this? If their wishes are not complied with, than they demand that the task start over from the beginning. Shoes come off again, car seats need to be re-entered and mommy and daddy pull their hair out of their heads. To think that I was always fifteen minutes late before I had kids.

When Hootie-Hoo was not allowed to take the time to carry out each task in the way that he saw fit than he would plunge into high anxiety for the rest of the day. He would fall asleep crying and wake up crying until he was allowed to correct the injustice that was placed on him.

Strangers do not make handling toddlers any easier. I remember being on the ferry to Nantucket when I asked Thumper if he was done with his wemonade. He said yes and so I stupidly but happily drank the last sip. Big mistake, his behavior astounded everybody. I even overheard a passenger ask if? somebody could throw the kid off the boat. Of all the..actually, that thought had just crossed my mind.

Things have gotten more tolerable with Hootie-Hoo since he hit the age of four. Our new challenge is to teach him to stop screaming. We are all very accommodating to our spoiled third child for if we upset him we will suffer the intolerable scream that pierces our brains and leaves our ears ringing for hours. We tell him that if he continues to scream at us we will soon all be deaf and than he will be SOL. That just makes him scream louder. The good news is that he now puts on his own shoes and has mastered buckling the car seat. In addition, he has started to cook with me, wash the dishes, set the table and unload the groceries. The chores are performed slower and with less efficiency but they do get done and I love having an adorable boy attached at my hip who wants to help me. I have had enough time, after three boys, to practice my patience and I am able to slow down and appreciate my four year old and all that comes with his age. It can get expensive when days later I find the deli meat in the measuring cup drawer instead of the fridge and it can be frustrating when I can’t find the clean laundry that he has put away.

My advice to all of this? When four year olds demand tv or candy first thing in the morning, do not give in to them. Ride out the impossibly irritating melt downs and communicate with your child in a normal voice. Let them know they have options; fruit, smoothies, honey on toast. Be creative. Make an almond smoothie with honey and rice milk instead of a milk shake. As for television, it only turns them into uncreative, bored, mindless, whiny monsters when they are through with watching. You may get that blessed hour to yourself but you will pay for it later. Get the blocks or the trains out for them or put on a CD that plays their favorite music or story. After all, they are smart and can be manipulative but you are older and wiser. Dont be lazy. Take the time to listen and communicate. Once you start on this path you and your child will be a lot happier.

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