As a parent, it’s likely you will have experienced or been warned about the phases your child will go through. For example, sleep regression phases. Just when you thought you had some peaceful nights ahead of you, NOPE your kid has different ideas and wants to wake up every two hours. Then you’re warned about the ‘terrible twos’, tantrums are frequent, visits to the shops with a child in tow bring on a cold sweat, with the vision of a snotty, crying tornado stomping their foot because they’ve been told they can’t hold something they’ve seen in the shop. And then we have the ‘threenager’. Now, I always thought this was a bit of a myth. Having managed to skim over the terrible twos, we were naive to think that maybe we’d cruise through it all with nothing more than the usual tantrums, and go on to live a calm and happy life. How wrong we were.
Of course, the definition for a ‘threenager’ only exists on Urban Dictionary, but I think it sums it up well; “a 3-year-old spouting attitude like a spoiled teenager.” We’ve all been teenagers, so we know exactly what that means. Having been through the thick of the threenager phase (and still somewhat in it), there have been countless moments both my wife and I have stared at each other in sheer desperation for an answer to hurricane tantrum number 10 of the day. So, while many like us want to live in blissful ignorance and pretend the phase might never happen. I wanted to share just some of the things you can come to expect when living with a toddler going through their ‘threenager’ phase.
They become the picky customers you’d dread in a restaurant
Did you cut up their sandwich into 4 pieces as your child asked? Foolish parent. You should know that by the time you bring the sandwich over for them to eat, they wanted the sandwich in two pieces and now the whole day is ruined because that sandwich is now inedible. Expect to either waste a lot of food or expect to double your food intake as your kid works through this painful and fickle stage.
Life is a (painful) fashion week
Don’t expect to leave the house in the outfit that was laid out (to save time) the night before pre-school. Oh no, you should fully expect four outfit changes, an abundance of tears (likely from both of you), and by the end of it, the agreed outfit becomes a Frankenstein mishmash of clothing. By this point, they could go to pre-school in flippers and snorkeling goggles if it means they’ll get out the F*cking door!
This was a big one. Bath, Book, Brush (teeth), Bed, has been a routine we’ve stuck to forever. It works, or should I say worked until this phase kicked in. All ran smoothly until we got to the ‘bed’ part. We’ve had everything from point-blank refusal to get into bed because “I’m not tired”, to toys and books being snuck under the duvet, to a really bad experience of thinking Ivy was in bed, only to return to a room coated in talcum powder, a wall covered in Sudocrem and a combo of talcum powder and water paste on the floor. Big lessons learned there. We seem to be getting back to some normality now though.
“Now?!”. Expect ZERO patience
I probably have myself to blame for this one, as the most impatient person on the planet. But expect to be shouted at when the slightest inconvenience occurs. At a red light with a car in front? In the eyes of your threenager you should bump into the car in front and run the red light. See a friend in town and stop for a chat? Expect the painful experience of your wonderful threenager pulling at your leg claiming ‘they’re bored’, asking ‘can we go?’ repeatedly until the interaction becomes a complete embarrassment and you walk off apologising profusely as you go. Just remember, if you have something nice planned, like a trip to the park or the indoor trampoline park. Sometimes it seems like a good idea to build suspense and get excited about it, but your threenager doesn’t have a great grasp of the concept of time. And that two hours leading up to leaving the house can be filled with endless questions of “when are we going?”, “Can we go now?!” “why aren’t we leaving?”.
No willingness to help
In the blink of an eye your house will go from tidy to a scrapyard. Your comfortable and clean living room becomes a post-apocalyptic wasteland of plastic toys, dolls, and sharp items for you to stand on. When it comes to tidying up, don’t expect the help of your threenager. Expect a ‘No!’ followed either by a giggle or more likely a strop and running away.
Nothing is right
Similar to the cutting of a sandwich the wrong way, you better make sure that the quantity of cereal you have poured is right, or the ratio of milk to cereal meets the standards of your tiny dictator. I’ve found that by helping them pour it themselves, although usually a messy experience, ends in far fewer tantrums.
Car journeys change
Remember when your little one used to lie their head back and fall asleep almost instantly as you peacefully drove to your destination? Say goodbye to that. With one turn of the wheel off the driveway “how long until we get there?” will ring in your ears, usually followed by a meltdown as they begin to understand you can’t teleport to where you’re going. Like a dog, take them for a big run before you leave in the hope it might bring on a much-needed sleep, pack snacks, an iPad, some headphones (for you and them!). And, if that doesn’t work. Then I’m out of options. Maybe a strong drink… for the passenger of course.
I could go on about the times I’ve cut food wrong, opened the door wrong, taken too long, or stepped out the house before my threenager which apparently is the cause for tantrum. But I think I’ve probably scared you enough.
It’s not all temper tantrums and strops…promise!
While many of these experiences have left me pacing a room with steam in my ears, on the verge of a breakdown or in need of many a strong drink. There are lovely moments in the madness that somehow bring you back to a place of appreciation for the person that also drives you to tears. I think the hardest part is you see so much of yourself in them, I almost have flashbacks of me being difficult as a kid. Be comforted in the knowledge, that like every phase to this point, they do pass, and the next challenge is around the corner. We’re about to do it all again, with baby number 2, which means the phases aren’t all that bad, or we’re incredibly stupid!
If this blog hasn’t scared you off…
Then you might like some insight into the other experiences we’ve had
Have a read