When my daughter blew out three candles on her birthday cake I thought we had done it. Together, my husband and I had survived the terrible twos.
Together we endured the meltdowns and shared eye rolls and exasperated sighs when we heard the same question repeated again, and again, and again.
We were prepared for the terrible twos
Every parent warned us about the terrible twos so we’d been prepared.
No one gave us a heads up about the trying threes.
It feels like the second my daughter blew out the candles on her homemade cake (a cake my husband made because my attempt was an epic fail) we entered a new era. An era filled with backtalk and constant questioning and negotiating. A stage that I expected to experience when she entered her tweens and teens—not her threes.
I have to admit that I’m a little lost and a lot scared when it comes to how to handle my threenager.
“She’s only three, she’s testing boundaries; she doesn’t mean it,” is what I repeat to myself on a daily basis.
At three, my daughter is like a full-blown teenager. It seems as if everything she does is intentional—from the eye rolls, to the back talk, to the glares.
Yesterday she rephrased a question three different ways to see if somehow rewording her request would trick me into saying yes to buying her a Descendants doll at Target.
The meltdowns are difficult
The meltdowns aren’t as simple to quell as they were when she was two when all it took was the promise of candy or some other distraction. Now it’s a full-on tantrum with crying and yelling, sometimes threatening to never forgive us or shouting “I’m so mad at you,” when we send her to her room to cool off. It used to be that she’d welcome a hug and a kiss to help calm her down but now she asks for “space” and “time to myself.”
I’m glad she still doesn’t like to be alone in her room or else I’d be screwed.
She’s always been persistent and assertive when starting her opinion but these days it’s a five-minute debate just to settle on what Disney movie to watch. Because of course she never wants to watch what her parents recommend or what her little sister wants to watch.
The phrase “Because I said so,” has been used several times to shut-down the back-and-forth arguments. Sometimes I just need to use the go-to parenting statements even if I once vowed to never use them.
All the negotiations and riding out the highs and lows of her days is draining. And exhausting. She can be laughing at a shared joke one minute and two minutes later that same joke has upset her. What the?!
Every time I think I’ve figured out how to handle a situation there is something that throws me for a loop and I’m back to square one again: at a complete loss.
This is a test run for the teens
And I know this is only a peek into the future. It’s a test run to prepare me for the teenage years. And I’m terrified!
I’m worried that I’ll somehow mess up my daughter and my relationship during those teenage years. The time where my little girl will become a woman, slipping and falling, testing boundaries and using her words as a weapon as she discovers who she is and who she wants to be. It’s the time where I’ll either be the one in her life that she turns to for advice and comfort, or the one she avoids and hides everything from.
I’m so scared of messing up that I’m really, really trying my best to use this threenager stage as a test run for the teenage years.
I just hope I get it right by the time we get there.
Ambrosia Brody is a full-time editor, journalist and mother to two spirited daughters. She lives in Southern California in a beach city but hates the sand; enjoys people watching but hates small talk. She started to blog at Random Aspects of (My) Life when she realized everything she knew about parenting was wrong. Go visit her at Random Aspects of (My) Life