“No daddy, I don’t want to wear that. I want to wear my dinosaur shirt.”
“Nico, the dinosaur shirt is in the laundry. Let’s wear the doggie shirt.”
And as the words slipped out of my mouth, I already knew I was in trouble. My three year old throws himself to the ground, limbs flailing, tears instantly coming down his cheeks, his breath heaving, and when he finally catches enough air, he turns to me, mouth open in complete agony, and then his shrill cry of NOOOOOOOO echoes throughout our otherwise peaceful town.
Welcome to my life with a Threenager.
Don’t talk to me about the mythical Terrible Twos. They pale in comparison to dealing with the Thrilling Threes. The willful wailing of my wee one pierces my ears and tests my patience in ways I didn’t know were possible.
And it’s not just about what clothes he’s going to wear… oh no! The Earth will come to a complete halt if I flush the toilet for him, turn the light off, over-toast his bread, push the button on the remote, or alter his bedtime routine in the most minuscule way. And heaven forbid I ask him to get ready to go to daycare, clean up his mess, or tell him that he can’t have a snack right before dinner.
The often elusive, rational part of my brain gets it. The world around him is finally at reach and he is beginning to express his own ideas, explore his limitations, practice his independence, and make us understand that he is his own person. His emotions are big and he’s still figuring things out.
But the tired and defeated part of me doesn’t always do the right thing or remember that I’m the adult in this battle. I raise my voice, put him in time-outs, and bribe him more often than I should. I need to remember to rely on others when the heat is on. Even a big brother can help diffuse a standoff. Keeping routines consistent and helping my son ease into transitions (with lots of warnings) sometimes does the trick. I also need to consider that he’s learning from watching the adults around him so losing my cool could be backfiring on me.
I know we’ll get through this. In the meantime a good piece of advice I got was to really relish and enjoy the tender, happier moments. Nico’s big expressive emotions are also what makes him a sweet, cuddly, and affectionate little boy. He will often squeeze-hug me around the neck, lean into my ear and whisper “I love you so much”. Those soul-feeding moments are what I need to channel the next time his favourite dinosaur shirt is in the laundry.
As appeared in the Frankly Fatherhood column of the April 2019 issue of Mom & Caregiver Magazine