It Ain’t Easy Being 3 (Or Being the Mom of a 3-Year-Old!)

Aaah, to be 3-almost-4. I’m trying to be patient, I really am. I know this is a time of newfound independence and testing boundaries. I know that 3-year-olds are like little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s, perfectly pleasant one minute and ugly and downright frightening the next. I know these things. I’ve been through this before—twice. But the truth is, I don’t know how much more I can take!

First, there’s the whining. It begins when he wakes up and doesn’t even end when he finally falls asleep at night. I swear, he even whines in his sleep! (He must be dreaming about me.) Usually, the first thing I hear in the morning is, “Moooommmmm! I want breaaakfaaast! Come get me! Caaaaarryyyyyy meeeeeeee!” Almost like the sound of birds singing outside my window. Almost.

Next, comes the arguing. “I don’t want cereeaaaal! I want toast!”
“Honey, we don’t have any bread. You’ll have to have cereal.”
“Noooooo!!!! I want toast!!!!!”
“I said that we don’t have any bread. I can’t make toast. I’ll have to get more bread tonight. How about cereal?”
(Keep in mind that he has cereal–and loves it–EVERY DAY.)
“Nooooo cereal!” (Pause. Foolishly, I think that maybe he’s coming to his senses. ) He dries his eyes then and bargains, “If I can’t have toast, I’ll take a sucker.”
(Picture me banging my head against the wall.)

Then comes his tirade against my personal hygiene. “Noooooo!! Don’t take a shower, Mommy!”
“Honey, Mommy has to take a shower.”
“Noooo!!! I don’t want you to take a shower!”
This continues as I step into the shower and attempt to get clean. There is nothing so relaxing as taking a shower and trying to lather with one hand and play tug-of-war with the the shower curtain against a screaming preschooler with the other hand. Calgon, take me away!

When I emerge from the shower, somewhat clean and completely exhausted, I get the question, “Why do mommies get dirty EVERY DAY?”
“I don’t know, honey. Being a mommy is a dirty job.”

And then comes the emotional roller coaster that only a 3-year-old (or a verbally abusive mate) can provide.
“I hate you!”
“Hey, what have we said about saying that? You’re not allowed to say you hate anyone.” (This is because he has told total strangers walking down the aisles of Wal-Mart that he hates them.)
“I love you!”
“I love YOU.”
“You’re supposed to say, ‘I love you TOO!'”
“Oh. I love you TOO.”
“I hate you. I mean I love you! I mean I hate you. I love you!”
This is the part where I turn on the hair dryer, partly because I need to dry my hair, and partly because I just want to drown him out so I can take a break from the split personalities for two minutes.

But then he can do or say something so stinkin’ cute or completely funny that it just makes me smile. Case in point:
He and Boy #2 (age 6) were actually PLAYING TOGETHER last night—WITHOUT FIGHTING! And they were playing with TOYS—yes, TOYS that they got for Christmas one year and that have since sat in the closet unused and gathering the proverbial dust. It was Legos, and I was enjoying watching them build creatures (named Mario and Luigi, of course), buildings, and vehicles and interact with each other. After a few minutes, #2 said, “Mom, you have to say the password to get into my fortress.”
“Oh, is that right?” I said.
“Do you want to know what it is?”
“It’s January 26, 2002. My birthday!”
“Good one!” I said. “No one would ever guess that!”
#3 was still playing with his Legos and so I said, “Honey, do you have a password too?”
“Yeah,” he said, still not looking up.
“What is it? Can you tell me? I won’t tell anyone.”
And then he replied: “Fertilizer.”
“What?” I asked, thinking I must have misunderstood.
“Fertilizer,” he said, although with a bit of a 3-year-old lisp so it sounded more like “fewrtiwizewr.”

Hmmm. Fertilizer. At first I just laughed, having no clue how he came up with that word. It’s not like we’ve got some lush, prize-winning lawn and are constantly talking about the virtues of different types of fertilizer over the dinner table. Then, all of a sudden, a chill went down my spine as it struck me: Isn’t fertilizer an ingredient used in making bombs?

Do you think I should be worried?


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