Head to Head with a Threenager

Three. 3. Small number. Not very significant. Of course it all depends on the context. When it comes to small humans, three is a HUGE number. Very significant. Quite terrifying in fact.

The run up to the 3rd birthday is a massive milestone for the whole family. The Birthday Boy/Girl is at the stage of understanding the significance of birthdays, parties, celebrations, and all that goes with it.

From a parents’ perpective, the almost-three-year-old is very much gone from the baby stage, about to begin their journey on the long road of formal education. They are beginning to make their mark on the world; establishing their own little lives outside of the family home. This is exciting, terrifying and heartbreaking in equal measures for parents who look back on the baby years with rose-tinted glasses.

My current situation is that we are over the Three hump with the eldest child, and barrelling towards Three with the youngest. I for one, am proceeding with way more caution and second time around…

In my experience to date, the infamous Terrible 2’s were not a patch on the Threenager phase…not even a bit of a patch.

Okay yes, I will admit 2 year olds are headwrecking at times, (particularly when they still refuse to sleep through the night), but the 2 year old is a much simpler creature than the Threenager.

The 2 year old will scream, kick, give it socks when it comes to tantrums, but usually the storm has blown over as quickly as it arrived. The 3 year old tantrum however… this is a completely different experience.

I don’t even think the word “tantrum” is appropriate at this stage. I feel it needs to be scaled up from a Status Orange to a full on Status Red meltdown situation. Take cover people, this storm is going to hit hard, and it ain’t goin’ nowhere fast!

The Threenager experience I had with our first boy was a long and hard one. A very defiant, headstrong and just plain oppositional little person ruled the roost in our house for quite a long time, and it made me mad. It made me mad, and it made me tired.

He was difficult nearly all day long, nearly every day. I was pushed to the brink of my sanity every day, numerous times, and it exhausted me. It also completely broke my spirit. All the while, I also had a 1 year old baby, who luckily was a very content, funny little chap who didn’t demand too much of me by day.

It probably didn’t help that I had just returned to work, having been on off for over a year, in which time we had moved house and relocated to the other side of the country. Maybe all that made the Threenager behaviour worse, or at least made it feel worse to me.

Playschool was a welcome break for all of us. He settled quickly and easily. New names were getting mentioned every few days, he really found a place for himself and it did him the world of good. On my days off I would drop him off, baby would nap and I could chill at home or take a stroll around the shops if the mood struck me.

But of course, playschool finished at 12. So that left 7 more hours for the drama to unfold once we got home. Once the naps became a thing of the past, the days became longer and more challenging again.

Over time, I found ways to manage his behaviours and the meltdowns became less regular and less intense, but wow did they still take it out of me. On work days I was fit to have my own meltdown by 5pm. Children clinging, crying, vying for my attention, while I so selfishly attempted to cook a dinner for us all. I’m out in a sweat now just thinking about it!

We so often are told “This too shall pass” and it is so hard to believe that while you are going through it. But that phase did pass. The Threenager left the “Turbulent Threes” and entered the almost as challenging “Fussy Fours”, but overall, things have gotten so much easier.

In the madness of the Threes, they learn to speak more clearly and communicate more effectively. We as parents learn how to manage the turbulence and also regulate ourselves, albeit narrowly avoiding committing numerous crimes along the way!

Looking at the second boy now, who will turn 3 in a couple of months, I feel more prepared for what’s ahead. I don’t feel like I will be as blindsided as I was first time around.

He is already entering Status Red territory on an increasingly regular basis, but it doesn’t knock half as much out of me as it used to. And that is a relief.

So, while 3 is a small number, and may well be insignificant in many contexts, when it comes to small humans who are 3, it’s one hell of a number…


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