I cannot be clearer than this: three year olds are the worst.
On the one hand, they are so cute. At three, you have a tiny person, wearing tiny adult clothes. They have these insanely observant, candid things to say. They make you laugh. You starting thinking things like, “obviously my kid is a mother fucking genius. he just figured out how to drain the tub.”
Then there’s the other hand. The torturous, deformed, hateful hand. You have an irrational, unthinking, selfish asshole with a seniority complex and zero regard for your life or feelings. And frankly, that’s being kind. Three year olds play sick mind games. They have the guilt skills of seasoned Jewish mother, the yelling prowess of an Italian mother, and mood disorders too severe to make it into any of Ken Kesey novels.
My three year old seems to fall in the moderate three year old category, which is really hard to fathom. Because about two months ago I made a special appointment with my therapist to tell him– through barely manageable tears– that I needed to go on a mood stabilizer. I had an undiagnosed rage disorder. I didn’t know what to do.
Nope, he said. You have a three year old.
I tried to reason with him, convince him that his years of school were shit. A serious rage disorder was sitting in front of him and he couldn’t see it. GO BACK TO GRAD SCHOOL, IDIOT. Then he started listing the traits of three year olds.
I definitely do not have a rage disorder. I have a three year old. (Never mind! Your degree is fine. I’m an asshole. Sorry.)
Looking back on the magical journey of pregnancy and infancy, I realize that we (mothers, fathers, society) are focused on the totally wrong part of parenting. Infants are cake. I mean, not cake. They are terrible in their own special way. But the whole world loves babies. AND THEY DON’T TALK. Babies are irrational, but it’s okay because they are flesh blobs. Dolls. Plants with neurons and foul poops. It’s when our babies turn two until they turn about five, that we are left ALL ALONE. Unless you’re looking for some help with the functional parts of parenting (i.e. teach your kid to poop in a receptacle), 2-5 are the parenting dark ages. Your kid is really too young for actual labels (it’s too soon to say whether he’s really a psychopath) and too old to know whether he’s just experiencing something epic, like seeing color for the first time. Which makes him “fussy.” God I miss “fussy.” Fussy was so cute. Last night my kid cried so hard about a sticker that he gagged himself and we had to break our silence to make sure he wasn’t dead.
Logically, I know that my job is to survive. Realistically, there are days when survival seems impossible. I’m going to pack an old school suitcase and hop a bus to Nevada, where I’ll send faded postcards cross country at holidays. My days will be spent journaling and working odd jobs, my evenings drinking white wine out of a box and questioning whether I made the right choice. I’ll return for his high school graduation. The aged, but slightly beautiful, gray-haired woman in the back row. He’ll stare at me, unsure, but feeling a familiarity he can’t shake. I’ll see he’s grown into the man I imagined. And I’ll return to Nevada. To my journalling. To my Franzia. With hope. And closure.
Only I can’t do that. Because my husband would hunt me down in Nevada and kill me. Then marry a casino dancer and drag her to Salem to watch Author. Fuck.
So here we are. Surviving.
Strangely, as trying as these little people can be, you actually love them a whole lot. In the middle of psychological warfare about picking up a goddamned Rescue Bot, you’re still obsessing about their day, where you should send them to school, whether they’re making friends, if they ate their lunch. The real kick in the dick is that 99% of the time, if your kid would just stop screaming like a crazy person and ask politely for something absurd, he’d probably get it. Instead of throwing a spoon at my face and telling me how I’m torturing you with dinner, you could try saying, “mups, I love you so much. but the flavor profile of this meal just isn’t working. could I please have a bowl of sugared cereal and nine gummy vitamins.” I’d say yes. How could I not?
We’re American parents. We can’t help ourselves. We’re capitalists and consumers.
This morning, my child smeared actual poo on my bed. Fortunately it was on my husband’s side of the bed, but that’s not really the point. His tiny brain FORGOT that he walked up the stairs WITH A HANDFUL OF WIPES because he needed help wiping the epic amounts of shit off his ass… and sat down. Proceeded to have an entire conversation with me about how he wasn’t going to get dressed today. I even asked about the wipes. He couldn’t remember. He just “sort of picked them up.”
He forgot the ending, which was “… to have you wipe all this poop off of me before I smear it on the bed.”
On. My. Bed.
Then, when I realized the situation and reacted like super mom, he turned on me. Getting dressed was the worst idea he’d ever heard of in his whole life. He would not do it. Ever. He threw his body on the ground and writhed like a crazy person. I just stared down at him in disbelief. I just extracted fecal matter from you and MY BED and now you are YELLING AT ME.
What the actual fuck? <Cue the rage disorder I thought I had. But don’t. I have a three year old.>
But there’s good news. We are 156 days away from his fourth birthday.