You are not my best friend

So says my three-year-old son as he stomps up the stairs. “Don’t follow me,” he adds, in his curt toddler tone, just in case I thought there was any chance of getting back in his good graces.

For the life of me I can’t remember what precipitated this exchange. Maybe I took a toy, or offered the wrong toy, or asked him to pick up a toy himself?  

It doesn’t matter. Within seconds he’s back at the top of the stairs, calling my name, eager to hug and kiss and make up. 

Having small children is sort of like dating in middle school. Everyone’s hormones are out of control and nobody knows what they really want, except that they all want someone to love them.

The threenage years

  
Oh. My. God. What happened to my sweet, soft-spoken, generally polite and obedient child? Some days, I still see glimpses of him. Other days, it’s like we need an exorcist. 
He will throw a full-body tantrum because I used the wrong color milk cup (note to self: the cup or at least the lid should always be blue). He will scream as if being stabbed with one thousand knives when I attempt to wipe his runny nose. He will cry as if his life is ending when I pause Paw Patrol so that we can start dinner. 

And some of the things that come out of his mouth! I wouldn’t be more surprised if his head started spinning around while he spoke in tongues. “Don’t talk to me like that,” he will spit at me with real venom in his voice. “Don’t touch me,” he will whine as he ducks to avoid my kiss.

I get that he is asserting his independence and that this is developmentally appropriate but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. It most definitely does suck. Especially in public. And in front of friends and relatives. And even when it’s just me. 

It is never pleasant when someone is blantantly rude to you and it is especially unpleasant when that person wouldn’t exist but for the sacrifice of your belly, regular sleep schedule and most of your free time. I mean, come on! I planned you an elaborate superhero third birthday party and now you’re going to hide in the bathroom the whole time because it “hurt” when I wiped your bottom!? (To be fair, you did tear yourself away from the bouncy castle in time to poop in the potty instead of your undies so big props for that, but still, toilet paper does not hurt).

Generally, I am able to be extremely patient with my kiddo’s less than stellar behavior. It was actually one of my biggest pre-baby worries–that I wouldn’t be patient enough and would thereby permanently damage my child’s mental well-being through constant criticism and admonishments to “just hurry up already.” In fact, I’m honestly not bothered by much of the standard toddler doddling and lollygagging. I can roll with it and even cajole him into going faster with humor and minor bribes. But now . . .

Now we’ve reached a whole other level of irritating behavior. Some of it is still pretty laughable even while super annoying. For instance, Henry loves to tell me and my husband to “walk away” whenever we are doing something he doesn’t like. Picture trying to wrestle your post-shower wet three year old into pull ups and pajamas while he screams “Walk away, mommy!” at the top of his lungs.

On the other hand, some of this new threenager behavior is purposeful, hurtful, even dangerous. For instance, he will jump and land, or throw something, nearly injuring one of his three-month old sibilings and then insist on doing it again after we’ve told him his behavior is not acceptable. Then we have time out. Which results in a fully-body tantrum and, usually, being carried to his room, “Walk away, daddy!” echoing down the hallway.

And the lying, oh my god, he is such a liar. He lies about the most silly things, like whether the dog got fed or whether he brushed his teeth already. And he lies about everything related to the potty. For better or worse, we used Annie’s fruit snacks to potty train; two bunnies for a poop, one for a pee. Last night, I asked Henry how many times he pooped at school so I could dole out his treats. “Ten times!” he reported gleefully. We compromised on two poops and three pees. 

Still, he is not such a liar that he actually intends to deceive. If I ask him whether he is trying to “trick” mama by claiming daddy already brushed his teeth, he will readily admit he is. It is too adorable to really get mad about it, but I do try to emphasize that telling the truth is important. I know it will be important later, assuming we all survive to reach age four.

Probably the most teenage like behavior that has recently developed is Henry’s ability to apparently participate in an extended conversation and then not remember a single word I just said. His listening has actually gotten so bad I suggested to my husband that we call the doctor to have his ears checked. My husband laughed, pointing out that Henry could easily hear whenever I mention the iPad or Halloween candy, even from across the house. Clearly, we are dealing with a selective hearing disorder, something I was prepared to deal with at 13 but not three. I’m afraid there is not nearly as much of a difference between the two ages as I had assumed.