Return of the Threenager. Run for your lives!

Maisie, my second child, is three. By nature she is a lovely, sweet, gentle little person. She likes dollies and princesses and handbags. Her favorite color is pink and when she grows up she wants to be a ballerina. She couldn’t be more of a cliche if she tried. Unfortunately, because she is three, she is the dark and menacing version of that cliche. Imagine if you will, a tiny girl, wearing a pink, shiny, fairy princess dress and a furious frown. The damage that this little girl wants to do with her sparkly wand should not, under any circumstances be underestimated.

Whoever coined the term, “terrible twos”, had obviously not yet had the pleasure of being a parent to a threenager. But why then, is so little known about this creature of the night? My theory is, that the threes are so awful that parents just choose to block them out.

Here are the most frustrating aspects of threenager behavior:

– They are utterly contrary. They develop the ability to insist that black is white, even when it’s definitely black and actually in their best interest to be black.

– They have phenomenal stamina. A tantrum can go on indefinitely, with little or no let up.

– They’re incredibly sensitive, but not in any fathomable way that you can anticipate or prepare for. So, for example, they can feel extreme anger and confusion about an issue as benign as being asked to wear a dark blue top when a light blue top was obviously what they wanted to wear.

– They’re able to somehow screech or scream or cry in such a way as to destroy sanity and shatter dreams. Forget water-boarding, put a terrorist is a room with a Threenager having a tantrum and they’d soon tell you everything they know.

– They are insanely stubborn. No amount of cajoling or persuading can divert them from the source of their fury. Their focus on whatever’s vexed them is absolute.

This may sound similar to the terrible twos but it’s different for 2 very important reasons. 1) They are bigger and stronger, making any sort of physical restraint or comfort much harder. Think thrashing limbs, sharp elbows and jaggedy nails that you meant to cut before bed last night, but didn’t. 2) They have a more developed vocabulary which makes them more able to manipulate you with language and a twisted sort of logic, meaning any mental advantage you may have once had is gone. There is no reasoning with an unreasonable threenager.

In reality, threenager behavior isn’t always constant, it can come in waves as well as a constant flow. Sam was a constant flow threenager, i.e. consistently hard work. Maisie is a waves threenager, slightly less exhausting but still awful during an episode. Her big thing is screeching at the slightest insult and when you have an elder brother and a pesky little sister there are lots of opportunities for insult! The screeches and screams she inflicts upon us drive me up the wall and can cause my stress levels to go through the roof. I will quite often just give into her demands just for some peace and quiet. This is obviously just the opposite of what a good parent would do, but hey, sometimes we just have to pick our battles. Anyway, let’s face it, we all know who’d win and it wouldn’t be me…

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Thoughts on yodelling, a healthy alternative to screaming.

My youngest daughter Isabelle, (the one who won’t sleep or be broken by controlled crying), has the mother and father of all screams. To look at her you’d expect perhaps a gentle gurgle or a cutesy little giggle, but NO, she’s a total yob. When we’re out in public and she starts screaming, I NEVER get a sympathetic shrug or tolerant smile from passers by, I get curled lips or grotesque snarls. On really bad days people have been known to simply run away from us, shrieking because their ears are bleeding.

At the moment she seems to be a bit poorly. I don’t know what’s wrong with her, it may be teething, a virus, permanent emotional scarring from the failed controlled crying, no idea, but she’s very cross, very clingy and very hard work. So, anyway, today she decided that the only place she wanted to be was my hip. At this point, I feel it’s important to say that I’m excellent at doing most things with one hand whilst holding or even breast-feeding the baby. Opening tins, buttering toast, going to the toilet, all easy, but I draw the line at chopping onions. Needless to say, at dinnertime, Isabelle was furious when I dared to put her down to chop said onions and screamed as though I’d just thrown her in the bin, which I have to admit was incredibly tempting.

By the time bed-time finally arrived, I was a match short of fireworks. I don’t know about you, but I find changing a screaming child’s, nappy absolutely hideous. They squirm, they flail and when possible fling poop at areas of the body that have managed to avoid tomato sauce or beige mush. Tonight though, the final straw came in the form of baby-grow poppers. Poppers are IMPOSSIBLE to pop when a baby is kicking and screaming and tonight when none were popping I felt the need to scream. So I did. I wish I could say that Isabelle’s surprise at my vocal outburst stopped her own screams but as you’ve probably guessed it made her scream even louder but with a new element of terror mixed in for good measure. Poor little thing, there’s nothing worse than frightening a baby, so, in desperation, I started to yodel. Yes, yodel. Now that did surprise her and also brought the screams down to a confused whimper.

Now I’m no scientist, (although a double B in combined science is nothing to sniff at) but I do feel as though I’ve stumbled onto some sort of important discovery here. Who knew that yodelling could calm the nerves so dramatically? I’m not talking about the baby of course, yodelling won’t work on her twice in a row, but I found it rather wonderful. I’d even go as far as saying that for a moment it made my spirit soar.

So, if you ever find yourself on the edge of a popper-induced meltdown, just try a quick yodel. You never know, it might work for you too.

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