Three is the New Two

by Erin Morrison-Fortunato
Originally Published: 

“What if he is an asshole forever?” my hubby bemoans as we drive home with a thrashing, screeching three-year-old strapped into the car.

“I’m sure it’s just a phase,” I reassure myself nervously.

This was our first child, so I was not at all sure that this was a phase. After all, I had no comparison, no guarantee that he wouldn’t always be the raging, angry, menacing, tantruming, spitting, screaming, hateful asshole he had been embodying for the last month.

What had changed in the last month? What had happened to our sweet baby? We’d made it through the terrible twos relatively unscathed. It was supposed to be easy sailing between now and adolescence, right?

The man who coined the term “the terrible twos” must have moved abroad for the entirety of his child’s third year.

Of course my precious boy had had outbursts when he was two, but nothing that had prepared me for what began one week after my boy’s third birthday.

After a rushed mission through Target with my grouchy son strapped into the cart, we stood in a slow moving checkout line. Leo was growing more and more agitated, wiggling and whining, begging to be let out of what must, to him, have been the equivalent of water boarding. Mind you, this assumption is based solely on his reaction to confinement in the cart. I refused his requests as we were almost at the head of the line, but my repeated denials only enraged the little prince further.

Just as the cashier began to scan our items, the dam containing the rage held within the tiny body of my three-year-old broke wide and a gush of profanity was released. His adorable little rosebuds lips open and his squeak of a voice screams, “MOTHER FUCKER! MOTHER FUCKER! MOTHER FUCKER!”

I am literally stunned into silence, awestruck by the filth flowing freely from his miniscule vocal cords. “MOTHER FUCKER! MOTHER FUCKER! MOTHER FUCKER!”

Holy fuck! Where the hell did he learn that kind of despicable language? Certainly not from me! What the shit am I supposed to do about this? I can’t just ignore it. Oh, bloody fuck in a fuck hole, everyone is staring.

Pondering what action to take, I am distracted by a howling laugh. The teenage cashier thinks this situation hilarious. Did I mention that I am a high school teacher? Because, I went full out teacher on that kid’s ass: “You think this is funny? You think it’s funny that a three-year-old boy is screaming profanity in a public place in order to manipulate his mother into giving him what he wants? This little boy looks up to you as a big kid, and your laughter only teaches him that this type of behavior is not only acceptable, but encouraged. Shame on you!”

Granted, this anger may have been slightly misplaced.

The Target incident, as we now refer to it, is topped only by the battle of wills our three-year-old daughter, Cecily, fought with me over the fact that a pair of shoes we’d purchased did not fit.


“I know you do, but they don’t fit. Let’s put on your sparkly pair.”

“NO! NO! I WANT THEM!!!!” she bellows as she thrashes wildly on the floor. “I WANT THEM!” she screeches between heaving sobs.

This epically ridiculous battle continues for ten minutes as I struggle to shove her sparkle shoes onto her feet, all the while keeping an eye on the clock as I am now going to be late to work. I foolishly forgot to schedule a 15 minute tantrum buffer.


“Okay, you do it then, but we need to hurry.”


“Then give me the shoes, and I will put them on,” I insist through gritted teeth.


I’ve reached my breaking point. “I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME, CECILY FRANCES. I have to go to work. I have to go,” I attempt to reason with her, in vain. I shove the shoes onto her kicking feet, repeatedly pummeled by her flailing arms. I stuff her under my arm (picture, if you will, a writhing, bellowing 28 pound football) and head out the front door. Keep in mind, it is 6:15 a.m. on a frosty Winter’s morning. It is pitch black and silent, as the majority of the neighbors are still snuggled cozily into their beds. At least, they were.

I see the lights next door and those across the street flick on as I wrestle the still shrieking Cecily into my van. I can only imagine that I must appear to be a kidnapper, struggling to abduct a frantic little victim. But, no. I can’t imagine any kidnapper would put up with this behavior. I am simply trying to get my kid into a pair of shoes and into the damn car.

Embarrassing admission time. In point of fact, as I write this, Cecily is acting as inspiration. Ahhhh…my unwelcome little muse. While jumping on the couch, an activity she has been expressly forbidden to participate in several times, she accidentally kicks her father in the face. I calmly and firmly order her into the Naughty Spot.

“NO!” she stubbornly affirms, topping off her insubordination by spitting at me.

I take a deep breath and begin my 1-2-3 Magic training: “One. Go to the Naughty Spot.”

“NO!” she refuses, and showers me further with saliva.

“Two. Go to the Naughty Spot.”

“NO!” she screams, dousing me, once again, with spittle. My stomach knots as I strain to control my temper. Holy shit! If this is what she is like as a three-year-old, what the hell am I in store for when she’s thirteen?

“Three. Move to the Naughty spot or you will be going up to bed now, without story or song.” In her final act of resistance, she gathers a mouthful of loogy and spits forth a raging raspberry. “Ok. Take her up to bed,” I demand of my hubby.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I don’t want to go to bed. I want a different mommy. You are NOT NICE!” she hurls her most injurious insult at me. The next twenty minutes are a raging storm of high pitched screams and a torrent of tears, but she is finally cajoled into her bed.

The only cure I know for this hideous behavior? A fourth birthday.

My little princess turns four at the end of December and, this year, it isn’t Christmas that can’t come soon enough.

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