I heard the term “threenager” well before my son turned 3. I thought it was a cutesy label to describe how a 3-year-old feels more grown up and independent, like a teenager.
At the time, I didn’t consider the darker aspects of a teenager’s personality: moody, picky, indignant, and just downright unpleasant at times. Frankly, I didn’t think anything could be worse than the terrible twos, which were pretty terrible. Boy, was I wrong — 3 makes 2 look like a Disney movie. I miss 2. I’d do 2 twice if it meant that I could skip 3.
Since my son turned 3, my sweet, albeit a little naughty, boy has turned into what many (including me) would describe as an asshole. Everything is met with “no!” Questions have become demands, and every mood is ramped up to 1,000 at all times. A simple request can bring on a full-blown meltdown. I spend my days oscillating between exasperatedly saying his name a million times a minute to asking God to kill me swiftly, so I can escape this madness.
Yes, I know everything is temporary when it comes to children, and that he is developing and learning, but when your 3-year-old is mansplaining to you how to clean his apple, you may want to tell him to pack his shit and get out.
Since I’m at work-at-home single mom, I don’t get much time to check out of the asylum. But I also know that my problems aren’t unique to just me and my threenager; they’re actually pretty universal. As I figured out ways to cope, I turned to my fellow mom friends (some right there in the trenches with me, some who have successfully made it to the other side) to see how they coped as well.
Get out of the house: Sometimes all it takes is getting away from the chaos for a few minutes. I’ll take a walk down the street to the store or even have him join in for a walk around the neighborhood. Or as my friend Christine describes it: “Running. So. Much. Running.”
All the snacks: Not for them, but for us. The most common (and most delicious) way to cope is, of course, food. For me, it’s sweets like cookies and chocolates. I have been known to store Hershey’s Kisses in my cheeks like a chipmunk or take bites of a cookie while his back is turned.
Booze: A nice glass of wine can help you unwind at the end of a hard day of momming, or beer, or whatever you prefer. “Drink. A lot.” –Renee
Relax: There are many ways to calm your frazzled nerves after you made lunch the wrong way again. A nice bubble bath, meditation, soothing music, a little pampering. Or…“Pot,” according to Tia.
Watch something you want to watch: Sometimes all it takes is a little Real Housewives to regain your lost sanity. I like to watch One Direction videos on YouTube. (Do not laugh.) “My escape is house renovation shows.” –Laura
Make some noise: If chaos is already happening, a little extra noise isn’t going to hurt. At least it will be noise you are choosing to hear. “Singing, especially ‘Yellow Submarine’” –Elizabeth
Be silly: Everyone can appreciate being goofy, and sometimes we need a good laugh to get us back on track and to remind us why we procreated in the first place. Sara explains: “I try to make him laugh if I am not on the ledge at that moment. He’ll be throwing a tantrum about wearing his shoes, for example. So I’ll go to put them on his hands, or I’ll pretend to smell them and faint. That gets him laughing, and then he usually is only able to work himself into a half-hearted pout afterwards. And I win.”
Shake it off: When all else fails, dance. “When either of us are in a funk, I crank up the music and we do a dance party break.” –Jenn
Listen: Maybe if someone can communicate their feelings, you can reach a deeper understanding, or at least diffuse a full-blown meltdown. “Giving voice to their feelings, helping them validate them, no matter how illogical they are. They just want to heard a lot of the time.” –Wendy
“Sometimes my daughter would calm down if she felt heard.” –Jackie
Isolation: Sometimes you both need to just be left the fuck alone. “My pediatrician told me to put the locks on the outside of their bedroom doors. And I did it. Then I drank the wine.” –Katie.
“I survived with tears, complaining, and occasionally locking myself in the bathroom.” –Christie
I got some seriously sounds advice from my friend Monica, and I think it is worth noting: “Remind yourself that your little one will not be little forever. If the tantrum/funk/irritability in either of you is too high, put yourself in a mommy time-out.”
Look, I know that my kid won’t be a total pain in the ass demanding little know-it-all forever, but we’re right in the middle of it, so I can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. But when I’ve told him to stop standing on the furniture for the thousandth time, I love knowing that I have ways to check out for a few minutes. And that’s good for both of us because I can’t actually make him move out. Yet.