Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Tyrannical Threes

There are many things I fear in this world – old age, natural disasters, my husband asking to try a new jiu-jitsu move on me and the worst of all, harm coming to one of my loved ones. Another item at the top of the list is a developmental stage which every youngster must pass through. If you’re a parent, there is an excellent chance that you have either experienced first-hand or have at least read about one the scariest rites of passage there is; a challenge I like to call “The Tyrannical Threes.” At this time, I would like to thank my sister for warning me of this horrifying reality. I hope to do the same for you.

How many times have you heard the expression, “The Terrible Twos?” It seems as though the moment people in your life find out you're pregnant, they will regale you with stories of how your toddler will become sooooo terrible. Oh, the things you will endure! You will be lucky to get out alive! Uh huh. If you are not yet a parent, let me share something very important with you - the twos have NOTHING on the threes. The threes will make you yearn for the sleepless nights, exploding diapers and breast infections of yesteryear. There will be endless screaming, high pitched crying and every type of tantrum throwing under the sun. And yes, there will be times you will wish you had never been born. It IS that bad.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let me paint a picture for you. The other day I took my two sons out to lunch at our local diner. On the way in we passed one of those cursed games with huge window of inviting toys and the claw which purports the ability to capture a coveted prize. In other words, “the sucker’s bet.” My three-year-old son immediately latched on the joystick and insisted, rather loudly, on playing. His nine-year-old brother seconded this notion, thankfully at a lower volume. After a promise of a game for each of them following lunch, my younger son reluctantly allowed himself to be led to a booth.

Upon arrival at the booth, my little darling proceeded to fold his arms and pout. When I sat down, he promptly lay prostrate and repeatedly shoved his feet into my behind. Nice. I maintained my calm demeanor and was finally able to get him to sit up. While trying to ascertain what he would like to eat (because his acceptable food list changes daily) I was told repeatedly in his best OUTSIDE voice that he wanted to play the game. A few deep breaths later, I decided to order him what he was eating as of yesterday and hope he would deign to eat it today as well.

My nine-year-old was such a champ! He did his best to distract his brother from the pull of the claw with crayons, Angry Birds and stories. When none of his tactics worked, he tried to rationalize with his brother that it would be unlikely he would win a prize anyway. Though he had the best of intentions, my son caused ear piercing screams to emanate from his traumatized little brother. The tears were profuse, the body flailing was expertly executed to cause maximum bodily harm to his mother AND the kicking was enough to rattle the couple in the next booth into moving to a new table. You know, as far away as possible from the horror of Tyrannical Three zone.

Once I tamed the demon my tiny one had become, we quickly ate our meal. Well, my older son and I ate while he chanted “I want to play the claw game” over and over and OVER again. With the bill paid, my younger son happily skipped over to the machine and demanded a coin. His older brother was deluded enough to think they could take turns and was severely put out when he realized he didn’t stand a chance. A few turns and five, cough, dollars later, we had won….wait for it….a pair of plastic clip-on earrings. Hmm. As neither one of my sons have ever had an interest in girly costumes, this was not well received.

After announcing our imminent departure, the torrent of yelling and limb flailing commenced once more. I closed my eyes, braced myself for the beating I was about to take and reached for my indignant son. Then I hoisted him over my shoulder (to minimize the chance of facial injuries), waved to the owner and motioned for my older son to follow. While looking back to verify that he was indeed following me, I caught the owner in mid cackle. I like to think he was laughing with me (as in maybe he had been through the same kind of ordeal himself), but I really can’t be sure.

And there you have it. A typical outing with a three-year-old. As I only have boys, I cannot say if the behavior is better with girls, but for those of you who have daughters, I hope that this is the case for the sake of your sanity. If you are the parent of a child under the age of three, gird your loins! (Thank you, Stanley Tucci, for delivering that memorable line in The Devil Wears Prada.) The Tyrannical Threes will be a thrill ride you will not soon forget.

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