The phrase, “terrible twos” is a misnomer. Two year-olds are adorable. They toddle around on pudgy little legs. They grin these cute, toothy smiles. They shriek in delight, squealing whenever the world surprises them. Did I mention the fact that two year-olds dance about in the cutest, stilted fashion? They do. It’s insane how much those jerky movements warm my heart.
The life that a two year-old leads is meant for devout exploration during every waking hour. They cram in as much as possible, in an effort to never miss a new opportunity to learn.
Sure, as parents, we discourage exploring the television onto the floor, and find ourselves packing away all glass, porcelain, and ceramic chachkes. And, if I sit and remember–though I am now developing amnesia in all things early toddler–two year-olds test their limits on a daily basis. I get it; as a parent, defining limitations can be a bit irritating at times. When I think back, though, I forget all of the hours spent redirecting, discouraging certain behaviors, and utilizing the naughty chair. How can I forget that? Because, there is so much cuteness wrapped up in the two year-old toddler.
It’s when they turn three that life begins to get even more interesting. Something happens the moment a toddler turns three. It’s a simultaneously amazing, and completely aggravating change that can be described in one word: independence. Asserting opinions, expressing dislike, and demonstrating exasperation at any and all parental figures becomes standard practice. The three year-old has learned to accomplish a new behavior, and carries it out with extreme proficiency. They demonstrate the uncanny ability to talk back.
“Son son, eat your dinner.”
“No. I don’t like spaghetti. It’s yucky.”
“Hey, please get dressed. We have to hurry.”
“I can’t, I need to play with my choo choo. I will just be a minute.”
“Son son, it’s time to go potty.”
“But I just went potty at Preschool.”
Um, that was three hours ago.
Whether they are trying for contrary, being obstinate, or just outright ornery, I’m not sure. But, once sentences start flowing with ease, the highly opinionated comments follow. In abundance.
Sure, my tiny human probably behaves this way because I am his mother, and I am one highly opinionated woman. But, since mine isn’t the only one who chooses every opportunity to negate parental comments, I’m not overly worried. I observe this quality in many other three year-olds, and see the exasperation written all over the parent’s face. Our children have the need for dependence from the rigorous structure being placed upon their world. Toddler’s question, scrutinize, seek answers, and examine everything by touching. It is us, the parents, who restrict their adamant curiosity.
They don’t know we’re trying to teach them proper behavior, and preservation skills. To them, we are the people thwarting their efforts. I mean, think about it. Who is more demanding on the toddler’s ability to freely explore than us–the Mommy, or Daddy?
No one. We are the disciplinarians.
So, after successfully living past the two year-old phase–along with hearing constant boundaries and daily rules–three year-old toddlers are now ready for some assertions of their own. And they are willing to speak up about it.
Not to mention, now they can.
“I’m getting a lollipop.”
“No, you aren’t. I am cooking dinner.”
“Look, Mommy. This is my lolly. It’s in my mouth. See?”
Bothering to holler, going to naughty chair, laughing at the sheer audacity, or simply throwing the piece of candy away seem like viable options. Seeing as I am thunderstruck at the sheer candor my toddler displays, it will take me a moment to react properly.
And in that moment, I’m finding that two is easier than three. “Terrible Threes” doesn’t seem like a good phrase, though. Tempestuous Threes, perhaps.
Though, I think it should be, “Highly opinionated, quarrelsome, stubborn threes.”