The Threenage Effect

It was bath-time. Olivia was splashing around happily in the tub when I told her I was pulling the plug and she would need to get out once the water ran out. I thought this was a totally rational way to end bath-time. I thought wrong. Very wrong. Her little body puffed up with rage and tiny fists splashed down deep into the depths of the nearly full tub and sent a tsunami-like wave my way. Aggressive splashing is one of my bug-a-boos and I’ve developed a zero tolerance policy for it so out of the tub she came. This only fanned the flames burning within her as she stood in front of me stark naked, hair plastered to her reddening face, and declared in a guttural Exorcist-like scream, “I. HAAAAATEEEEE. YOOOUUUUUUU!”

While she’s on the verge of a smile here, trust that this look is one that I see frequently.

She is three. Let me repeat. She is three. I full-on expect for my kids to proclaim on the regular that they hate me, I’m worst, and that they wish they had so-and-sos mom down the street because she is soooo much cooler than me. That’s fine. I’m their mom, not their friend and sometimes that’s going to mean making unpopular decisions. I just thought had approximately 10-12 more years before I had to even worry about these nuclear level insults. To date, the worst I’ve been called is a poopy butt so to say things have escalated is an understatement.

This meme may sum up everything about parenthood for me.

I was stunned into silence, which if you’ve spent five minutes in my presence you know it’s not an easy thing to do. My second reaction was to laugh. Like in that awkward way that some people do when they get terrible news. Thankfully my knight in shining armor, Joe, flew in from the other room ready with a zesty reprimand and made a strict demand for an immediate apology. Not used to her precious Daddy throwing down the discipline like that she immediately burst into over-exhausted tears wailing “Mooommmmmyyyyyy!” and dove into my arms. Yes, the girl who stated that she hated me is now turning to me for consolation.

Ladies and gentleman, this is a threenager for you.

I thought I knew what the definition of “threenager” was since we went through this with AJR. They emulate the behaviors of teenagers: moody, temperamental, scathing, emotional, etc. etc. However, threenage boys are one thing but  threenage girls are an entirely different beast. The only way I can think to describe it is that a three year-old boy is like a gory horror movie. Yes, you’re terrified, but the horror mainly lies in people popping out in dark places and wielding a knife that ends in someone’s bloody demise. It’s very surface level, terrifying, yet obvious. Three-year old girls are a little more subtle like a psychological thriller that leaves you totally mind-f***ed for weeks after. You’re unsettled and this movie has rocked you to your core in ways you didn’t know possible.

AJR had his threenage moments of course. Obvious tantrums because I cut his apples into slices instead of giving him a whole apple.Intentional disregard for rules and selective hearing. Or laying down on a grocery store floor because I refused to let him look at the toy cars that we weren’t going to buy in the first place because we had the equivalent of a used-car dealership at our house. At the time, days filled with these instances diminished my will to live and I thought I had it bad. Little did I know that this was just the amuse-bouche before a 6-course tasting menu of what a true threenager is capable of.

Olivia is cunning, clever, downright mean at times, and probably scariest of all,  she knows what she is doing. The things coming out of her mouth aren’t happy little accidents. They are well-laid insults meant to eviscerate its recipient. When she said that she hated me I knew that she didn’t actually mean it. A few weeks ago she actually sat outside the shower while I bathed because she refused to let me out of her sight. You don’t do that for people you hate…unless you really want to drive them insane by never giving them a moment of privacy. Oh God…maybe she’s more diabolic than I thought! Okay, back on track. Anyway, her comment, born out of her exhaustion, anger, and frustration at not having any control over when her bath will end led her to hurl the most hurtful thing possible at me.  I think that’s what scares me the most. She was pissed beyond belief and despite seeing red had enough cunning to dig deep and throw an emotional H-bomb that she thought would crush my soul. While her letter recognition is still coming along (we had a legit debate over whether a Z was an N) she’s exhibits a shrewdness that seems beyond a three year old’s capabilities.

The volatility of a threenage girl will give you whiplash. To onlookers, she is sweet and hilarious and just so darn happy (words straight from her teacher at our parent-teacher conference). And she is, truly. But like any typical teenager, mom also gets the dark, angsty side. God Forbid I ask her to do something like eat her dinner. Her face contorts into a hardened mask and she refuses to take another bite out of sheer spite. She prefers starvation to do anything I might gently suggest. “Oh, you’re telling me you want me to finish my green beans? Well f*ck you and your green beans!” Five seconds later she’s more than happy to shove bite after bite in her mouth once Daddy asks her to do it. The gloating side-eye she gives me lets me know that she is trying to break me and doing a pretty good job at it, I might add. Later on, I try to give Joe my side of the story but he turns a deaf ear. Not his angel. Never. I am alone in this fight.

At night she insists that I tuck her in. “I love you, Olivia.” I say while planting a kiss on her forehead. And with zero f*cks given she will say “I love my Daddy” close her eyes and tell me that I’m dismissed.

Like Muldoon in Jurassic Park when he utters the words “Clever girl” as he realizes he is outsmarted by the raptors, I too, am in awe of the mind games my wannabe Tinker Bell plays. Impressed yes, but more terrified than anything. She is three going on thirteen and Lord give me strength for when she is actually a teenager because I think I’m going to need it.


2 thoughts on “The Threenage Effect

  1. I can totally relate. The difference is that my daughter is 6. Lately, I’ve been told that I have ruined her life and she will tell me “thanks a lot” when I punish her. I hope this is the worst and that her teenage years aren’t worse.


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