Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Power of Three

Let me let you in on a little parenting secret.

The Terrible Twos? You are given fair warning to expect 365 days of unreasonable behavior, fervent tantrums, and an endless usage of the word "NO!" 

But what people don't tell you is that there is a terrifying sequel to the Terrible Twos -- the "Even More Terrible Threes."

I opined on this subject once before when my now four-year-old was three, but I feel it bears revisiting now that my second son has entered the age range.

My second child (a boy) was a rather classic two-year-old. His favorite pastime was shrieking "NO!" at top-volume, and he enjoyed the occasional bout of rage-induced biting. But I mean, he was two. He was small, easy to tote over to the naughty chair, and I could almost always appease him through the judicious use of sugary snacks.

Now that he has turned three, however, it's a WHOLE NEW BALLGAME.

For one thing his vocabulary has exploded. A frequently-discussed milestone for this age group is that a child should be able to "use words to get his needs met." Let me tell you that my son is NAILING that milestone. The problem from our end is that his needs are both so frequent and so random that we have more than a little trouble keeping up. And, let me tell you, when a three-year-old's needs are not met in a timely manner? It is on, as the kids say, like Donkey Kong.

Our son leaps from his bed each morning and invades our bedroom with his first words of the day. Usually they are something along the lines of: 


I have learned through trial and error that answering this question is futile as it merely leads to an exchange like this:

"How about pancakes?"


"Some nice waffles!"


"Would you care for some oatmeal?"


And so I eschew all attempts at diplomacy and instead simply rise from the bed and begin cooking whatever seems appropriate. While the breakfast offerings are rarely pleasing to my son, he manages to wolf down three platefuls between protestations. 

As soon as the final crumb enters his maw a new list of demands begins.

Getting dressed:

"I DON'T LIKE THAT SHIRT! IT HAS A SCARY PICTURE ON IT!" (the picture referred to, for the record, is of a happy little toad)

Getting shoes on:

TV time:

"I WANT TO WATCH CARS! NOOOOOOOO I MEANT CARS 2!" [insert copious wailing]

Boredom sets in:


Literally anywhere I suggest:


I interject trying to ascertain what he might like to do instead only only to receive the teary response:


Then there is rolling around on the floor accompanied by much gnashing of teeth.

The only upside I can think of is that at least this time I was prepared for the Even More Terrible Threes. I knew better than to believe that the Terrible Twos would magically melt away into some period of lasting calm. I was prepared for the reality that a three-year-old is just a bigger, stronger, and less reasonable two-year-old with a larger vocabulary and better tactical skills.

And now -- so are you.

I also offer you today a silver lining. In my limited one-older-child experience this whole scene starts to smooth out a little once they hit four. I mean, four isn't exactly a champagne picnic with George Clooney in the woods, but it sure as hell beats three -- if only for the simple reason that a four-year-old is far less likely to spend large amounts of time demanding that,


As you wait, then, for your child's fourth birthday with blissful anticipation I give you one final word of warning about your three-year-old. 

NO MATTER HOW TEMPTING it may be to attempt to convince your little one that you cannot, in fact, change the color of the family vehicle with your mind, RESIST I TELL YOU! I can tell you with absolutely certainty that there is no happiness for you down any road that begins with the thought, 

"If I can just convince him/her to be reasonable...."

When you are dealing with a three-year-old there is no reason. There is only day-to-day survival.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Weekend Away

This past weekend I got away for an overnight with "the girls".

It's not always easy to list the benefits of getting older, but one of them is undeniably the existence of old friends. The group I was away with included my sister, my aunt, my best friend since childhood, and two college pals. This means that collectively I have known these ladies for something like 150 years. (Side note: did I mention I'm old?)

We spent the weekend at a spa, and in between hot tub soakings, massage receivings, and cocktail downings we engaged in the most important part of girls weekend: We talked. And talked. And talked some more.

For the past twenty years I've talked to these same women about almost everything. I've talked to them about where my life was going. I've discussed with each my dreams and ambitions. I've regaled them with the drama of my dating life and I've gotten their feedback on the choices I was making.

But I realized this weekend that suddenly I was talking less about where I'm going and more about where I have arrived.

At forty-one, my life has fewer moving pieces. I am, for lack of a better term, "settled down" into the life I spent the last twenty years building. So many of the journeys that these friends and family have helped me navigate are largely over as I find myself with a home, a husband, three small kids, and a career. 

But what's interesting is that the fundamental question that I'm asking about my life hasn't changed all that much.

As we looked back and reminisced on our trip, I found the regrets I discussed most were over parts of my life I felt I'd neglected. I wondered aloud if I should have settled down into a career sooner, if I might have gotten out of relationships faster once I realized they weren't working. 

And as I imagine looking back at my life another twenty years from now, I know the central question is going to be the same:


I have a couple of areas of my life that could easily demand my full attention. I have a husband. I have three small children. I have a career. I have a desire to be fit and to take care of myself physically. Putting all my energies into any one of these realms is not possible, and so I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out some way to balance each of them against one another.

I'm sure as I look back from sixty I'll have made some of the same mistakes that I did from twenty to forty. I'll have focused too heavily on areas of my life that seemed crucial at the time only to realize in hindsight that I had neglected other things that were actually more important.


I gotta say I have no idea.

Should I concentrate on building my career even if it means letting more things slide at home? I know the anxiety I have about my kids is fairly useless, but can I let it go and just enjoy the time that I have with them? (Because as every human who has ever had a child likes to remind you -- it is FLEETING FLEETING FLEETING!!!) Should I take more time away with my husband even if that means less time together as a family??

I truly don't know the answer.

But it gives me some comfort to feel like I'm at least asking the right question.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Anatomy of Two Fights


Husband walks in door.

DAVID: Hi sweetheart! How was your day?



ME: Uh-Oh? What is that supposed to mean? 

DAVID: I'm trying to express my concern. Because I can tell you are upset.


DAVID: (slightly hopeful) At who?

ME: AT YOU!!!!

DAVID: Uh-oh. 


DAVID: I'm sorry, I didn't mean uh-oh. I meant please go ahead.

ME: There was a bag of chocolate chip cookies above the fridge. 

DAVID: Uh-oh.

ME: Did you eat them all last night after I fell asleep?

DAVID: Yes. Yes I did.

ME: DAVID!!! The kids wouldn't leave the playground and so I had to bribe them by promising them cookies! Then on the way home there was bad traffic so I kept saying, "Just a few more minutes until cookies....just a few more minutes until cookies," and then we got all the way here and all I had to offer them was AN EMPTY COOKIE BAG!

DAVID: Uh-oh.

ME: I mean I promised the kids cookies all the way home if they would just stop screaming, and then we finally got home THERE WERE NO COOKIES!!!

DAVID: Wow, I get that and I am really, really sorry.

ME: And look! Here! At the list where we add things when we run out of them! You didn't even add "Cookies"!

DAVID: I'm very sorry.

ME: I'm not kidding! The kids were crying for like forty-five minutes!

DAVID: I'm really, really sorry.

ME: That doesn't help!

DAVID: But I thought you told me last time we were fighting that if I just apologized sincerely it would make everything better.

ME: This is a totally different situation!!

DAVID: Oh. Would it help if I went to the store and got more cookies?

ME: This is about so much more than cookies! Don't you understand?


ME: Don't say yes if you don't really understand.

DAVID: Wow. I have no idea what to say right now.



ME: Listen, I know you didn't do it on purpose, but please just don't eat things that I've put aside for the kids, OK?

DAVID: I won't. I promise.

ME: And when you use the last of something please add it to the list.

ME: I will. I promise.


ME: It's just that I told the kids they were going to get cookies and then they were so upset when they were gone!

DAVID: Uh-huh. No, I get it.

ME: But -- it's just that I don't get the sense that this is as important to you as it is to me.

DAVID: No, no. It is. It is. Let's talk about it for another hour.

ME: Are you being sarcastic?

DAVID: Uh-oh.


ME: (crying) It just make me feel like you just don't really get what I go through with the kids! It's so hard, you know? I just give and give and I feel like no one respects that, you know? It's like your life hasn't changed at all and my life is like, 'Are there cookies for the kids?' 'Who needs a dentist appointment?' Like this endless list of responsibilities that no one really gets, you know....


*end of fight*


DAVID: Did you forget to move the car again and get a $95 dollar parking ticket that we can ill-afford this week?

ME: Yes. I did. I'm sorry. Would you like a brownie?

DAVID: Oh my God, that would be awesome.

*end of fight*

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Yesterday I took all three of my kids to the library.

In an attempt to organize the week (and to preserve my sanity for the remainder of the summer) I've instituted a new summer afternoon schedule so that I have at least a semblance of a plan for the dreaded 4pm - 7pm hours.

On Mondays we go to the park!

On Wednesdays we go to the playground!

On Thursdays we do water guns in the backyard!

On Fridays Daddy comes home and throws the kids around until bedtime!

On Tuesday afternoons we do a library outing. I stretch it over as much time as possible. First all four of us gather after nap time to talk about what subjects we most want to find books about. Then we walk up to the library en masse to search out books on those topics. Finally we come home and sit together reading for the next hour or so.

That sound you hear? Is the thunderous sound of  ME PATTING MYSELF ON THE BACK FOR THIS AWESOME BIT OF PARENTING!!!

Yeah, except in reality it never quite happens quite as plan. This beloved academically-minded outing, in particular, has a tendency to go SPECTACULARLY off the rails.

It has gotten so bad that I fear my kids are in danger of becoming known far and wide as "THE TERRORS OF THE LIBRARY".

And it's not for lack of trying on my part. I swear to you that before each and every library outing I give my offspring a stern talking-to about my expectations of "proper library behavior". 

On the list of things that fall into the category of "proper library behavior":
  • No screaming
  • No running
  • No taking books off the shelf without supervision
  • No dancing of any kind
  • No shouting the lyrics of songs from the 'Cars' soundtrack at the top of your lungs
  • No removing articles of clothing for any reason
  • No hitting of siblings with library materials
  • No attempting to verbally engage fellow library patrons ON ANY SUBJECT
  • If I hear a ripping sound you are going to time-out FOREVER!!

I try, people, I'm telling you I try.

The kids usually start off pretty well. The library has a fairly small "kids area" consisting of a VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR rug, two puzzles, and about a half a dozen nicely-sized rows of books.  The area is really just one section of the one-room library, so there is no separation from the rest of the place where people are engaged in their reading and/or general quiet-necessitating library activities. Which means the pressure to maintain complete silence from my three children under five is FAIRLY INTENSE.

The feeling is compounded by a librarian straight from Central Casting who walks around shushing anyone who makes a peep (this does, from personal experience, include 17-month-olds vocally delighted at the sight of the aforementioned caterpillar rug).

So it is that our library experience -- which I always envision as a contemplative stroll through the library shelves in search of tomes that will satiate my children's nascent curiosity about the universe -- instead becomes a mad dash through the stacks before I actually melt from the hot burning shame of inflicting my children on my fellow patrons.

FOUR-YEAR-OLD: Mom! I wanted a book on cars!
ME: Listen, here's something with Curious George on the cover, you'll like that.
FOUR-YEAR-OLD: Curious George is for babies!
ME: Pleeeeaaase stop yelling. That librarian lady is going to kill me. Where is your brother?

(Brief glimpse of three-year-old laughingly disappearing behind library shelves)

ME: Don't touch anything! I've got to go get him. Has anyone seen a baby around here?

So it goes until I manage to grab a half-dozen or so books, check out, and wrangle the children back out to the street. 

I wrench the children home amidst cries of,

"I wanted to stay at the LIIIIBBBRARY!!!!!"

I can happily attest that the kids are really enjoying the great array of books cycling through the house, but these library afternoons? They're a bear.

I may start sneaking off by myself to choose books on nights when my husband's home and skipped "Library Afternoon" altogether.

Tuesday night could always be, "Let's hit the drive-thru and watch a movie night"...