Perhaps my title is a little unfair. Your threenager may be an absolute darling, and if that’s the case then frankly you have no business here. I can almost feel you mocking me over the interweb. I expect your child went to bed at 7pm, with zero fuss, head gently turned towards the Gro Clock to await the yellow burst which signifies a magical new day. A day in which you and your child will learn and laugh and love. As I said, you have no business here. Here are 5 threenager traits that my horrible child regularly displays (and I bet yours does too).
1 – Inappropriate “Red Alert” Declarations
If you’ve been kind enough to read my Injuries post, then you’ll know that the subject of Mouse and her allegiance to our local A&E triage room is a slightly sensitive one. If you claim parentage to a toddler, you’ll also know that they get themselves into some bloody awful scrapes and at any one time may display about 100 war wounds at various stages of healing. Mouse primarily attracts colourful bruising and scrazed elbows / knees, plus the occasional whitlow where she picks at her toenails. I took her along to one of Moo’s groups recently in a slightly desperate coupling of childcare letdown / needing to escape the house. As we were decamping in the already crowded room, she shrugged off her coat with a dramatic wince and announced “I’ve got such a lot of bruises at the moment, haven’t I mummy?” Cue me pointing to a few abrasions and giving an audible chronological history of the entirely accidental mishaps that caused them. Rounded off with a gentle pat to the head and suggestion that she’s a silly banana, funny little pickle, what-will-I-do-with-you, and so forth.
2 – Mealtime Diversionary Tactics
According to pre-school, Mouse regularly packs away seconds and even thirds of her lunch. At home, she will happily clear a plate of food. If, that is, you’re willing to sit at the table for approximately three hours. We may as well segway neatly from breakfast into lunch without pause, such is the sloth-like rhythm to which she eats. To her credit, she’s not a fussy eater: she’ll usually polish off her veggies before anything else on the plate, and she’s inherited my hero-worship of the humble legume. But my GOD it can be painstaking, and entirely devoid of thanks. When she starts resting her forehead on the edge of the table and complaining that she’s tiiiiiiiiiiired, I’ll slide her plate away only to be met with a screeching wail that she’s not finished and I mustn’t rush her. Same goes for when she does a 180 degree turn on her chair so that she can stare out of the window into the garden for a while, to alleviate any munching boredom. Remove food at your peril.
3 – Interrupting Without Just Cause
By the time my husband gets home, I’m usually rabid with desperation to moan about my 10 hours of solo parenting, under a pseudo-caring gambit of “Good day at the office, dear?”. However, Mouse is generally sick of me too and we vie for his attention like a pair of jostling car salesmen. If she’s not talking over me, she’s bouncing around waiting for me to take a breath so that she can leap in. “Um um um um can I talk now?” My chagrin is when she doesn’t actually have anything to say, she’s just acutely aware that she hasn’t spoken for two minutes. If I’m feeling mean-spirited I’ll call her bluff and invite her to join the discussion, knowing full well that she’ll scrabble around for something to contribute, while I stare at her in faux-rapture. I’m considering implementing that wooden spoon method of talking therapy, where a spoon gets passed around to indicate the speaker and everyone else must sit in respectful silence practising their listening. Nothing like dampening down the ol’ freedom of speech while instilling some manners, is there?!
4 – Shared Showers and Deliberate Dicking About
On days where it’s all gone a bit Pete Tong and I’m desperate to speed up the whole dinner / bath / bed process (refer to item 2), I will take my evening shower alongside Mouse in order to claw back some time. Now, if it’s a straight FFF shower (face, fanny, feet), I can have the process sewn up within 7 minutes. However, if we’re both due hairwashes and I need to shave my legs, the bathroom can quickly resemble the set of Total Wipeout. While I’m under the shower stream, to keep her from straying under my feet and causing a trip hazard, I’ll encourage her to mooch at the far end of the bath and play with a toy. A toy. Singular. Not crab and frog and whale and book and duck and penguin and empty bubble bath bottle. Not foam letters and squirty fish and Hello Kitty (she gets everywhere). Not my razor. Not my nice Jack Wills shower gel. After amassing that little lot, she complains that she’s very cold, until I take pity on her and invite her back down to the shower end. She’ll then sit on the plug hole to fart, and pick at the yellowed grouting while singing “happy birthday”. Worse still, she seems to enjoy this charade far more than when she has the bath to herself. Getting out prompts more wet farts and resistance to vigorous towel drying. It’s like cleaning a skittish poodle.
5 – Awks Public Questioning
We were in Waitrose recently, buying a menagerie of overpriced items borne out of sheer laziness and ineptitude on my part (pre-diced onions, anyone?). Nestled in my prestigious basket was a chocolate bean cookie, a guilty pleasure of mine for days that begin with T. When the cashier rung the cookie through, he smiled at Mouse and said, “This is yours, I’m guessing?” Cue a small flush to my cheeks. Instead of answering him, Mouse turns to me. “Mummy? Why does man have a very brown face?” Oh, Christ. Mega flush to my cheeks. Why haven’t I primed this before now? Why haven’t I observed the varying populace of our suburb and anticipated that soon, many many questions would spring forth from her little brain? I replied that people come in all different colours and isn’t that clever. “Like my mega bloks?” Well no, not like your sodding mega bloks, but ok. “Like the smarties in your cookie, a bit” pipes up the cashier. Oh, good save that man.
How about you, what habits do you deplore in your threenager? This all stops the day they turn four, right?
-SJW July 2016
This was published by the Huffington Post on 18th July 2016. You can view that version here.