Talk all you want about the terrible twos – three year olds are actually The. Worst.
YES I SAID IT WHAT.
My sweet baby George, my funny wee man, has in recent weeks turned on me in a big way. During our vacation I was already starting to see signs of the dreaded three year old behaviours: the pointless defiance, the rampant lack of logic, the roaring tantrums. Then school started, taking his beloved brothers (he calls them “my boys”) away from him for most of the day. The arrival of New Baby – christened “Charlie” in recognition of his giant round hairless noggin – has ramped everything up to eleven. George is jealous, and fearful of the amount of hands-on attention Charlie needs, so naturally he’s reacting by pointing all of those negative emotions at me.
At 1AM he woke me up by screaming “MOM MOM MOMMMMYYYYYY MOMMY I NEEEEEED YOUUUUU!” – the way he always wakes up, by the way, regardless of what time it is or how much sleep he’s had – and so once again I stumbled out of bed in a fog to see what the problem was. I’ll take this moment to point out that I’ve had one night in the past month? maybe? when he didn’t get me out of bed at least once (and frequently twice) to yell at me about things.
Anyway. I went into the room he now shares with Ron and crouched down by his bed. It took actual focused effort to keep my voice modulated because goddammit child, every night every night EVERY NIGHT YOU ARE NOT A BABY ANYMORE WHY DON’T YOU JUST SLEEP I AM SO TIRED. I leaned over and whispered “I’m here, kiddo. What is it?”
“I need a drink of waaaaater,” he whined, loudly. “In the green cup. With the orange lid.”
Now, it’s 1AM. There is a torrential downpour outside. Heavy winds are lashing the house and because I’m an idiot, I forgot to take down my wind chimes before the storm started, so what is normally a gentle tinkling outside my window is an alarming clanging that the neighbours will probably hate me for. We went camping on Saturday night so I’m already running on a sleep deficit. Things have been tense around the house lately and for a whole host of reasons there is no bloody way I’m going to stagger around the house looking for one particular cup that I haven’t seen in a few days when all I want is a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
I go to the kitchen and put an inch of water in a cup. Back to the bedroom. “Sit up, buddy, here’s your water,” I whisper. He grabs his blankie and whips it hard at me, splashing the water all over me in the process. “THAT WILL MAKE ME PEE THE BED!!!” he roared, as if the fucking water wasn’t his idea in the first place. I heard Ron in the upper bunk starting to stir because while he’s a heavy sleeper, there are limits.
And this, my friends, is not an unusual story, lately. He asks for milk and doesn’t drink it. He insists on second helpings and then whines that he’s full before taking even one bite. He requests oatmeal for breakfast and then roars in rage when I start cooking it because NO I DON’T WANT MY OATMEAL COOKED. He gets up every morning between 6 and 6:30 – if I’m lucky – and demands stuff all day, then goes to bed and continues demanding stuff all night. While half-asleep.
I hate it, and I’m tired of it, and tired of him, and then I feel like a monster because I know. I know his world’s been turned upside-down. I know he senses the emotional undercurrents between Mom & Dad and that upsets him. I know that he was used to having his brothers around all the time, and now he doesn’t, and that bothers him. Even at swimming lessons last night, when a new session started and he didn’t get his beloved Emily for a teacher – even that is another change, and I was mostly sympathetic to his disappointment & sadness.
But I wasn’t completely on his side, you know? My internal monologue went something like but you love swimming now, and here I am in the pool even though I’m having a day where I feel like a giant fat hairy blob, and you’re not an orangutan you’re a human child who is nearly three years old, so if you could unwind your arms from around my neck and sing “The Wheels on the Bus” with the rest of us right now that would be awesome, OK? Because mostly what I want to be doing right now is lying in bed with a book and a cup of tea.
The only thing that’s keeping me (slightly) sane is that I remember these same feelings of sadness, anger, and ambivalence when Ron was this age. And Harry, although to a lesser extent, honestly. (Four was the bad year for Harry. Oy.) This is a stage. A stage that will pass. We still have our moments where I just have to hug him tight because he’s such a dear. He makes me laugh. He has a tender heart. We will get through this, and one day I’ll realize that I can’t remember the last time a child woke me in the night, or the last time someone screamed at me because I gave them the wrong colour cup.
It will happen. But in the meantime, sweet lord. Pass the wine and the earplugs.