I was warned. My friends told me. All the blogs and parenting websites contained endless articles on the subject: The Terrible Threes. Everyone said the “Terrible Twos” are nothing compared the “Terrible Threes”. Well, not my sweet baby, I thought. The gentle little boy who caresses my face and tells me “I love you Mommy, we’re best friends” will never go through “that” stage. Sure, he has his moments; he gets cranky once in a while, but terrible? Not my Jack.
Then he turned three. And guess what? It turns out my sweet, gentle boy does not in fact defy all odds. Suddenly, my good boy was throwing his toys at me. Demanding he wants milk: NOW. Give Mommy a hug? No way! Take a bath without protest? Impossible! Hold my hand in the parking lot? Never!
I have applesauce on my fingers and you’re not cleaning it fast enough!
What happened? Where did my little angel go? Who is this defiant, whiney little kid? Where did I go wrong? I agonized over these questions for weeks: is he craving attention? Do we give him too much attention? Is he spoiled? I was not prepared for this. I didn’t want to be that mom who constantly yells at her kids, but that’s just what I’d become. I lost all patience. I gave in to him when I knew I shouldn’t. I was completely and utterly defeated.
Then last week I was putting Jack to bed and I told him to close his eyes and think about anything he wanted: monster trucks, spiders, diggers (listing all of his favorite things). He looked at me and put his soft little hand on my cheek and said “I want to think about you Mommy. We’re best friends.” Tears immediately sprung to my eyes and I suddenly knew I had not lost my sweet boy. He’s still there – my baby, my Jacky.
Sadly, my child has not escaped the Terrible Threes. So I will continue to tell him not to throw his toys, he cannot have his milk the second he demands it, he has to take baths, and I will grab onto his wrist while he kicks and screams in the parking lot. I will give him hugs whether he likes it or not. And we will somehow survive the Terrible Three’s.
The other day I was at the grocery store with Jack and an older man came up to me, looked at Jack, then back up to me and said “Don’t blink. Don’t blink.” That was it. But those two words resonated with me in a way no others had before. A wave of cold, hard realization washed over me. Before I know it, my “terrible” three year old will be getting on a school bus, playing sports, hanging out with friends. He will no longer need to hold my hand in the parking lot. New people will come into his life and replace me as his best friend. There will come a day – all too soon – when he is not going to choose to think about his mom when he goes to bed. So as difficult as the Terrible Threes are, I’m not going to wish this time away and I’m certainly not going to blink.
We’re best friends.