Long before you ever had a kid, it's likely you encountered at least some of the dirty truths of the parenting world. Whether you gleaned your information from television, books, the perennially oversharing Internet, or your friends and older siblings, you probably thought you had the inside scoop. Being the ~expert~ that you were, you knew that pregnancy isn't exactly the more glamorous, enjoyable experience in the world; the terms “sleeping” and “newborn” never quite match the way their desperately sleep-deprived parents need them to; and that once a child hits the “terrible twos” life can, in fact, be appropriately terrible. Given that wealth of information, by the time you decided to go the way of the motherhood yourself, you probably considered yourself to be pretty prepared.
But it’s time someone exposed one of the dirtiest, little secrets of the parenting world. Are you ready? Brace yourself for what is perhaps the greatest most conspiratorial omission amongst fellow parents everywhere:
Three years old is worse than two years old. It is much worse.
I don't know where we got the idea that you just have to make it through those first two years, relatively unscathed, and you’ll be home free. Maybe it's because we can't cool our love of alliteration and "three" doesn't share a leading sound with terrifying enough words like "two" does. But you need to know the truth: Things do not get easier after the “terrible twos.” There’s not even a calm after the storm. No break. No intermission. Nada. You and your child will transition straight from one ridiculously trying season to the next. The temper tantrums your little cherub of a toddler was throwing will look like child’s play compared to what the preschool years have in store for you! As their communication skills expand and their personality develops even further, your toddler will be a thing of the past.
Without even giving you a moment to catch your breath after the third set of birthday candles have been blown, you'll find yourself living with a threenager, the less-publicized, but arguably more feared older sibling of a Terrible Two-Year-Old.
You’ll know you have a threenager on your hand when you spot the following happening more and more frequently:
They Use Your Own Words Against You
Though toddlers may parrot back what you say, threenagers will use your own words against you! At the end of the day, and the end of my ability to even (I cannot even at this point; I really can't), I am known to start barking orders in an effort to get everyone bathed, PJ-ed, and into their respective beds. During these stressful moments, the Preschooler is infamous for asking me to rephrase my dictates, in the same manner that I ask him to. Two of the most common are: “We don’t demand, we request, MOM,” and “How could you have said that "nicely," mom?” I had no idea that I could grate on my own nerves so much.
On one hand, you're glad that your little kid is actually internalizing what you say; On the other hand, you'll quickly realize that they've synthesized it into pure, cold-ass snark.
You Have To S-P-E-L-L Everything
Since they will clearly repeat every awful thing you said about your mother-in-law's casserole, or worse, drop an F-bomb during preschool show and tell, you have to get in the habit of spelling everything. I came in eighth place in my middle school spelling bee, so while this isn’t a strong suit of mine, it has become a requisite in our home. Even words that aren’t necessarily bad are spelled to keep the threenager off our scent. (i.e., "Do we still have those C-O-O-K-I-E-S at home?")
Naps Are Pretty Much Not A Thing Anymore
Perhaps the most tragic loss in the transition from toddler to preschooler is the daytime nap. You might fight the good fight for awhile, but ultimately this will just leave one of you exhausted, depleted, and forlorn. Spoiler alert: It's you. The one time you do think that you've “won,” judging by the eerie silence for 45 minutes, you’ll come crashing back to reality when your threenager exits, covered in sharpie polka dots and whiskers saying that they're a cat. Toucheˊ, Threenager, Toucheˊ.
They Insist On Doing Everything Themselves
If there was ever a time you’d want to poke your mind’s eye out, for sheer boredom, this would be it. With a threenager, everything takes 8 million years longer. They have to do everything themselves, and frankly, they suck at doing it. You’ll likely have to go back and fix all their hard work afterwards, which also adds time. In no way do I consider myself a “neat freak,” but the amount of mess that this developmentally appropriate but terribly annoying stage translates to is absurd. “I can pour the milk on my own cereal,” has a particularly disastrous outcome. Trust me on that.
They Have Mastered Civil Disobedience
Just when you think you've successfully navigated the temper tantrum stage, you realize that your Threenager has just been quietly honing their skills. Unlike their toddler counterparts, the preschooler will lie in wait for the perfect time to throw an epic tantrum. (It will almost certainly be in the Target checkout line. When you've just run into the PTA president, your pastor's wife, or your high school arch enemy.)
The fact that this mastery of civil disobedience typically coincides with potty training, is clearly the universe’s cruel joke on parents everywhere. If you force them to sit on the potty for a half an hour, your little pal will just take a dump in their paw patrol underwear the moment you slip them on them. And forget trying to dress them in any of the adorable clothes you so painstakingly purchased: They will simply lie prostrate on the floor until you finally give in and allow them to wear last year's Halloween costume paired with their big sister’s tutu to the family reunion.
They're A Bunch Of F*cking Sheep When They Get Together
Though you’ve told them that Play-Doh is not a food group more times than you've listened to Adele's new song, and that Legos don’t belong in nostrils, the moment your Threenager sees a preschool friend do it, all the logic and reasoning ability they’ve acquired thus far, goes straight out the window. Remember that old adage about peer pressure? Well, just know, that if little Susie jumps off the proverbial bridge, your preschooler will too. (Just put in your headphones, crank up the Adele, and wait for four to arrive.)