Monday, January 5, 2009

the boy who says 'no', or, i *will* be there at the finish line

It is a hypothesis of mine that the person who came up with the phrase Terrible Twos had no actual experience with two year-old children, and was actually mistaking three year-olds for two year-olds. I would also wager a five-spot that said person was, in fact, a man.

Parenting a three year-old is like running a marathon every day for 364.25 consecutive days. I have not ever actually run an actual marathon, however I did use to run some sort of long distance races when I was on the track team in high school, for the ONE!!! WHOLE!!! SEASON!!! in which I endured that God-awful experience of running around. In circles. On purpose. Fifteen years later, I wonder how that wasn't funny to all of the parents watching the meets. Super cool teenagers, all grown-up and stuff, not doing things like little kids anymore...running around in circles. On purpose. Again. I, for one, plan to make a strong cup of coffee or a stiff drink, and laugh my ass off if my kids ever grow up and choose to run around in circles. Unless they are the fastest, in which case I will probably be forced to stand up and jump around while shouting completely embarassing things.

I have the (unique? interesting? unfortunate?) experience of parenting a two and a three at the same time. The boys are 16 months apart in age, but light years apart in Brands of Naughty. HB, age two, is learning that he is a separate person from his mama. He says 'no' quite a bit, no matter what it is he wants. My reaction? Whatever, dude, I can totally deal with 'no'.

Wee Man? At three, he has discovered reasoning. Not Aristotle-level reasoning, mind you, but Cave-Man reasoning. I don't want to do what mama says, therefore I will not do what mama says. And he actually means it when he says no, and wields the word like a Sawz-all. And when we are really lucky, he uses his hands and feet as weapons of mass bruising.

For example, yesterday afternoon Wee Man wanted a cup of juice. The acceptable way of asking for something in our house is to say, May I please have a cup of juice? Followed by the classic response, Thank you. From the get-go, he was not playing along.

JUICE! he demanded, I WANT SOME APPLE JUICE!

May I please have some apple juice?

I WANT JUICE!

Did you just mean to say, 'May I please have some apple juice?'

I WANT JUICE!

(silence from the mama)

MAMA!!!!!! JUICE!!!!

(silence and the I'm Just Waiting For YOU look from the mama)

PWEASE MAY I HAVE SOME JUICE!!!!!

Sure, Wee Man, you may have some juice.

My friend Hanna (you know, the one who reminds me to take potty breaks in my comments) was over, and since I was folding laundry, she offered to pour Wee Man's juice. We rock it cocktail style here, 1/2 juice, 1/2 water, because happy hour's fun and juice is the devil.

I DON'T WANT WATER IN MY JUICE!!!! This charming exclamation was punctuated by the pleasant child dumping the juice in the sink and also all over my floor. And that was when the whole interaction went all Paul Simon on me. You know, slip slidin' away.

Screaming. More screaming. Mostly about juice. And then? More screaming. A little later? Screaming and sitting on the floor next to me whilst grabbing me around the knees and wrapping his stubby little legs around my ankles. Followed by the inevitable Pulling Down of The Mama's Comfy Fleece Pants. Because that always happens when they wrap themselves around my legs. Followed by the Pulling UP of The Mama's Comfy Fleece Pants. Followed by punching and screaming and kicking and throwing things and falling down and bumping head and punching and kicking and throwing screams and falling kicks and bumping down and kicking shins and screaming head and...

You get the idea. And if you've had short people of your own, I feel confident that this is ringing a bell. Or two.

And let me tell you. I was like the Goddess of Zen with that child. I did not punch him back. I did not kick his naughty little shins all the way to Tulsa, or even across the room for that matter. I did not shout. I did not throw things back at him. Sometimes, I surprise even myself.

And I did not give that little sheister any.damn.juice.so.there.

I put his little lost-it self on the couch no less than thirty times. Again. And again. And again. And then? Again some more.

The whole thing was totally exhausting. If he was any bigger, he would have really hurt me. As it was, I have a couple of discs in my back that were out of place all week long, and yesterday was the first day I actually stood up and did anything around my house. The action of hauling his 35 pound carcass back to the sofa ninetyeleventyseventy times did not help matters.

But what was the option? Condone that ridiculousness by pouring him more juice? Laugh it off when he hit me? Heck no, batman.

Parenting is often a really shitty (figuratively and literally), thankless job. Getting one's ass handed back by a three year-old is unpleasant. Re-throwing-out my back? Also unpleasant.

Fortunately, The Mister and I defined the finish line before our short people even got here. And when our short people have become tall people, and are kind, loving, generous, well-adjusted people who do not kick other people in the shins, they will have crossed the finish line. We'll just be the broken-down old folks next to the finish line, waving banners with their names and cheering them on.

Until then, we are the hard-nosed jerks that have drawn a line in the sand. We're the referees who blow the whistle on the unkind; the clowns who keep the angry bulls from hurting themselves and each other, no matter what.

Not because it's fun. Or because we need to achieve anything, vicariously or otherwise, from our short people. But because we owe it to the people we made and brought to this earth, and the other people who were already here...it's our responsibility to work through the terrible threes and the terrible teens and the terrible case of stupid all parents seem to inherit from their children.

There are a lot of actions individuals can take to make the world a better place. Parents are limited to one: raise up the child to be a proper adult. That is our finish line. And we WILL cross it.

(I have entered this post in the January Write-Away contest over at Scribbit. The topic this month is "The Finish Line". And the winner gets a crate of clementines from Spain. Sweet!)

20 comments:

  1. The TALL shall Prevail!
    (10 points for use of the word Sawz-All!)

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  2. YES!!! Yes, yes yes yes. I've been saying this for two years now and no one ever believes me but the two's are very nice. The three's, however, are evil bastards. Sorry you are going through it, but I'm so selfishly glad to see someone agreeing with me on this issue.

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  3. ack! tell me about it--the two's are paradise compared to the three's--thanksfully i will have a 2 year break before i have to go through that again....i don't think i'll ever be ready.

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  4. I love it when newbies think the terrible twos are supposed to end when they turn three...when in reality two is just a warm up act.

    Good for you for drawing the line...I remember those days, and the back pain, all too well!

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  5. Totally agree with you about the twos and threes. In our house fours haven't been bliss, either. Anyways, I'm cheering you on to that finish line from a few miles away! You go, girl.

    Steph

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  6. *DingDingDingDingDingDingDingDingDINGDINGDINGDING...DING....DING (pause to rest bell-ringing arm)DingDingDingDingDingDingDingDingDINGDINGDINGDING...DING....DING!*

    Amen, Sister!
    (yeah, tell it!)
    Can I get a witness!
    (Oh, yeah!)

    I bow to the Buddha in you: a master class in the manners of request and reward - perhaps its time I give the Wee Lass a refresher...

    I'm with the Mister: Extra points for the 'Sawz-All' - BOO-YAHHH!

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  7. perfect post.
    and yes...i totally agree. two is hard ... three is harder ... four, well, they just get smarter ... not necessarily harder.

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  8. Let me just say that this is not an exageration in the least... Props on the follow through that "The Nanny" would be proud of! Props also to HB for his serious dedication and determination... both great characteristics to have when he learns to channel them in a socially acceptable manner. :) I was secretly delighted to discover first hand that I am not the only one with a 3 yr old who can carry on a temper tantrum for close to an hour.
    Love ya!

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  9. Let me just say that this is not an exageration in the least... Props on the follow through that "The Nanny" would be proud of! Props also to HB for his serious dedication and determination... both great characteristics to have when he learns to channel them in a socially acceptable manner. :) I was secretly delighted to discover first hand that I am not the only one with a 3 yr old who can carry on a temper tantrum for close to an hour.
    Love ya!

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  10. It deserves clementines and more!

    Brava my dear.

    My kid may not be the brightest, but he's one of the nicest. And that, to me, is more important.

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  11. Dude I give you all the credit in the world for not snapping.

    I for one have a short fuze when It comes to those type of things. I yell and spank and put short people to bed. My 3 yr. old. has become the biggest cry baby to walk the face of the earth. Which sends me over the edge, this happens about 5-10 times a day and I am getting to the point that I can't take it anymore. Than add a 10 mo. old who just figured out she has a voice and the only thing she knows how to do with it is screamhappy, screammad, screamtoscream and shatter all the windows in the house. and the Two year old who thinks its his job to tell her to stop screaming, and boy to stop crying which just makes crying and screaming worse!


    I'm totally with you! Take your super mom coffee break today and ice those shins!

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  12. Juice is the devil. And I am wavering back and forth between congratulating you on not kicking him back, or saying "Why the heck did you not kick him back?" LOL. Zen vs. revenge....
    XOXO
    joce
    PS In case any other readers are wondering, I do not professionally endorse child-kicking. Pamela knows its a joke.
    XOXO

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  13. GOOD for you! Sticking to your guns, and NO means NO. It's so hard to do, but you did it so well! :)

    I hope you win...eat those Clementines and get all juicy!!

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  14. Screaming about getting a drink? Sounds like ideal training for when he's at college ...

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  15. MAJOR kudos for the follow thru!

    Dory

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  16. The only reason "terrible twos" ever got any play is because it sounds tidy. There's nothing clever that can be said like that about three year olds, and it's unacceptable to refer to them as Satan's minons in public. But that's what they are. Brace yourself though. We are in the fourth year. Do you know what happens in the fourth year? The sassing and the attempt at reasoning starts up. It's horrible. But you know what? I wouldn't trade it for the threes for anything.

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  17. Kudos to you for going all Zen-like. And thanks for reminding me to take my birth control.

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  18. NO kidding. Three SUCKS. Know what else sucks? A week before FIVE. SUUUUUUUUUCKS.

    Not as bad as three, though.

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  19. I loved your closing line: There are a lot of actions individuals can take to make the world a better place. Parents are limited to one: raise up the child to be a proper adult. That is our finish line. And we WILL cross it.

    I feel exactly the same!

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  20. hey pamela-
    this is a great post for me to read...and not so great, as my boy is 2.6. and just starting to get to that awful stage. i'm afraid of what's coming. but i take comfort in the fact that it's normal and i did not spawn a devil-child (i think).

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talk to me, people. because you know i get all giddy when you do.