Me and my shadow: life at three

BC turned three last week, which means I’ve been a mum/mom for three years now. If this was a university course I would have graduated – and I reckon with a very credible 2:2.

Life with kids is weird, isn’t it? Especially when they’re younger. Depending on their age, they get split into groups; you have babies – and they kind of stay babies until they’re two. Because at that point you have to admit to yourself that you *gulp* nolongerhaveababy. You have a toddler.

I think that this is why we give a name to this age – it’s a coping mechanism. The terrible two’s. This child is no longer doing squidgy baby things. Sometimes, they’re an absolute arsehole – through choice, I hasten to add – and it’s hard to accept that this tiny, weeny thing that you cherished and cradled for hours on end would deliberately want to throw their Pinkie Pie at your head. Or lie on the floor screaming noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo….until they’re are sick. Or blue. Or throw up blue sick (it’s happened – thanks Play-doh)

So, you tell yourself, this isn’t my baby. This is THE TERRIBLE TWO’S.

It used to be that the TT’s was the only pseudonym for an age group – I think that back in the day we were more accepting of our children’s faults. When they were still being a little shit at three and beyond, we resigned ourselves to the fact that they were, indeed, just a little shit at times.

Well, not anymore! Not in this enlightened age of trying to understand these precious little darlings. When they are still being a little bitch at three years old, we now have a reason for this: ladies and gentlemen, I give you the “threenager”.

This is a thing. You can buy t-shirts saying ‘I can’t keep calm, I’m living with a threenager‘,

And you know what, it’s the bloody truth.

Let me explain what a year of ‘two turning three’ looks like.

You start the year with a small, frustrated being. Depending on where they are in their development, they may or may not be walking, they may or may not be talking. Either way, whatever they can or can’t do, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re pissed off that they can’t do it better. They are angry.

The good news is that during this year, they become less… no, strike that… they become different angry. You get times of reprieve when they can suddenly stand up and walk to something for themselves, and their little self is over the moon. Or, you ask them something and they actually respond (“Where’s your bottle?”, “There.”, “Where?”, “There.”, “….. upside down, spilling juice in my-very-expensive-mummy-needed-to-treat-herself-and-saved-up-forever-for-this handbag?”, “Yes. Jooooooce. In bag.”)

As the year goes on, you find that you get less frustrated rage as they become stronger and more sure on their feet, or their speech comes on and you can understand more and more of what they say – no one else does, mind, but you do. And that’s what counts. Come the end of the year of ‘two’ and you have a small someone who is dramatically different to what you started off with.

What you get, instead, is someone who suddenly realises that they are just like you, and that’s where the fun* starts.

You see, when they realise that they are a mini version of you, they believe that this means they can now act like you.

– They start forming opinions;
“No, not that dress. I want wear this. I WANT WEAR THIS DRESS. I WANT WEAR THIS DRESS”
*holding up Elsa dress*
Well, it is -17 outside and snowing, so I guess that’s pretty apt. Thank you, Disney.

– They like to be a conduit of information;
“Daddy, I want chocolate please”,
“You can’t have chocolate until after lunch”,
“Mummy always gives me chocolate when I’m a good girl”
*Mummy slinks upstairs and pretends that she doesn’t use food as bribery*

– They start to become more aware of their own actions;
[in very full, but deathly quiet public toilet]
“Mummy, I did a poo-poo”,
“Yes, darling.”,
“Do you need go poo-poo?”,
“No, darling. I’m fine”,
“You going wee-wee, mummy?”,
“Darling, just shush now please.”,
*sits inside toilet cubicle for 30 mins to make sure everyone has gone.

This isn’t always a bad (or deeply humiliating) thing – most of the time it’s pretty darn wonderful to see someone grow into their future self; to see them try new things and understand more; to see them learn how to make friends and start to care about people outside of their family.

When it can become uncomfortable (in a different way to when they’re bellowing about your toilet habits), is the simple fact that everything they know, they learnt from you. How they treat things – you. How they talk to people – you. Their manners – you. But these things are just the top of the surface, because I also know people who never say please or thank you, but their kids do. And I have friends who are the kindest, most gentle people I know, yet they have a bulldozer for a child.

Where it really becomes telling and puts you under the spotlight as a parent is when you watch them play – especially when they play Mummy’s or Daddy’s. Because, however they ‘are’ when they are in the Mummy or Daddy role, really is you.

BC was in the bath the other day and we were playing with the obligatory bath toys – as generally happens, the game switched from playing ‘Princesses and Bad Guys’ into ‘Mummy and Daddy’ (not sure if there is something subliminal there – a psychologist could probably read a bucket load of things. I choose to believe it’s because there are only so many ways that a bad guy can steal a Princess before it gets boring).

Anyway, BC doesn’t normally give warning when we switch. The first I’m usually aware of it is because she will say something that makes me realise I am no longer Princess Cinnyella and am, in fact, Mummy Penguin.

How I realised in this game was the following conversation:

[BC is currently bad guy and Princess Sleepy Booty. I am Princess Cinnyella]

BC: “Arghhhh bad guys. Don’t chase me!”
BC: “Come here Princess Sleepy Booty. I catch you”.
Me: “Don’t worry Princess, I’ll save you”.
BC: [waves bad guy at me] I got go work now. My back hurts. Bye
Me: “…. Erm…. Bye(?) bad guy.
BC: “I not bad guy. I Daddy.
Me: “Oh. Okay, bye Daddy. See you later”.
BC: See you later. I go work, you go gym. My back hurts. Bye.

Most of the time Mr M and I find it pretty funny when we see ‘ourselves’ being played out by a three-year old. We’ve come to the conclusion that Mr M’s back hurts a lot and he is often at work, whereas I get asked to make food a lot and wear lipstick.

But every now and then, we hear something that cuts a little close to the heart.

I’ve seen her big Minnie Mouse roll her eyes at her little Minnie Mouse and say with a big sigh “Alright! Fine then.”

I’ve heard BC say “No, I can’t come and play, I go work now”

And these little things are more than enough to put a huge mirror in front of you and show you how your behaviour is being absorbed and translated more than you realise.

Suffice to say that, so far, three has been illuminating. And, in some cases, behaviour-changing.

It’s also been a little claustrophobic. Now that BC is a mini me, she wants to go everywhere I go. And I mean everywhere. I thought I lacked personal space before, but what I had previously was positively cavernous to what I have now.

As I type this, BC is sat on my lap. She has had some part of her body touching some part of mine for pretty much 83% of today. If I say something, she repeats it; word for word; inflection for inflection.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Heaven forbid I kiss or hug my husband because, within seconds, we have little arms wrapped around our knees. And a nights sleep wouldn’t be the same without rolling over and getting a small, three-year-old sized elbow jabbed into your ribs at some point between 3-5am.

But, you know what? Whilst it’s very frustrating at times (and bloody mucky if she’s just eaten some chocolate bribery… which I can neither confirm nor deny may happen sometimes), I have loved every minute of ‘three’ so far – all 5,760 minutes of it.

Because to have someone love you so, so much that they can’t bear to not be within touching distance of you is the most wonderful thing in the world. Truly, the best thing ever about having a three year old is that they are now at an age where they can articulate love.

And it really doesn’t get much better than when you hear a sleepy little voice tell you they love you.

Even if they have just thrown their previously favourite meal on the floor screaming that they don’t like it, and smeared your brand new red lipstick across their white bedspread.

*Definition of fun*

having a threenager
“that’s where the fun starts”
synonyms: enjoyable, entertaining, amusing, diverting, pleasurable, pleasing, agreeable, interesting

having a threenager
“that’s where the fun starts”
synonyms: not fun, unenjoyable, heartbreaking, wine-inducing, silent screaming


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