It is a common refrain among parents of young children that the Terrible Twos have nothing on age three. When they hit age three, we start calling them “threenagers,” a tip of the hat to their increasingly disgruntled disposition. But that word is nowhere near strong enough to depict what it’s actually like to have a three-year-old in your home every day. They can’t communicate as well as they’d like to and it pisses them off. They constantly try to do shit that could kill them and you stop them from dying and it really pisses them off.
But I’m not here today to tell you how three-year-olds are so ridiculously difficult. If you’ve parented one, you already know (and if you haven’t parented one, you’ll think I’m exaggerating anyway). Instead, I’m here to tell you that age three isn’t the worst age; it’s actually the best. And now I will defend this position.
They grow and develop so much that year
In the year between their third and fourth birthdays, kids learn and grow a TON. All of a sudden, they’ve got hundreds of words in their vocabulary (instead of dozens), they’re talking in short sentences and they’re answering simple questions. They start naming colors, they figure out the difference between morning, afternoon and night, they can even count a bit. They start to help put on their own clothing, ride a tricycle, and kick, throw and catch a ball. They can climb stairs with alternating feet!
Honestly, the list of developmental milestones is pretty impressive and with all that growth, it’s no wonder they’ve got a bit of a chip on their shoulder now and then. You would, too, if your brain was constantly learning new words and mastering new motor skills every day. It’s exhausting to be three.
Threenagers prepare you for all the other ages
Every age has its ups and downs, its rewarding moments and its challenges. But none are quite like age three, which exists to prepare you—and build your patience—for all the subsequent ages. Sure, now that they’re older, they’re legit talking back to you or they’re not doing their homework or their eyes are constantly glued to the screen of their smartphone. But really, that’s nothing compared to the (many) time(s) you had to haul them out of a restaurant/store/friend’s house like a football as they screamed and thrashed for one illogical reason or another.
If you’ve successfully made it through age three with only a normal amount of yelling and parental meltdowns, you are ready to tackle whatever else parenting may bring.
This is the year you will eventually pine for
At the risk of sounding like the old lady in the grocery store whose mission is to advise young parents to “treasure” the youngest years because they “grow up too fast”—always without noting the parent’s disheveled or frazzled appearance—I’m going to say it. You will, one day, pine for age three.
Age three is the last year they seem truly little. By the time they turn four, with their fully formed sentences, slightly more intact reasoning skills and pre-K classes, they’ve lost so many of their babyish qualities. As you gain distance from the tantrums and start to forget how hard it was to go anywhere or do anything in a timely fashion, what you’ll be left with is photos in which they look so small and precious and videos of all their adorable mispronunciations.
And although it would have seemed impossible at the time, you’ll wish that just one more time, you could experience how excited they were to “help” you fold the towels. Or how they wanted you to carry them everywhere, despite being fully capable of walking. Or tried so hard to zip up their jacket on their own.
It will, one day, seem like they grew up way too fast.
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