Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three the Hard Way

Last year I wrote a blog condemning the term "terrible twos" and suggested that whoever coined it get a swift kick in the face . Now, I'm not one to usually retract or regret what I say, which normally gets me into a lot of trouble, but in this case, I would like to formally retract that entire post and say that the "terrible twos" are CAKE compared to the "tortuous threes" as I have taken to calling them.

Firstly, let me begin my asking, where is my child? What once used to be this giggly, funny, toddl-y, cute little munchkin has been replaced with a whining, cranky, stubborn, screaming, yelling, constantly breaking something, throwing things, hitting the dog, mini version of hell that I do not recognize. It's like he is bipolar (no offense to those who genuinely suffer from this disorder), breathing hot and cold within seconds of each other. One second he's smothering me with hugs and kisses telling me he loves me, I blink or sneeze, and he is now screaming at the top of his lungs that he will not clean up his toys and that he is "frustaratereder" with me. He's also taken a shine to "talking back" which honestly, I didn't think I was going to encounter until the word "teen" followed his age, but apparently 3 is the new 13 and I was dead wrong. Here is a typical conversation in our home:

Me: Dante what would you like for breakfast?
Dante: Eggies with cheese please mommy, I love you.
Me: I love you too D. Please pick up your cars and put them in the garage.

(insert sound of the Earth's crust cracking as the Sun flickers for a moment)

Me: Fine, if you don't clean up your mess, you will not get breakfast.
Dante: YES I WILL!
Me: No you won't.
Dante: YES I WILL!
Me: Nope, not quite there champ.
Dante: I AM NOT A CHAMP! I WILL NOT PUT CARS IN GARAGE! NO! NO! NO! (giant scream and/or growling frustrated sound followed by the sound of Lightning McQueen or Chick Hicks being thrown against something that makes a loud "it's broken now" sound)

At this moment, a clump of my hair usually falls gracefully to the floor. One of the side effects of the thyroid medication I take is thinning hair, but I don't think that is what is making me an early candidate for Chick Rogaine. I am pretty sure it is my daily intake of "3 year old Kim Jong Il" that is causing my once-thick hair to look like I was attacked by a paper shredder.

So this goes on for another 20 minutes and I'm sure it is partially my fault since I need to have the last word, even if it means arguing with someone 32 years younger than me about putting their Hot Wheels into an old toolbox of daddy's which now serves as a "garage". Blame that on my own mother who never let me have the last word on anything and now, since I am a mother, believe the "no last word for you, my friend" torch has been passed on.

Finally though, my dad's technique of "break them by ignoring them" kicks in and I just phase out my demonic little boy until I hear the familiar clunk of the Hot Wheels being thrown into the garage in the playroom. I then, stick my head in the room, tell him thanks for being "a listener" and then get smothered in hugs and kisses and "I love yous" until he is human again.

It's enough to make me want to take up meth.

Another interesting milestone that comes with the "tortuous threes" is the Let's Ask People Inappropriate Questions and/or Point Out Inappropriate Things Loudly phase. When a 2 year old babblingly points to a fat woman and says "baby", it's cute and people giggle and whispers of "aw, how adorable" fill the air. When a 3 year old points to a fat woman, in a crowded checkout line at Target, and says "Mommy look, that fat lady has a baby in her belly", it's not that cute. In fact, it's so not cute that you're genuinely worried that said fat lady is going to come sit on you, your kid, and the broccoli you bought on sale because it is so much cheaper that the ones at Publix.

When your 2 year old clings to you and puts his hand on your boob and giggles, it's cute because he is remembering that milk comes from there and that those were what fed him for the early part of his life. When your 3 year old is throwing a tantrum at the quiet library and decides to pull on your shirt so everyone, from Faulkner to Hemingway to skeevy homeless dude who reads 30 year old copies of Guns & Ammo, sees that your DD's are natural, it's not so cute. Rather now said homeless guy, when he asks for change, seems to be talking to my chest instead of commenting on how he likes my tattoos and wonders "was you in prison or something".

When your 2 year old is sitting in your shopping cart and points out different words of things as you are strolling down the aisle, "banana", "apple", "bread", "milk", it is cute and is met with "Oh he is so smart" or "Wow what a talker!" comments from random people who overhear him. When your 3 year old is sitting in your shopping cart and points out who has a penis and who has a vagina based on the various shoppers in the aisle, it's not so cute. Especially when he gets it wrong and claims that the androgynous looking woman has a penis, while he got all the other ones right.

Halloween this year was also interesting, as Dante's queries of "trick or treat" were always followed by (insert awkward question here). At one house, he asked an older man where his mommy was. At another, he asked a single man if he had children, and at yet another he asked why they had a "bad dog".

And lastly, I'll end on this gem: Our local post office has a rather eccentric character who hangs around. He's a very tall, skinny, old man who likes to talk to walls, comment on social issues like the moon landing, and chat up the people waiting on line. As it happens we were at the post office and Scary McScarerton decides to chat up Dante who, as any 3 year old is prone to do, hides behind my legs. Well, Mr. Scary starts going on a tirade that I am racist and raising my son to hate black people because my son won't talk to him. Which of course, since I can't let anything go and let anyone have the last word (thanks Mom), proceed to tell him that the fact that he is black has nothing to do with my son being shy and that it could possibly be that he looks like the scary dude from Phantasm but with a tan. No, I didn't really say that, but I wanted to. What I did say was that 3 year olds are shy and he is very tall and intimidating and that he was very rude to imply that it had anything to do with race. When we had finished our business in the post office, Dante said "Goodbye man" and I felt vindicated.

Anyhow, two days later we're at the post office again and as we are walking in my lovely son says really loud, "Mommy where's the scary BLACK GUY". At this moment, those words are hanging all over the post office and I suddenly feel as though I am draped in a white hooded sheet emblazoned with swastikas and blasting Al Jolson from some invisible speakers. Where the heck did Dante learn about "black" and "white"? And where is the nearest hole I can jump into? Now I look like Eva Braun and my son is my little Hitler. I proceed to tell Dante that the scary OLD MAN is not here today and that he is not scary to begin with and just likes to talk to everyone. Without missing a beat, my 3 year old points to a man at the counter and says "Look mommy! Another black guy! And he's not scary."

If anyone needs me. I'll be passed out at the bar.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mad Props to Henry David Thoreau

Never in my life have I attempted to "keep up with the Joneses". I have always done my own thing and not much cared if everyone else was doing it or if it was cool or if it was *ahem* appropriate. Since having a child and becoming a mother, things have changed and I feel that I am constantly being nudged into "keeping up with the Joneses" when faced with various parenting choices. While the major options are long past scrutiny (vaccinations, circumcision, breast feeding, and the like), there are these new hurdles that have arisen as Dante has gotten older.

The first came with potty training. I come from the notion that when you child is ready to potty train, they will potty train. There were moms around me who started training their children at 2 years old which was astounding to me. Dante wasn't interested in training at 2, and I didn't push him. The last thing I wanted was some sort of freak child who was scared of the toilet and who would grow up having strange scatological fetishes. That's all I'd need. I have slowly come to accept that Dante is already going to be screwed up on some level as his mother has pink hair, tattoos, piercings, and listens to Duran Duran like its cool, but I certainly don't want to compound that by instilling him with some gross poop fetish and toilet phobia. I can see it now, the year is 2026 and my son is on Jerry-atric Springer in a diaper being beat up by some 400 pound pink haired, tattooed dominatrix named "Mommy". Yea, don't tell me you can't picture it.

Anyhow, regardless of whether or not he was ready or I was ready to start potty training him, there was always the underlying push from the environment to start him. To keep up with the mommies around me, because, in my insecure brain, I felt like I was doing something wrong if I didn't throw him on a toilet and hound him until he was blue in the face. But I didn't. I stuck to my proverbial guns and went with the flow. Consequently, as Dante turned 3 and became more independent, he decided when he wanted to stop going to the bathroom in his pants and he told me when he wanted to use the toilet. It just happened out of the blue. Dante said "I have to go to the potty", we went, and that was that. Despite a few accidents here and there, he did it on his own and now just goes to the bathroom like a champ. No pushing, no coaxing, no begging or pleading. He was ready and he did it.

The next hurdle we've had to face is the school enrollment hurdle. It seems that the new trend is to start your child in school at 6 months old. I'm not even kidding. There are schools here in the area (and I am sure everywhere else) that enroll fetuses. You're pregnant? Great, enroll your embryo into our potty training classes and start taking away their pacifier. I'm not even joking. Isn't it our jobs as parents to teach our children? I mean, I can understand sending your child to school when they are 5 for Kindergarten because that's when their journey begins, but now I am faced with being one of the only mommies with a 3 year old who is not in school. And once again, I am being faced with "keeping up with the Joneses". My insecure brain starts chiming in with "Am I doing something wrong?", "Should I put Dante in school"? , "Is he going to be behind if he doesn't go to pre-pre-pre-K and learn about colors from a stranger instead of his mother?". These are all things that go through my head when I take Dante to the park and he's the oldest kid there and I am confronted by the Momazons asking me why he isn't in school. I usually say that I am teaching him at home and then get the "Oh you're raising a weird home schooled kid that's going to shoot up a school later on in life" look.

I don't want to put Dante in school yet. He's 3 years old for Christmas sake. We do just fine learning on our own. He's socialized, he's intelligent, he's engaging, he's curious and inquisitive. At this rate, I am not even sure if he is even going to go to school around here as we are zoned for some pretty horrible public schools and private school is not an option for so many reasons (namely, they are expensive and they are all religious and there's no way that's going to happen).
But I am constantly nagged by my psyche to "keep up with the Joneses", especially since all of Dante's friends his age are scattered around the area, at various schools during the week, and he hardly sees them anymore. Those are the times that my "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality kicks in the most. "Everyone else is doing it, why aren't we?" "Are we weird?"

And then I realize that, well, we are weird. We're always going to be a bit off kilter. Politically, religiously, the books we like, the movies we like, the clothes we like, and how we are raising Dante. It makes "keeping up with the Joneses" that much more difficult and essentially that much more pointless. I always likened myself to Thoreau's quote, "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." I'm going to have to remember that we march to a different orchestra entirely and trust my parenting choices to be good, intelligent, and the best for our awesome kid, and not try so hard to "keep up with the Joneses".

At least this week.