Pumpkin, my three-year-old, is three. She's very, very three. Have you met a three-year-old? Do you own one of these? Are you lucky enough to have a child that is not yet three, or, better yet, has survived being three? Because if you do, I'd really, really like to know about it.
Tina Fey was on David Letterman recently. When he asked about her four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Tina talked about how much fun it was to have a child that age: they say funny things, they ask good questions... but also, "they stop being little three-year-old jerks." Ah. Here is a woman who speaks my language.
I love my daughter to the ends of the earth and back. There was a point in time where we thought we might not be able to have kids, and so when we learned I was pregnant with Pumpkin, we were ecstatic. Our firstborn, she is smart and funny and sweet and kind and all the wonderful things we'd hoped to have in a child. But, holy hell, she is also three.
Being three is not her fault, but damn, it's tough to take. From the moment she wakes up, Pumpkin is a firestorm, threatening to destroy everything and everyone in her path. When she wails from her bedroom that she is ready to get out of bed, the hubs and I gulp the rest of our coffee and eye each other nervously, waiting to see which one of us will volunteer to retrieve her. From there, it's an endless litany of demands and complaints: I want a Pop-Tart! I want to watch Tigger and Pooh! The cat is sniffing my toys! I need a juice box! Why is it so bright outside? I don't want a strawberry Pop-Tart! I HATE those! The baby is looking at me! Etc, etc. At this point, she's been awake for ten minutes, and I'm already counting down the hours until she goes to bed.
Some days, she goes to a co-op playgroup or preschool for the morning. Those are good days, because not only can I get some errands done, but also because she can spend a couple of hours being three with her three-year-old pals, who are also crazy and irrational, as well as childcare professionals who are trained in the ways of the wily three-year-old.
Other days, we pass the time by trying not to force me to run away from home. I try hard not to rely on the Disney Channel and Nick Jr., but after pounds of Cheerios and Goldfish crackers are flung on the floors, and the cats are wearing sparkly headbands, and the baby is covered in My Little Pony stickers, and every pot and pan in the kitchen has been moved to the bathroom "so the cats have somewhere to sleep" (sometimes, it's just easier not to ask questions), it's either I cower under the dining room table and try to be invisible, or I flip on the television, albeit to the wrong show on the wrong channel. Because when you're the mother of a three-year-old, there's very little you can do right, and there's endless commentary on just how wrong you got it.
Recently one night, after Pumpkin had logged several consecutive incidents in the time-out chair (dinner overturned onto floor, cats' tails pulled, baby whacked on head with toy train), the hubs asked me, "Do you think it's something we're doing? Or something we're not doing?" I didn't respond, because I was too busy looking for the answer, which I was convinced I'd find at the bottom of my wineglass.
But as Tina said, there's light at the end of the tunnel. We are six months away from that light, but it's good to know it's there. I don't know how we'll survive, but I have a feeling it will involve lots of TV. And wine.