A “threenager” is a noun I endorse for a 3-year-old who displays the classic performance symptoms seen in teenagers: Screaming. Talking back. Smacking the lips in tantrum. Stubbornness. Resorting to immaturity. Complete befuddlement when in trouble.
It’s one of those definitively stressful parenting periods.
Mommy writer Kristen Hewitt explains: “The threenager is that age when your 3-year-old continually acts like they are going on 13. They have an attitude for miles, a stubborn streak, and want what they want…when they want. . .Threenagers can be tough to parent, make you weary, and zap you of all of your patience and energy.” (Hewitt, 2015)
Additionally, Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, gives a bit of insight, as quoted from an article in the Washington Post. “Three-year-olds have no sense of time. They can focus, but only on what they want to focus on. They have big, strong emotions and they are starting to express them, but they get overwhelmed by them, too. The trouble comes in, says Klein, ‘when you think that you’re speaking to a very reasonable human being. Verbally, they sound older than they are. . .’ ‘They are caught between two battling needs: the desire for self and independence versus the need for comfort, security and the familiar—in other words, mama or dada.'” (Roberts, 2016)
Jrue is a consummate threenager.
Oh, man, is he.
Since I seek out the humor in most things, I choose to embrace the many areas through which my son is grappling with an independence he has never experienced. I compare his daring fight to a general at war with Daniel Tiger and Big Bird; a chef struggling to master a difficult recipe using an Easy Bake Oven; or the exasperating toddler challenge of differentiating the number six from the number nine on assorted flash cards. Jrue seems to want to control the intermittent urges of the threenager stage, but the obstacle course of it all is irregular and endless.
One of my favorite counterexamples of my threenager to another non-related, participatory life adventure is that of early dating. Granted, I had my last first date more than twelve years ago, but I still treasure the traditional courtship montage of, perhaps, dinner, a movie, and strolling afterward. When I mull over it, Jrue’s realities in gaining a rational level of self-sufficiency can be directly compared to common conflicts on a first date.
A. A threenager may physically slam doors because a singular moment in time is not proceeding to their satisfaction. Similarly, if a first date has stalled, or if there is a palpable lack of compatibility up front, the daters may mentally “slam the door” on politeness or keenness or a second date possibility. But, to save the face of the other person, they may remain on the date until the end, just to potentially go home to update waiting ears and to delete the person’s contact information post haste. The dates going fundamentally badly may mean faking an excuse to get out of the date immediately.
B. A threenager is an emotional sample of billions on billions on billions of atoms, running from hot to cold, then back, in seconds. In much the same on a first date, a dater may be anxious yet excited, but tired from the week, though hopeful about the future. At the other end, they may feel dreadful, loathing the idea that they were hooked into going out with a person they may not be much into.
C. A threenager may rage against new ideas or show some level of rejection or challenge, particularly if it’s time to do something outside of their comfort zones. “No” is a prevalent phrase that indicates a staunch insistence on making their own decisions. Conversation during a first date can uncover much-needed analysis into the beliefs, values, and politics of a person with just one ill-placed eye roll or lip smack or clear frown. Nonverbal communication speaks loudly.
D. Threenagers can be famously “anti-bedtime” when having a good time, even when they have far resembled a drunk college student in speech and action due to their apparent fatigue. When a first date is going well, saying goodbye to the person can become difficult. Some people, honestly, never say goodbye, which is just magical.
I know we’ll look back at this phase when he is truly a teenager and laugh at the moments we thought was Jrue being “bullheaded” or “ornery.” To get there, though, we have to survive all of the questions and the yelling and the defiance first.
Somebody, everybody, pray for us.
Hewitt, Kristen. “10 Signs You Are Living With a Threenager.” The Huffington Post, Jan. 13, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-hewitt/10-signs-you-are-living-with-a-threenager_b_6463280.html. Accessed Apr. 28, 2017.
Roberts, Lindsey M. “Navigating the choppy waters of life with a ‘threenager.'” The Washington Post, Aug. 17, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/08/17/navigating-the-choppy-waters-of-life-with-a-threenager/?utm_term=.1d7904037b41. Accessed Apr. 28, 2017.