An Open Letter to the Age of Three

Dear Age of 3,
When Daniel was approaching his 3rd birthday, his father and I congratulated ourselves on making it out of the Terrible Twos relatively unscathed.  Oh, we’d certainly had a tantrum here or there, but all in all, his 2 wasn’t that bad.  We thought that we were in the clear.  After all, while the “Terrible Twos” have almost become a cliche, I had never heard of a “Threatening Three,” “Fearsome Four” or “Frightful Five” (I could go on and on making horrifying alliterative names for each year, but I’ll spare you).

Then, Daniel turned 3 and the candles from his birthday cake had barely cooled before he went through a behavior and personality shift that was so dramatic it had me consider the following explanations:

  • he had developed a multiple personality so intense it made Sibyl look like Pollyanna
  • he had suffered a frontal lobe brain injury I didn’t know about (probably while somersaulting off his bed)
  • or he was a changeling, meaning fairies live in the woods (along with the deer that eat my roses and some ginormous carpet beetle queen) behind my house.

As always when I have a burning issue or question, I turned to Twitter and posted about his new behavior.  And the replies startled me.  Moms of boys started telling me that it all sounded normal and that 3 was much worse than 2 for them, and it tended to be that way for boys.

Well damn.  That’s when I realized, Age of 3, that you were the Verbal Kint of developmental phases.  You had convinced us all that ages 2 or 11 or 13 were the Keyser Sozes of child development; they were the ages to fear and dread.  Meanwhile, you were able to creep up undetected and unprepared for.

Age of 3, I’d like to thank you for the delightful changes we have experienced in our child:

Perfect Pitch

You have perfect pitch, Age of 3.  I know, because as the amount of whining has increased exponentially, the tone in which the whining is done effortlessly assaults my ears and grates on my nerves, making me grit me teeth and choke back the urge to scream, “SHUT UP.”  Which I would never do of course because how can you not enjoy a 30-minute sing-song performance of “MommyMommyMommy” at 7am?

Mommy Love

I had always wanted to be the center of someone’s world, and that wish has been granted.  In spades.  Oh Age of 3, how you love your mommy!  Daniel follows me around everywhere.  If I’m in the bathroom, I have company.  If I close the door, he bangs on it.  He follows me into the closet too and enjoys moving my shoes around as well as using the hangers as an instrument. He wants me to pick him up and it must be while standing; sitting and holding him is to be tolerated only in extreme emergencies.  If he clung to my leg, I feel certain I could walk around the house, dragging him behind.

He makes his preference for me painfully clear by telling Jimmy, “Go away, Daddy” or “I not love you, Daddy.”  As you can imagine, Age of 3, those comments are well-received and do not hurt one tiny bit.  Not one tiny bit.  Happily, we’re ruthlessly exploiting Daniel’s empathy and desire for everyone to be happy by telling him that it makes Mommy and Daddy unhappy when he says those things.  The downside is that he now knows those comments bother Jimmy and you can see the impish look in his eye when he deliberately says something hurtful.

Advanced Speech

You speak in sentences, Age of 3!   That’s wonderful because it’s fun to hear sentences with subject-verb-object.  Fun to hear Daniel command, “Mommy, go buy some Nutella” when I tell him we don’t have any.  Enormously satisfying to hear him say imperiously, “Mommy, come here.”  I swear I can hear the implied finger snap (maybe that will come with Age of 4). I do admit to giggling when he says, “Mommy, I need to go poop.”

The only problem with the sentences, Age of 3, is that it lulls me into forgetting that Daniel’s comprehension doesn’t quite match his speech.  He can say something like “I want to eat that” in reference to the booger he just pulled out of his nose, and we fruitlessly try to argue with him, to reason with him about why he should not eat the booger on his finger.  We forget that reason and logic just aren’t quite there yet. So he eats the booger, and we throw up our hands, frustrated and disgusted.  Or when he misses the grapes I oh-so-carefully pointed out on our commute to and from day care and he tells me over and over, “I want to see the grapes” while I explain (over and over) that we missed them and we’ll see them again tomorrow, and I’m sure there’s a hysterical note in my voice and a vein throbbing in my forehead. Also, see “Perfect Pitch” above.

Oh, Age of 3.  We truly have experienced many delights in the 2 months Daniel has been 3.  Thank you, Age of 3.  Thank you.  I can’t wait to see what joys the next 10 months have in store for us.


Daniel’s Mommy


  1. It gets better. For us, the Age of Three was full of fights. Everything.Was.A.Fight. Now, I can make a request of Lucky, and he’ll often say “Okay, Mommy.” (And yes, we’re coming up on 4.5, and I’m still shocked when he doesn’t fight me on something. Three was that bad for us.)

    My friend called her daughter the “Threenager.” And it was actually pretty representative of the age, I thought.

    I feel your pain, my friend. It gets better. It does get better. 🙂


  2. My son was like this, too. Age 4 was much more pleasant. My daughter, on the other hand, has developed the art of imperious command at age 18 mos. We are in such trouble if this is going to escalate …

  3. There is a reason the Ames & Ilg subtitle for Your Three Year Old is “Friend or Enemy” 🙂 Three was the age with M where I loved her to pieces, but some days I just didn’t want to pick her up from daycare (where she was an angel, of course!). Four was like rainbows and butterflies compared to three. Six is awesome.

  4. Ha! I just looked back at my (rarely updated) blog, and here is what I said about three:

    Three has been kicking our collective heinies lately, though M seems to be mellowing-out as she approaches three-and-a-half. Right now she is ricocheting between hilarious, tantrum-y, too precious for words, and then major meltdown mode. The level of whining lately has been amazing – as in, I didn’t know someone could whine that much. What’s the Ames and Ilg subtitle for this age? Your Three-Year Old: Angel and Asshat?

  5. Another vote to pick up Your Three Year Old. Of all the books in the series, I consider this one a MUST READ. Mostly so that you don’t think your kid is an asshole.

    3 year olds fight because they like to fight. I found this age to be very difficult. Only age where I wanted to give BOTH kids away.

  6. THREE is getting the better of me – my patience wears so thin – and I feel anxious at the start of each day not knowing how Im gonna tackle the “threenager” 😉 Glad Im not alone in feeling this way!

Please Talk to Me: My Husband Can Tell When I Haven't Had Any Conversation All Day

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s