My wife and I survived the terrible twos and thought, well, this wasn’t so bad, what were all our parent friends talking about? But two will become three next month, and now we know. We know that Ryan has discovered sulking, and fuming about the latest indignity his parents have heaped on him. We know that a long, high-pitched, virtually unintelligible whine has replaced what used to be coherent questions, even when he was being “cross” (yes, I’ve picked up some English understatement by watching Thomas with him). We know that our beautiful, wonderful son has an awe-inspiring temper. This temper is a lot like C4 plastic explosive: add pressure or heat, no problem, but both at the same time, problem; except that instead of pressure and heat, we have unreasonable
requests orders from Omma and Appa, and a strong-willed almost-three-year-old compelled to test parental boundaries.
Deep down, my wife and I suspect that this all stems from his need to react somehow to the upcoming tectonic shift in his life – namely, the arrival of his little sister by March. My wife even asked him if he wanted baby sister to come out of her belly to play with him; his response was baby sister needed to stay in Omma’s belly. Little indignities have built up. His old crib is now little sister’s bed, though he’s discovered the unmitigated thrill of climbing in and jumping up and down on the mattress; we only hope he doesn’t do this while his little sister is in her crib. Small feminine clothes, some still on their store hangers, and which are obviously not his, appear almost weekly in our house. Now in her seventh month, Omma might not have the energy to follow him while he runs around the house, or her patience might be low because little sister’s kicking kept her up last night. She might also want to feed him (gasp!) something she made that’s also good for him, rather than french fries or ice cream. What’s a red-blooded toddler to do but lash out?
Our latest and rekindled running argument has been about mealtimes. Mealtimes are – last I checked – supposed to have the three of us (for now) sit together at the big table, eat what Omma or Appa made, and talk about our day. And no, this is not intended as a violent wrenching away of the prince from his trains or his Caillou video on the iPad, but that is one heck of a good second-order effect. First he doesn’t want to sit at the big table. Then he’ll do that toddler Plastic Man thing where his whole torso turns to jelly so I can’t pick him up. If I manage to get him into the high chair he’s all but outgrown, but which we use because it’s a good restraint, he can’t eat unless he’s allowed to bring certain specific toys with him. “No, Appa, the green pickup truck, not the red tractor!” At least, that’s what I think he’s saying, because the previous sentence came out as one continuous shrill borderline-teary shriek.
So now he’s in his chair, has toys, maybe we even let him have
our his iPad on the tray. This is when we hope and pray we survive dinner without another tantrum, but we’re only successful about half the time. The other half, if he doesn’t like what we made, or if maybe he’s just not hungry, can turn into a wail-fest. “I don’t like this!” My favorite from last week was, “You eat it, Appa.” I already am, see? It’s on my plate too. Or maybe, as is his wont, he’d rather have his dinner plate on the small table in the living room, so that he can snack on it at his convenience; I’m not above doing this, because at least he’s eating.
His newly discovered rebellious streak shows up in the least desirable of places, like potty training. In his insistence that he do it “all by myself,” he’ll insist on standing on his little step stool and pee standing up into the toilet. That’s all well and good, except that he has yet to master the art of aiming. And when we invariably try to aim for him, well, we get the same mess we would have gotten anyway, but worse because now he’s squirming away from our help. Now he’s angry because we deigned to try to help him, he’s got shee [Korean for #1] on his underwear and pants, necessitating a change of clothing, and naturally, once those pants come off, he’d rather work on a chain gang than not be naked. I’ll wrestle him to distract him, then basically sneak attack him with fresh clothes, and when he realizes that, the sound effects start. Invariably, we’ll end with him on his bed, arms crossed, head down, lips pouting. “You’re a bad appa Go away.”
My wife committed the cardinal sin of washing his blankie the other day. He probably wouldn’t have even noticed, but when she returned to the living room with the blankie peeking out from under some towels, he knew. And he freaked out. “Why did you wash my blankie?” Because it was dirty. Look, it’s all clean now. After some crying, slapping the wall, and other histrionics, he came up with “I don’t want it clean!” Okay, little man, be happy with the blanket that you had an accident on last night, that smells like a public urinal. I was on the phone with my wife at that moment, telling her I was on my way home from work, and I could barely hear her over his angry screaming.
Despite all this, though, we love him. I may want to do a Homer Simpson impersonation on him now and again, but he’s still our little prince. Besides, when the whining and eardrum-shattering screams are over, we can always sit back and have hot chocolate together.