Sung to the tune of 'The Great Pretender':
Oh yes, I'm the Great Ignorer, pretending I don’t hear what you say.
My need is such, I ignore too much, since I’m three, I think no one can tell...
When Eva was over the two and a half year mark, I was nearly counting the days until she turned three. Since nearly every game and activity is marked ‘Ages 3 and Above’, I envisioned hours spent engaged in Chutes and Ladders and flashcards; the easel (that I don’t own, mind you) full of paintings of happy mums and dads – smiling heads with arms and legs. Those trace the letter activity books would fill in those doldrums hours where the nap used to be…Ah, three! How I loved you from afar! (I was allowed to dream, this was my first child I’m talking about.)
Around this time, I remember being at a barbeque of a close family friend and telling him this. I always talk to him about Eva since he has a daughter of a very similar nature (bossy, determined, highly verbal, etc.) who is a year older: she is usually my coming attraction for the year ahead. Just after wrestling Eva to the ground when she had her brother around the neck, our conversation went something like this:
‘The terrible twos are still here, but at least she’s nearly three. That’ll be better.’
‘Huh! Don’t count on it.’
Then he said the line that left me reeling:
‘Jill and I think three is worse.’
I think I started to black out at this point and all I could hear was that ‘Eh-Eh-Eh’ music from Hitchcock’s Psycho playing in my head.
Three came and went for Eva and I am happy to report that it wasn’t worse. My fantasies were way, way off – Chutes and Ladders ended in fights and thrown pieces, any kind of craft was still far too messy and those activity books and flashcards? They killed about five to ten minutes, and only when I served them with a side of Nutella. But we’ve both survived.
Now it’s Ted’s turn. He’s just over one month into threedom and he has become a tyrant. Honestly, I didn’t know that he even had it in him - he was supposed to be my easy one. His sentences to me could all end in 'b*tch', as in 'Pick that up for me, b*tch!' and 'Get me my clothes, b*tch!' and 'Get me my juice box, b*tch!' (I Thank God he's not yet familiar with that colloquialism.) I’m now beginning to understand how someone like Hitler could turn seemingly normal men into Nazis - they obviously had in them a latent three year old (long subdued) and it only took the magic of one special dictator to bring it out in them again. Unlike Eva, who’s behaviour (both good and bad) has been consistent over time, not so with Ted. Aside from the new-found bossiness, there are two other traits he’s currently working on perfecting: whinging and ignoring.
Let’s start with the whinging. Once it starts, there is simply no telling when it might subside, even after the cause has been long forgotten. After the actual tantrum has ended and even the crying has subsided, there persists a low drone of whining not unlike a sound that a monk might emit unconsciously, whilst in the deepest throws of meditation. Often it’s accompanied by an occasional sob, I assume for dramatic effect. It’s like being pestered by a tenacious fly. You simply cannot ignore it, nor can you make it ignore you. You have to just wait it out. He makes Caillou look like William Wallace from Braveheart when he behaves like this. (I’m really hoping it stops before he catches up with Caillou, because if you asked me, that Caillou is on the road to copping some serious schoolyard b*tch slaps when he gets to kindergarten.)
But worse than the whinging is the ignoring. Initially, I thought that he was just ‘engaged in a task’ (to use the euphemising developmental edu-speak that all parents have been brainwashed with these days, myself included) and he honestly didn’t hear me. He was so convincing and the ignoring was so thorough. It was like I was asking, ‘Can you please put your shoes on?’ and he was suddenly hearing ‘Pouvez-vous s’il vous plait mettre vos chaussures?’
I started to monitor what I was asking, what distractions were around. Nothing new or unusual there. Next, I started getting down to his level – and he’d still blank me. He would try to not even make eye contact at six inches away. That’s when I knew I was being tested.
So for some it’s the terrible twos, for some it’s the terrible threes. I don’t know who coined the phrase the terrible twos, but there needs to be a phrase that captures all the advanced horrors of a three year old just as succinctly. If you have any suggestions, please email me. I promise I won’t ignore you.