Hard to be three

            Zachary slips in and out of babyhood.  He is trying on his grown-up wings, stretching them out, seeing how they feel, and every now and then walloping someone on the head with them.  His verbal ability is far beyond his three and a half years, but emotionally he is still a tiny little person, overwhelmed by the enormity of the things he knows how to express.

            Sometimes this makes us so frustrated we want to reach deep inside his little throat and gently remove his vocal chords.  Sometimes we are more understanding, appreciating how hard it is to be small and unable to control major aspects of your life – like, say, moving 1/3 of the way around the world – and confused by your own ability to manipulate other aspects of your universe.  And sometimes, in his earnestness, the boy just makes us laugh.

            On our way home from swimming class, Zachary declared that he did not want grilled cheese for lunch.  We always have grilled cheese on Sundays, as this is a Daddy delicacy.  Zach loves grilled cheese, which is a good thing, because if he did not we would be down to four and a half things he likes to eat.  But, this particular Sunday, Zach insisted he did not want grilled cheese for lunch.

            That’s because he wanted cupcakes, instead. 

            “I want cupcakes,” he informed me.

            “I know, baby.  I want cupcakes, too.  But we are having grilled cheese.”

            “I want cupcakes with pink cream,” he repeated, perhaps under the conviction that the pink frosting had redeeming nutritional value.

            “Zachary, we do not have any cupcakes.  We only have cupcakes on special occasions.”

            “When we move to Los Angeles, I want you to get me a cupcake.”  This seemed a reasonable request, because I imagine there will be some occasion at some point when we are in LA on which the child will be given a cupcake.  We assented, hoping this would stop the discussion.  We should only be so lucky.

            All the way home, every time any one of the other three people in the car tried to talk about anything, Zachary would sullenly interpose, “I want pink cream for lunch.”  Since our new policy is that we do not hear him when he is acting like a fourteen-year-old boy, we ignored him.

            Finally, unable to take it anymore, he let loose with all the frustration, all the confusion, all the defiance that comes from knowing he can affect his life and yet cannot control it.  “I want everything,” he suddenly and emphatically declared.  “I want everything,” he repeated, voice so strong and sure while at the same time mired in bewilderment at the intense desires that he could not name because maybe they have no names.  “And I don’t want houses outside.  I don’t want there to be trees outside.  I want cupcakes.  I want Grandma and Grandpa.  And I want pink cream!”

            Forty-five minutes later found him sitting prim as you please at the lunch table, chewing on a grilled cheese sandwich. 

32 responses to “Hard to be three

  1. Oy. THREE!!!

    Yes, it is tough all around at times, sometimes most times.

    But a lovely depiction of it, with humor. 🙂

  2. I want a cupcake with pink cream, too! The good news is that four is ….. remarkably similar, just with a more developed vocabulary. Or so it seems for my incorrigible four year old.

    I wasn’t supposed to make you feel better, was I? 😉

  3. I don’t want houses outside either. I want to will this one to the beach.
    This stuff just breaks my heart when I watch it in my son. It’s hard to be 3. It’s hard to be 37. The world really isn’t such a logical place!

  4. Don’t we all want everything? You have a little wise one on your hands.

  5. I still have moments like this. And then, I go shopping.

  6. i think i am three.

    off to find pink cream, in solidarity with Zachary.

  7. Three is much harder than two. Two is just figuring out you are a separate person from everyone else (and ENJOYING it); three is realizing the enormous implications of that fact. And yes, now and then (on a very special occasion) a cupcake with pink cream does sooth just a little. Until the sugar hits that is.

  8. It’s tricky with verbal kids…M was also way advanced verbally, so I usually expected him to behave more advanced…you talk like a four-year-old, you shouldn’t act like the two-year-old you are. I only semi-recognized this tendency in myself before the twins came along. Their verbal abilities are in line with their age (possibly a little behind, but it’s hard to tell when your only previous experience is with a walking dictionary) and I think I make way more allowances for their age-specific behavior than I did with M.

  9. Oh yeah, verbal/behavioral tactics with a child. I still find myself having to do that dance even as my children have gotten older.

    Now I want a grilled cheese sandwich with a cupcake for dessert!

  10. Love this, “our new policy is that we do not hear him when he is acting like a fourteen-year-old boy.” Very funny.

    I want everything, too! The threes were harder than twos at our house. But grilled cheese always rules.

    This was great.

  11. My favorite part of the – almost three year old control issues – are when when he says he wants something and you give it to him and then he doesn’t want it so you take it away and then he wants it again. But, boy does he have us running.

  12. I’ve been hearing from Steph the joys of picky toddler eating habits. Luckily Monkey is in the “I’ll eat just about anything as long as it’s actual food (or wood chips or dirt or lint or…)” stage. BTW, what is the “half” thing Zach will eat?

  13. His request was so resonant, I heard it right here! We have cupcakes, but with pink jimmies and chocolate cream, sadly. I don’t suppose that would do?

    That “I want everything”? Reminds me so much of Lorenzo, only he says, “I can’t DO anything.” (Meaning only, I can’t make pee on the pot, no matter how you ask or what you try to bribe me with.)

  14. I want cake. That was the conversation 1/2 hour ago in our car. Exactly the same story.

    Since there was no cake he decided a bowl of whip cream would do. I came down and found a him eating a bowl of melted cream. Temper tantrum followed. When I came in again he had a bowl of marshmellows. We ended it was a slice of bread spread with peanut butter.

  15. I think your “Zachary,” and my “Tractor,” must have somehow been separated at birth!

  16. Believe it or not, I miss that 3 year old stage. I want, I want, I want. It comes back, with full verbal clarity (as I found out) when they turn 13. They are much cuter at 3 and much more fun to cuddle with!!

    Actually, my 12 year old is turning 13 in 2 days, and I grieve each stage of development she moves out of, but welcome and love the new one (even the challenges). She is my youngest, so I guess that is why it is the hardest for me!


  17. any hints youcan snd my wayfor dealing with a 3 year old are appreciated…errrrrrr…it can get so frustrating!!!!

    Hang in there.

  18. have you seen those series of books examining each age developmentally, entitled “your-two- year old” or “your four-year-old”, etc.? each of those titles has a subtitle. my favorite: “your three-year-old: friend or enemy”….

    zachary could clearly be my friend b/c i, too, have a penchant for cupcakes. and yes, there are times i, too, want ‘everything.’

    i am just impressed that by the end of it, he was eating his grilled cheese. well done, mom & dad!

  19. Give the kid a cupcake! LOL! But, seriously – he eventually ate the grilled cheese? You win!

  20. I think I have had that exact conversation with Calvin. It’s so hard having a boy with a vocabulary bigger than his age.

  21. This was my 3 year old this morning. “Mommy, I don’t want it to be morning. Make the sun go down. NOW!”

  22. Hey…he sounds like a guy who knows what he wants. That’s not a bad thing at all! Course when one is three, it’s hard to indulge one’s more intransigeant personality traits. He’s going to be a force to be reckoned with when he’s an adult!

  23. Ah three, how I love thee.

    I think I want pink cream, too. Really, now I do.

    Give him a hug for me.

  24. Oh, and tell him if he ever comes to visit his Aunt Becky, I will be sure to have many cupcakes with pink cream on top.

  25. Husband read this and laughed and then commented that if he’s anything like the mini, just tell him he has to have pink cream for lunch and suddenly he won’t want it. Ah, the joys of strong-willed stubborn children 🙂

  26. Oh boy do I remember days like that. Now of course at 8 and 13 the “wants” are much larger and more expensive than cupcakes with pink cream. LOL

  27. At the moment, my only experience with this is being the verbal oldest child in the family. My mom says now that she assumed I was more emotionally mature than I was because I talked so much and so well– hence there were a lot of shopping trips where I would ‘advise’ her on clothing that she should buy for herself. (And this was the 70s, so no doubt very hideous stuff when chosen by a 2 year old). And I used to complain that my parents treated my “like I was 12” (e.g., expecting too much from me). But then when I was a teenager I also made the same complaint when I wanted more freedom :-).

    Anyway, good food for thought now that we are eagerly awaiting our introduction to parenthood!

  28. This is a fantastic sentence:

    Zachary slips in and out of babyhood. He is trying on his grown-up wings, stretching them out, seeing how they feel, and every now and then walloping someone on the head with them.

    Such a poignant image, and so true!
    Now I want a cupcake…

  29. The parallels between toddlers and senior citizens are remarkable. My in-laws are in various stages of dementia, complete with confusion and temper tantrums. Zachary’s fixation on the pink frosting remind of my MIL. She gets totally wrapped around a single element and won’t let go of it. Maybe next time I’ll try placating her with a grilled cheese sandwich.

    Growth is confusing during most stages in life.

  30. yes, i think this is just right.

    it is hard to be a kid in ways that many adults forget.

  31. Goodness, don’t we all feel that way sometimes?

  32. Wow, three??! And he wants everything.

    Of course, I feel like stomping my foot and saying something like that at times. The deployment coming up is inevitable, but still…I want the Sergeant to stay home!