There may come a day when a cold shiver of realisation stops you dead in your tracks. It could happen at the supermarket. It could happen at the petrol station whilst humming to Tay-Tay Swift at the bowser. For me, it happened while I hid from my toddler in the pantry eating the last of my original flavour Pizza Shapes.
The realisation? I have a threenager on my hands.
A threenager creeps up on you. Their metamorphosis from your mostly cooperative and cheery toddler is not usually identified until full threenager evolution has occurred. You've been justifying the tantrums and fussiness as a bad day, or a tired little poppet, but wake up and smell the Vegemite on the walls, suffering parent: this new version of offspring is here to stay. At least for a while, anyway.
Still in denial about your beautiful little cherub? Let me coax you over the threshold into enlightenment with these signs ...
Tell-tale sign #1: I want I want I want I want I want I want I want
Most conversations will start with "I want". Your toddler wants everything, until they don't want it anymore a minute later.
"I want a pink plate mummy. I want my food cut into unicycle riding poodles, Mummy." Sure! Anything for your little angel, right?
Wrong, because when you dish up that masterpiece, be prepared to hear "NO! NO! NO! I want a tightrope walking elephant Mummy! FIX IT!"
Sometimes they just stand at your feet chanting, "I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want", not even knowing what their precious heart desires. They do rest easy in the knowledge that when they figure it out, you, oh servant parent, will be ready to cater to their every whim.
Until then, be prepared to listen to "I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want, I want" with every waking breath.
Tell-tale sign #2: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
Your bundle of love has discovered their independence and free will. Gone is your mostly cooperative toddler, and in their place stands a fiercely defiant creature, ready and eager to test the boundaries of your love and patience. Be prepared for the word 'no' in response to 97.5 per cent of your requests to get dressed, to share toys, to stop licking the windows, to get in the car, or to get in the bath, to name but a few.
Bribes and promises of processed sugar or another episode of Peppa Pig may temporarily disarm the threeanger – but remember that to do so is to make a deal with the devil, because whatever is promised once, must delivered upon at every future request for the same cooperation.
Tell-tale sign #3: Your style is not my style
As your toddler grows, they are developing their own personality, interests, tastes and style. You may consider yourself a snappy dresser with immaculate taste, but rest assured that your threenager won't agree with you. You'll devote much time to washing, folding and ironing the cutest of coordinated outfits for your growing fashionista, only to walk them out the door each day in the same Spiderman or Frozen outfit they've played, slept and eaten in for four days straight.
You'll soon give up on the daily outfit battle and shrug your shoulders at aghast strangers in supermarkets who haven't developed your smell immunity to the pong of the spaghetti, dirt and Vegemite stained outfit that drifts passed them in aisle 7.
Tell-tale sign #4: Champagne and razorblades
Life on the daily grind with a threenager is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. One minute they can be tearing your house apart like a Rolling Stones post-concert party in a hotel room, the next minute they can be sitting quietly in your lap reading a book and asking for cuddles. The highs are dizzyingly high and the lows can make you question your life choices – especially while watching your threenager wailing on the floor of a shopping centre because the Octonauts carousel is broken (wink wink – we've all used that line).
So while you're standing at the kitchen sink at 5.30pm, rinsing the sauce and cheese from individual ravioli pieces your threenager requested before deciding they didn't want sauce anymore, remember that this evolution of your threenager won't last forever. They will eventually grow out of this uncomfortable stage, and (hopefully) their next metamorphosis will be an easier one.
Until then, enjoy the highs – and in the low times, take quiet solace in the knowledge that parents of threenagers everywhere are counting down the hours until bedtime, just like you.