I remember hearing the term "threenager" when my son was about 18 months old. It was peak hour at the park and he had thrown himself face down onto the ground, arms flailing in what my mother-in-law refers to as the “dying swan”. I must have looked a little stressed because one of the other mums offered “You think that’s bad, wait until he becomes a threenager”. A what?
But my son has recently graduated from the terrible twos (which thankfully weren’t so terrible) to threenagehood. Having watched his behaviour over the past two months since his birthday, I’ve certainly noticed the similarities between three year olds and teenagers. And let’s just say the name “threenager” seems to fit so far.
1. The unique dress sense
My son has very strong ideas about his wardrobe and clearly has a much better understanding of what’s fashionable and what’s not than anyone else. He obviously has his finger on the pulse of what’s trendy (someone at daycare must subscribe to Vogue Baby), because my opinion and input no longer matters. Over the past few weeks he’s gone to daycare in Batman gumboots, a socks/Crocs combo, and head-to-toe Lighting McQueen. And yes, I’ll admit that I have said “You can’t leave the house dressed like that” on more than one occasion. In my defence, however, that was only when he was trying to insist on going out without pants.
2. The appetite
My threenager is constantly hungry and always asking for food. One afternoon, at 4.30pm, I found myself barricading the fridge, uttering the actual words “If you eat now, you’ll spoil your dinner”. Spoil? What am I, 87? As I took a moment to ponder this, my son managed to sidle past me and grab a handful of strawberries. And all I could do was watch the red juice dripping down over his triumphant smile and silently applaud his healthy snack choice
3. The mood swings
One minute we’re laughing, having fun and just being generally adorable; the next, we’re on the floor crying because I’ve made the executive decision that we can’t have tomato sauce on our cereal. I mean, tomato sauce is versatile, but not that versatile.
4. The noise
Only last week my husband had to ask my son to turn the volume down on one of his numerous musical toys. It was so loud we were concerned it might result in a noise complaint. I thought we were years off arguing about music volume – apparently not so.
5. The attitude
Oh, the attitude, the talking back, the boundary testing and challenging absolutely everything. “Hey,” I said to my son a few nights ago, “can you please stop squealing.” “Don’t say hey, Mummy,” he said. “Just ask nicely.” Ha! If only that worked, dear one.
6. The desire for independence
My threenager wants to do everything – and I mean everything – himself. Dressing, feeding, transportation. The only time my assistance is requested is when he’s unable to reach something, because “Mummy’s tall.” Given I’m only 5ft, I suppose I should enjoy this (small) advantage while I can. When he’s an actual teenager, without doubt, the roles will be reversed.
7. The mumbling/grunting
Most of the time my son talks and talks and talks. Recently, however, I’ve noticed an increase in the use of grunting and one word answers as acceptable forms of communication. I collected him from childcare yesterday, ready to be regaled with the ins and outs of his adventures as per usual. “What did you do at school today? I asked, giving myself a mental high-five for the open-ended question. “Nothing,” he said. And then he grinned at me. Right, that’s believable.
7. The night owl
Apparently 7pm or even 7:30/8pm bedtimes are for babies. While he may not be in his room Facebooking, tweeting or texting (I hope), some nights, after he’s been read to and tucked in, my threenager happily chats, sings and reads to himself until he decides he’s ready to actually fall asleep. Occasionally, and always on the days we need to be out of the house early, he even sleeps in and I have to wake him up. I know, it’s practically unheard of.
Despite these challenges and quirks however, there’s something magical about threenagehood. The little person who darts around the house in his car pyjamas and superhero cape is developing the sweetest empathy, has a great sense of humour, and gives the nicest, biggest cuddles. And while I can handle a taste of the teenage years, I’m rather pleased we’re still a decade away from the real deal. There’s no way I’m ready for that just yet.