The terrible twos. An expression that can fill a first-time mom’s heart with fear and trepidation on the eve of her child’s second birthday. What could the terrible twos possibly have in store that make them so, well, terrible?

I was bracing myself for tantrums of epic proportions. I had visions of my toddler sprinting across grocery stores and parking lots, evading my every attempt to catch him as his wriggly body escaped my fingertips. Yelling, and thrashing, and gnashing of teeth. I was a little bit terrified of what was about to go down.  

Here’s what I discovered: terrible twos? Not so bad. Then my son turned three, and things got real crazy, real quick. Terrible threes. That is what all the parenting experts should be warning us about! Age two was a cake walk compared to age three. And apparently, I’m not the only mom who has felt this way. I have had many friends share their own tales of woe when dealing with their threenagers.  

Three-year-olds talk. Like, a lot. They have really strong opinions. About everything. They are determined to fine-tune their negotiation skills. “No” just means “I haven’t convinced mom yet.” By age three, their meltdowns are Oscar-worthy. They have another year under their belts of finding all your buttons, and they can push them with incredible accuracy.

With my oldest, I was counting down the days until we could slam the door on age three and never look back. But this second time around, it’s different. My youngest is almost four and I find myself wishing I could stop time smack dab in the middle of all this crazy. I know that once he turns four, I will never get to be here again, living in the wonderful world of three with my son as my guide. Yep, I said wonderful. As it turns out, age three can actually be pretty great. And I have been determined this time around to appreciate this age more, despite its many challenges.

Here are just a few things I love about my threenager.

His body is growing into that of a little boy, but he still has that sweet toddler chubbiness around his arms and legs that squishes into me as he plops himself on my lap for a snuggle.

He tells me “I really, really, really, love you, Mommy” multiple times a day.

He talks . . . boy, does he talk! But his speech is not perfect yet and so instead of there being a reason for things, there is a “roosen”. Cheeseburgers are “cheeseboogers”. His jokes make absolutely no sense but are hilarious all the same.

He tells me things like, “Everything is beautiful that you do.” Best compliment ever, because I think he truly means it!

He pretends to be a kitty pretty much every single day.

His vivid imagination creates the best stories with the craziest characters. By the time he is done telling a story, there have been six or seven plot twists, but they all end the same way: with the biggest smile on his face.

After a car seat battle of wills, he will tell me “I love you, but I don’t love you in the car.” The only way he knows how to be is his authentic self.

All too soon, he will know how to pronounce all his words correctly and will start to say “I love you” a little less. Eventually, my lap will become a little too small to cradle his growing body. He will show his love in different ways, but it will never be the way it is now.

So I’m going to soak up this last month of threeness. I’m going to kiss those chubby cheeks as much as I can, and I’m going to laugh at the jokes that make no sense. I’m going to smile through the temper tantrums because I know, those too will eventually disappear.

And when he blows out the four candles on his birthday cake, I’m going to be swallowing a large lump in my throat because my time living with a threenager has come to an end.

Mary Ann Blair

Mary Ann Blair is a stay-at-home mom living in the Pacific Northwest with her two little gentlemen and hubs. She loves connecting with other parents who like to keep it real! Her work has been published on Her View From Home, Perfection Pending, That’s Inappropriate, Pregnant Chicken, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Red Tricycle and in Chicken Soup For the Soul. She can be found at miraclesinthemess.com or on Facebook at Miracles in the Mess