I Finally Realized That Threenagers Aren’t Always Ridiculous

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There have been a lot of hilarious stories out there, not about the terrible two’s, but instead, “Threenagers.” When my own daughter was getting close to that third birthday, she began to join the elite, entitled, exaggeratedly emotional, walk-on eggshells around them “Club Three”.

Imagine this. I just finish brushing and braiding my three year old’s hair that she asks me to do with such a sweet smile, and an appreciated ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. She runs off to play.

Then, seconds later, “ GET THIS OUT OF MY HAAAIIIIRRRRR!”

I approach the scene to find her red-faced, tears rolling, and hands pulling and tearing apart her nicely braided hair. All because she discovered there was an orange hairband holding her hair together and not a blue one like I guess she was somehow envisioning.

Or how about the time when the threenager and I are at her dance class, and she is so happy, having a blast dancing to the Little Mermaid song with all her little dance mates. Class ends. She gets in line to get her end of class dance stamp on her hand, and out of the corner of her eye she spots a little girl waiting for the next class eating rainbow colored Goldfish crackers. My threenager bounces up to me with a smile. “Mommy, can I have some Goldfish?” “Of course,” I said pulling out the bag of Goldfish I usually keep stock piled in my purse.

Cue the scary music to match her terrifying face. “I DON’T WANT THOSE!!!!! I WANT RAINBOW FISH!!!!! BLAHHHHHH” she screamed for all around her to hear as the innocent orange fish are thrown to the ground and stomped on. Their little orange smiles didn’t see it coming.

Moments like these make me think I am raising a self-centered child. In the evening, I search on Amazon for that book about how the French raise perfect children, or read other writers’ stories about their threenagers to make me feel I am not alone standing amongst orange ponytail bands, and crushed Goldfish bodies. Maybe my kid just doesn’t like orange?

But then, there are moments like this next one, that assure me that this whole parenting thing is going pretty well. Along with my mom, my daughter and I spent a fantastic afternoon at the San Diego Zoo. My mom (Nana) has a membership pass, so going around 3pm to closing is perfect, since most of the tourists and school groups leave by then. And in the summer, the zoo is open until 9pm (the best time to see a lot of the animals awake and active).

After seeing the koala sanctuary, where each koala had their own little private marsupial condo (not bad!), we were heading back to the main gate to go home. There was a stage by the gate, and a band was playing. No matter where we are or what kind of music she hears, our threenager loves to dance. Actually, it is most definitely her absolute favorite thing to do. We could be sitting down at Corner Bakery grabbing a quick bite, and Ellie Golding is playing ever so faintly over the speaker system. Our threenager, slides out of her seat and starts her no-shame shake it off dance routine.

Anyway, back to the zoo. So, the band is playing Justin Timberlake’s Trolls song, and our little dancer’s eyes light up and she runs quickly to the dance floor in front of the stage.

Soon there are around 10-15 kids all dancing to their own carefree beat. All of us adults stood around the dance floor watching the cuteness unfold. The lead guitarist in the band brought out a sparkly bag and he pulls out a kid-sized instrument. But not only is it kid approved, it glows in the dark. So of course in this moment, it is the coolest thing ever. My threenager, who is very observant, was lured into the glow and she walked up to the stage. So far it was just her and another little boy ready to rock out with the band. Both kids held their little hands up toward the glittery bag of musical bliss. I watched as the first instrument went to the little boy. My daughter continued to wait patiently for the next instrument to be hers.

Then it happened….

The adults watching around the outside of the dance floor descended to the stage like a herd of wildebeests. Their arms flung over my daughter’s head reaching for the next instrument, and then the next. They passed their treasures to their own kids. More adults rushed the stage. Glowing tambourines, shakers, guitars…all grasped by longer assertive arms. My daughter continued to wait patiently, hopeful to get just one musical treasure. Her little arm buried underneath the mob of adults. The last instrument, a ukulele, with neon green stars (yes, it looked magical) went to the lucky man in the University of Florida sweatshirt. He rushed it over to his toddler, who honestly, didn’t seem all that excited about it.

I look back up at the stage. My little threenager still holding her innocent little hand up toward the bag of musical toys. Still hoping that there was one more for her. Empty. The sparkly bag was empty. Adults 1, Threenager 0. Oh how I wished that was the score during the goldfish incident, or even the hair braiding meltdown. But not this time. The stage was lit up with musical instruments and kids were having a blast. The herd of musical-nabing adults looked proud as they took iPhone pics of their happy kids. My kid turned from the stage, and her welled-up eyes met mine.

“I said please,” she sobbed sweetly. “I held my hand and I said please.”

My heart broke just a little. Here is a girl who gets so, and I mean SO bent out of shape with the wrong color hair tie, but now with all of her disappointment in not getting an instrument, she was crying in a soft, sweet gentle way. I definitely felt her sadness, but at the same time, I was very proud of her actions.

“I’m going to go back and dance,” she said with plump tears still rolling down her cheeks.

Her moves were a little slower, but she got back out there sans instrument. I stood back hoping that some little kid would share. Or that one of those grabby adults would have their kid share with mine. That didn’t happen. My threenager danced to the rest of the song, and at the end the guitarist gathered up all of the instruments back in his sparkly bag. Gone. All gone. My daughter went back up to the stage, held her little hand out, and said, “Please, can I play one for the next song?” The guitarist shook his head and put the instrument bag behind the stage.  I think my daughter’s disappointment was as great as when Ralphie’s dad from The Christmas Story, discovered that his prize turkey was devoured by the Bumpuses’ hounds. “Gone. All gone.”

My threenager walked back over to me in tears again and I gave her a big hug. She really didn’t understand why she didn’t get to play an instrument. She waited patiently, she held out her hand, and she said please. I told her she did the right thing and I hope her little three year old mind will remember that for the next time she is disappointed.

We walked through the exit gate of the zoo holding hands. I was so sad for her, but so proud of her sweetness, and demeanor. Yes, life is full of disappointments and life lessons, blah, blah, blah, but really adults? This was a kid thing, so let the threenagers figure it out on their own.


Rebecca Thompson is a working mom of two girls who loves to squeeze in as many vacation days possible to travel. She prefers a window seat and loves drinking sweet tea in a hammock. 

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