Family life

My preschooler has turned into a terrible teen

If you added in first crushes, cell phones, part-time jobs and prom dresses, Katie Dupuis is basically looking at what her three-year-old daughter will be like at 15.

threenager-Katie-Dupuis

Sophie has become quite the “threenager.” Photo: Katie Dupuis

I have a “threenager” in my house. A moody, teary, sleep-craving threenager. She cries at the drop of a hat and she screams for “Daaaaaaaddy!” whenever she doesn’t get her way. She eschews most meals unless they’re 90 percent carbs, and she’s impossible to get out the door for daycare. She rolls her eyes and pulls more attitude than Regina George, and she packs sass like no toddler I’ve ever known. Add in first crushes, cellphones, part-time jobs and prom dresses, and I’m basically looking at my daughter as she will be at 15. (Lord help us all.)

It’s not for lack of routine and discipline, either. So before you go all Mommy-warrior and think, “She just needs boundaries,” I can assure you that she has all the consistency and limits we can offer. She’s no stranger to redirection, timeouts and sticker charts. We’re not perfect, but we sure do try hard. Nope, this little girl is just in that phase. The “Why is she crying now?” phase. If your child skipped it, I don’t think we can be friends.

But as I was sitting on the stairs last night, listening to Sassy Sophie throw an epic tantrum over not having a very specific stuffy that I haven’t seen in about four months, I consciously made myself think about the reasons I love Sophie at three (rather than wondering at what point she became possessed). I thought I’d share them for all the other threenager parents out there, because we need all the support we can get. Here goes:

10. Threenagers get so excited about little things. I painted Sophie’s toenails blue the other day, and I swear she thought she was Elsa reincarnated. I love how small things bring big joy.

9. They are tiny sponges. This can be both good and bad—you have to watch your mouth when you stub your toe, but you also get to witness your three-year-old learning about the world every single day. Then your kid tells you all about the different kinds of clouds or how crayons are made and you secretly will her to stop growing so fast.

8. They’re either potty trained or on their way to being potty trained. Enough said. (Yes, yes—sometimes kids aren’t potty trained until later. It’s OK. Stop worrying about it.)

7. They make hilarious statements and ask hysterical questions. “How was your day?” asked Sophie last night, as I put her to bed (the first time). “Did you have lots of meetings? ’Cause I did.” She punctuated it with a big sigh at the end. (See #9, above.)

6. They pretty much always want to “help.” Even when the help—stirring the cookie dough, fetching a diaper for her sister, “folding” the laundry—makes more work for me, it’s fun to watch Sophie come into her own and assert her independence as a kid, rather than a baby. Which she tells us, daily: “I. Am. Not. A. Baby!”

5. They don’t keep secrets from you. If she gets in trouble at daycare, she spills the beans the minute she gets in the car.

4. They don’t know how to be self-conscious. When you’re three, no one is fat, ugly, stupid, silly or unpopular. No one cares if your clothes match. No one wonders if you get good grades, what you do for a living, how much money you make. There’s nice and mean. If you’re nice, you’re in. End of story.

3. Solutions for threenager problems are easy. Now, that’s not to say they will take your offered solution at the first mention—Sophie once cried for 30 minutes until I found her solid light-pink socks, rather than the three other pairs of patterned pink socks I had on hand. But, generally, I’d wager a threenager’s day-to-day issues are easier to solve than a teenager’s.

2. They don’t see obstacles. If you ask my threenager what she wants to be when she grows up, she says anything from “a mommy” to “a doctor” to “a kitty cat.” She honestly doesn’t see any issue with achieving any of these goals. I hope she doesn’t lose that fearlessness; I hope we can make her understand she can be anything she wants to be.

1. They give love openly and freely. They aren’t stingy with “I love you.” They don’t make you work for affection. If you ask for a hug, they jump into your arms (unless they are having a meltdown over the shape of pasta you’re cooking for dinner or something). Sophie has names for all the different kinds of kisses: “Raspberry” (self-explanatory), “superhero” (many kisses lavished all over your face), “nosey” (nose to nose), etcetera. I doubt she’ll let me give her a superhero kiss when she’s 15.

As last night’s stuffy-related tantrum quieted, I found myself less irritated with the fact that we’d been working on bedtime for the better part of 90 minutes, and welcomed the flood of affection for my tiny blonde terror. Not long later, the hollering stopped and she slept peacefully, snuggled in with a different stuffy than the one she just couldn’t live without an hour before. See? Threenagers.

But I’m still counting down to her fourth birthday.

Walmart Live Better editor-in-chief Katie Dupuis likes structure and organization. A lot. Now, imagine this Type A editor with a baby. Funny, right? We’re sure you’ll love Katie’s musings on life with Sophie, Juliette and husband Blaine. Read all of Katie’s Type A Baby posts and follow her on Twitter@katie_dupuis.

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