By the Skin of His Teeth

Photo: Shrove Tuesday pancake breakfast, on a school day no less! Getting Ursa Major out of his crib and down the stairs to get to the pancakes was a huge pain in the butt. It took me repeating at least 10 times that I’d made pancakes to cajole him out of bed and down the stairs. Of course, when he got there, he took three bites and declared the he was done. “What about the rest of it??” I asked him, not wanting to send him to school hungry. “I want down! Down, down down!” He shrieked. It was the beginning of a challenging day.


Yesterday, around 6:15, as I was cutting up tomato to put in last night’s gumbo, I hear a scrapping sound coming into the kitchen. It’s Ursa Major, dragging a kid-sized chair behind him. “Hey Mommy!” Ursa Major greets me between grunts and scrapes. “What are you doing?”

“I’m making dinner, baby. We’re having gumbo for Fat Tuesday.”

“Oh,” he says, positioning himself at the edge of the kitchen island near the cutting board. “Can I help?”

He couldn’t help, unfortunately. I really was almost done. I was prepping shrimp and cutting up spinach (yes, this is an unorthodox ingredient for gumbo, but I sneak it into meals so the boys will eat it).

“Can I watch?” He asked me after I explained why he couldn’t help.

“Of course, baby!” I was sincerely delighted, and happily explained all of the things I was doing while he watched. I boiled water for the rice, I cut the tails off of shrimp, I rinsed the rice and placed it in the boiling water. I wilted the spinach and adjusted my seasonings. It was a lovely time of sharing. I really enjoyed it.

Toward the end, he starts dancing in his chair, strumming at an air guitar (seriously, I’m not making this up.)

“Um, are you rocking out, [Ursa Major]?”

He keeps dancing. “Yeah, I’m rocking out!”

I know that he learned this in school. There is a Steve Songs song that they play at school where kids are commanded to rock out. It’s just funny to see him do it at home. So now I’m rocking out with my toddler in my kitchen. And finishing dinner. And waiting for daddy to come home. It’s kind of the best evening ever.

Until serving time.

Daddy gets home, everything is ready to eat. I prepared plates for the boys, being careful to place two shrimp on top of Ursa Major’s plate so that he could see them (he was excited about them when I’d put them in the pot).

He starts screaming when he sees the plate.

“What’s wrong? I don’t understand?”

“I want the shrimp over there!” He screams, pointing in a direction that doesn’t make any sense.

“What? Where? I don’t understand–”

“Over THERE! THERE!” he points in the same direction, which is like across the room or something.

Ursa Minor, of course, has started screaming to be put in his booster seat. Ursa Major is simply whining and screaming. I put Ursa Minor in his seat, and he begins to eat his dinner in peace. Ursa Major is still crying. I put him into his seat and move the shrimp to another part of the plate. “Is this ok? Is this what you want?”

“NO!” he shrieks, then pushes the plate across the table.

I throw up my hands and sigh in exasperation. Where was the angel of my life not 20 minutes before??

Three sucks.

Seriously, I’m really not loving three. I hate the unpredictable nature of the mood swings, the mercurial days, the anger over nothing, the sweetness only when he wants something or at in opportune moments. I hate it when Ursa Minor is in my lap for a little snuggling, and then Ursa Major comes to jump on me in a fit of jealous rage. I hate it when I then try to make room for Ursa Major for a little snuggling and quiet time, and all he wants to do is scream in a corner.

I love my son. More than life. I’m constantly hunting for how to make his life better, more interesting, with more love and opportunity. I can’t express to you how much my love for him consumes my days.

But I really hate Three. Three really, really sucks.

When Ursa Major turned two, I lamented that things were going to get difficult. And Lord knows, there were plenty of challenging moments during the Terrible Twos. But there were methods for distraction or discipline, tried and true methods that worked and deescalated. The difference between a tantrum at two and a tantrum at three is that distraction doesn’t seem to work anymore, and neither does ignoring it. When I throw up my hands and walk away, Ursa Major follows me and continues to scream. When we have little sit downs and talks, he doesn’t listen, he just makes noise. Finally, when I lose it, and I tell him he “isn’t the boss of this house,” he then looks at me and screams, “I’m the boss! You’re not the boss! I’m the boss!” and I have to walk away.

The boy is gonna make it to four. He will. Because I love him. But seriously, he’s gonna make it by the skin of his teeth if he keeps this up.

I hear that Four is the tipping point. That he’ll wake up at four and be a “real person.” First) He’s a real person now, he’s just one with a really bad attitude and no way of controlling it. Second) I’m pretty sure that this is a vicious, vicious lie, much like “Three is so much better than Two.”

The thing that is most annoying about Three is that when Ursa Major is doing something awesome, it’s a really special moment. He’ll say or do something that is really impressive, something that will make me stop and think to myself “remember when he was just a little blob and couldn’t do anything? Maybe we’ve been doing a great job after all.” These moments certainly happen multiple times a day. I don’t want to give the impression that he’s some sort of monster–he’s not. He’s amazing. But the off moments are there, too, and they seem to be particularly more pronounced now. Ursa Major has a larger range of emotions, and “anger” and “annoyance” and “frustration” are all presence now. There is even just “obnoxious,” as in, he knows that he is performing a behavior that makes me angry and he simply doesn’t care. It’s like he figured out retribution. “Mama won’t let me do this, so I’m going to stand in the kitchen and scream because I know it drives her crazy.”

This, too, shall pass. I know. I know. I’m just sick of having to endure my son. I’d like to enjoy my son.

In the last five days, I’ve had no less than six people ask me if/when I’m going for a third child. “You guys are gonna do it, right? You’re gonna have a third? Your boys are so stinkin’ cute, Kyra, you’ve gotta go for it.” That was one of the moms at preschool yesterday.

As I sit here with this beer next to my laptop, my sons FINALLY taking their nap (after being in the crib for an hour just jumpin’ and carrying on), I think I can pretty comfortably say that I’m all pinished. No, that’s not a typo. Pinished with a capital P. I’ve gotta deal with the Troublesome Threes simultaneous to the Terrible Twos, and THEN I’m gonna have to do the Troublesome Threes AGAIN! Do you think I’m gonna go through this and THEN pop out another baby and start allllll ooovvvveeerrrr agggaaaiinnn???

Me thinks not. Confirm with anyone who knows me in real life. I have none of the following attributes: Patience, Grace, Sanity, Heart, Gumption, Can-Do-Attitude. And if I did have any of those things, Motherhood has taken them all away from me.


There might be slight hyperbole there.

But only slight.

There are flakes falling outside of my window as I type. I’m sure that cabin-fever isn’t helping anyone involved. We’re at the finish-line and I know that sunshine will do us all some good.

I’m off to find a good brioche recipe for French Toast this weekend. I also have a short story that is banging around in my brain. I listened to a few EdX lectures last night and now all sorts of synapses are firing off with ideas. 🙂

If there is anyone out there who is thinking about doing Camp NaNo next month, let me know! I need to join someone’s cabin… I hate being put in with random folk.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.



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