Go To The Mattress
The Night of the Traveling Ike

The Threeiest Three to Ever Three

Age three. Not exactly my jam, historically speaking. And just over a month in to Age Three, Round Three, I am hereby declaring Ike the undisputed champion of Being Three.

Everywhere, it's destruction. Innocent, well-meaning, utter destruction. An entire spice container of mustard seeds, rolling across the kitchen floor. A roll of plastic wrap, unspooled. An important piece of mail, snipped up with the safety scissors. Crayon scribbles on his bedroom door, an uncapped marker in his bed, eyeliner masterpieces on my good pillow shams.

And every time, an wide-eyed, innocent face. "What?" he asks. 

In between the destruction, there are little piles of discarded clothing all around the house and a naked child streaking past. It started because I used to insist on putting his underwear on the right way, with the design on his butt, and he'd get so furious at not being about to see the Hulk or Iron Man or whatever that he'd strip as soon as I got distracted to turn it around. (Dear Toddler Underpants Makers: STOP PUTTING THE PICTURES ON THE BUTTS.) I finally gave up and let him wear his underwear backwards, but the habit stuck, I guess. 

"I'm not naked," he says, right before running away. "YOU'RE NAKED."

(I'm totally not, BTW.)

And in between the destruction and the nonsensical nudity, there is no no no no no no no no no no no. Whatever it is, it is NO. It's time to go. Please put that down. Would you like a snack? The default response to any question, request or simple declarative sentence. The sky is blue. Your name is Ike. 

"No!" he'll wail, frustration oozing out of every pore, "I'm NOT Ike. I'm IKE!"

Photo 1


He asks for milk and then changes his mind and sobs for juice, then freaks out if you put the milk back in the fridge. He doesn't want a banana until someone else gets a banana. The cup is the wrong cup, oh God, it's still aways the wrong goddamn cup. He holds out his arms at the top of the stairs and begs "TAKE ME, TAKE MEEEEE" whenever my hands are full, then pouts and refuses to come down on his own. But if I try to hold his hand on the cement steps outside (steps he has tripped and fallen on more than once), he'll yank it away in annoyance. 

"I do it myself!" he announces about everything that he technically can't do by himself yet. Buckling the carseat, for example, and yet when I intervene (because, you know, we are most likely in a giant hurry and late to drive somewhere whenever he decides to attempt it), I am trampling his rights and crushing his spirit. 

But then, ask him to do something he's able to do independently, like put his underwear back on for God's sake we have company coming, he points his finger at me. "You do it," he says, before collapsing to the floor like a helpless lasagna noodle. 

He's heavy (there's only a seven-pound difference between him and Ezra) and solid and wriggly and comes in for cuddles like a swinging bag of bricks. A well-meaning hug and kiss routinely end with a headbutt and me protectively clutching my chest. He wakes me up in the morning by forcing my eyelids open with his fingers before crawling on top of me and begging for a pillow fight. 

"STOP IT!" he says a million times a day, usually after someone has done the precise form of roughhousing/tickling he was begging them for, "That's ENOUGH."

Photo 2


And in between the destruction and the nonsensical nudity and the NO NO NO and the contradictions and the chaos, there is calm. He curls up in my lap and snuggles and strokes my face. 

"I'm the baby?" he asks, as if looking for reassurance. Being three seems kind of hard, after all.

"Yes, you're still my baby," I tell him, every time. "You'll always be my Baby Ike."

Photo 3




YES. 10,000 times yes. I'm so glad it's not just my kid. I was beginning to worry about his mental health. And mine.


You totally just described my three-year old daughter. I have hope that we can all survive!

Sky Croswell

You had me at "collapsing to the floor like a helpless lasagna noodle." Best, most accurate, description ever!


I don't know why people still talk about the Terrible Twos. The twos have never held a candle to the Terrifying Threes in my house. Ridiculous tantrums that erupt because I haven't kept up when they change their minds on a dime or when I won't let them do something so incredibly unsafe. "I do it myself!" is wailed many times throughout the day. Yet, there is still the cuddles and kisses that make everything else fade away.


Three is much more challenging than two. I commend you for weathering it for the third time. #no


All I see is SWEET boy!


Oh, thank Christ for this post. And for the plea to toddler underwear makers because PERCY IS ON MY BUM AND I CAN'T SEEEEEE HIM. Sigh. I need a drink.


Please don't tell me I have another 2 years of this, because my 2-year-old is already showing all these signs. My favorite is "up me please" and then halfway down the stairs "no, I DO IT MYSELF" accompanied by the terrifying headfirst lurch to the floor. Fingers crossed that because it started earlier, it's over earlier.


Please don't tell me I have another 2 years of this, because my 2-year-old is already showing all these signs. My favorite is "up me please" and then halfway down the stairs "no, I DO IT MYSELF" accompanied by the terrifying headfirst lurch to the floor. Fingers crossed that because it started earlier, it's over earlier.


I too have 3 boys (8, 6, and 2). Apparently the 2 year old is advanced because you just described him to a T. I don't remember the older two being so insane, or more truthfully, making me so insane. Maybe I blocked it from the trauma like some PTSD coping mechanism, or maybe third children ramp up the crazy to make their place in the clan.


Anytime I read or hear the trials of someone else with a three year old, I feel so much better about my own NOOOOOO! machine.


*raising a fist in solidarity*

After falling asleep in the car on the way to the restaurant, I let my 3 year old nap (not unattended). After she woke, I asked how her nap was; she replied, "I didn't nap, Mama; I was awake the whole time." And would not concede to sleeping one wink.

Later, when putting her to bed, she informed me I needed to go upstairs and wash the dishes because there were a whole lot of dirty ones on the counter. S helpful.

Sue W.

Never having kids, I think the reason they are so dayum cute is so you won't kill them! My youngest sister will be fitty this year and my mother STILL calls her "my baby." I wonder what Baby Ike's curls will look like when he's 50!


I wish they would just make some sort of milkjuice combo so I could stop having that debate with my 3 year-old.


This is PRECISELY what I'm going through with my Zoe at almost 3 (Friday). THANK YOU! I had forgotten how three is (her sister is four and a half years older) and am reassured and terrified at all the three-ness to come.


God yes, this all sounds so familar! My favorite is when they throw the sippy cup when you've put the WRONG beverage inside. Also, totally agree that the character need to be on both sides of boys' underwear!


My kids are teens now, but I have always said terrible 2s don't hold a candle to "omg so terrible they haven't coined a phrase yet" 3s. However, I still loved those years, they were the best!


I am past all of this at home but I work at a preschool so... As for the pictures on the underwear, same issues here with both boys. They would wear them backwards and I gave up. Obviously, who ever is designing them does not have children!


Three year olds are just two year olds with follow through. They make you understand why certain species eat their young. They can also be adorable and sometimes even charming, and four is something to look forward to - four is awesome.


My daughter turns 3 in August, and THIS IS MY LIFE. Throw in a month-old newborn and OMG I NEED ALL THE WINE.


Oh god yes. So many battles. "I don't want to" " I hold my own hand" and the wanting if anything his older brother has.


Ugh. Yes. I'm having flashbacks to my 4yo 3s, which were the worst. The absolute worst. I lost my shit on a regular basis and decided that wine was its own dietary category that needed to be met nightly. Best of luck.


When I was little my underwear had a pattern all over. Like small My Little Pony ponies or Smurfs all over. Are they not made like that anymore?


Three was rough, but I think four (aka the F*#king Fours) is worse. But I have a girl. My boy is only 15 months, so we'll see if there is a gender divide here.


Jason I hope you are reading this because you really need to step in and take that adorable little boy for a haircut. Amy is too attached to HIS hair to do it. You will have to be the adult here.


Amy and Jason, don't listen to Brooke, his hair is GORGEOUS. I just recently saw "Tangled" for the first time and all I could think of was Ike. You only get once chance at that beautiful blonde (says a brunette). As I rapidly approach the 3's with my own son, YES to all of this. Also, I have had a three-month battle over toddler boy underpants, until I discovered the Gymboree clearance section this weekend and scored 7 pairs with all-over prints for less than $13. I feel like I have regained control over my life. (#firstworldproblems)

Sue C

I have said for years that if you can keep them alive (as opposed to killing them) from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 you have been a successful parent!


In the UK the pictures on pants (read 'underwear') is on the front...unless I've got this wrong for the last few years. Oh no, now I'm going to have to go and check in my son's pants drawer!


My daughter's 3 next month and I'm terrified. Does anyone have any magical parenting tricks for these issues? Anyone? SOS, help please??


Seriously, stories about 3 year olds are the reason I do not have a 4th child!
I stand by my theory that 3 year olds should become wards of the state until they turn 4 or calm the 'f down (my almost 10 year old would still not be in my custody but I digress)

Michelle B

Oh, I so needed this. I'm stuck in the continual battle of 3 right now, and it's nice to know I'm not alone.


My daughter started this crap at 18 months and resolved to keep it going until about a week before she turned 3. Things have been SO much better since we hit 3. I'm not sure if it's better to have the crazies happen when they're less verbal or more verbal. Pros and cons to both, I suppose....all I know is that I can usually reason her out of a tantrum these days, but with a 2yo? Not a chance.


The baby. Forever and ever amen. (That cup shit doesn't stop at 4, lemme tell ya).


My 5-year-old likes his underwear wrong side around too, not for the picture but because his penis will fall out of the fly otherwise. I let it go, usually...

Leigh Ann

Gah I love him, and I can't believe I started reading your blog when you were pregnant with him.

There must be something about three the third time. My twins were a nightmare at 3 (see also: THERE WERE 2 OF THEM). But my youngest was amazing at 3.


You know what a cure for the "Terrible Threes" is? ANOTHER BABY.

Do ittttt. ;)


My 11 year old was like this at 3 (he was also the third and last, but the only boy.) He still comes in for those attack hugs and kisses and it about kills me most of the time. But I remind myself that those hugs and kisses may be harder to get in a few years, so I take them anyway.

But the rest gets better. Well, mostly. :)


"he'd get so furious at not being about to see the Hulk or Iron Man or whatever that he'd strip as soon as I got distracted to turn it around."

OMG! I have almost three year old twins and I swear I thought this only happened in my house! And the NO NO NO NO and the "MY DO IT! NO, YOU DO IT" bipolarism, and all the rest. Thank you, Baby Ike, for helping me realize my children aren't in fact possessed and are just "threenagers."


Oh lord, thank you so much for this post. I am living this post right now. Caleb is 3 in less than two weeks (HOLY CRAP) and I seriously thought I was doing something wrong. If I am, we're all doing it wrong so we're in good company.


I feel your pain. I do. But I have to say this. I have twin 3 year olds who make me want to punch myself in the face. Every day. They fight with each other,the dog, me, it is a constant and never ending battle, where the only winners are sadness and exhaustion. Just imagine Ike x2. That is my life right now.


I'm nearly ten years past the threes and I still remember the absolute craziness. I always wondered exactly why there was so much talk about the "Terrible Two's" and not the "Utterly Horrible Three's".
It gets much better, and then it gets a lot worse again when they hit the teen years. That's when you find yourself looking back on the toddler years with wistful affection (well, if you're like me, that is).

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