My child is sweet. She is funny. She is quirky. She is lovable.

She is also an utter psychopath.

OK, “psychopath” might be a bit harsh. I think that the word I’m really looking for is “threenager”: a 3-year-old teenager. They exist and, chances are, if you are a parent, your child is one or was one at some point or another. And if you are a parent and your child is still younger than 3, HAVE FUN WITH ALL THAT BECAUSE IT’S COMING.

Everyone talks about the “terrible twos,” but NO ONE TELLS YOU about threenagers. People play up the terrible twos so much that you half-expect your kid to wake up the morning of their third birthday happy, sunny and tantrum-free. Two was so hard, but 3 will be AWESOME!


I wanted to give those of you whose life isn’t graced with the presence of a threenager a glimpse of what it’s like to have one. I decided to recruit the help of several parent friends for this. I asked them to finish the sentence, “You know you have a threenager when .,”and here are their responses (plus some of my own).

NO PICTURES. (Photo: Natalie Green)

-You accidentally call her dress a shirt, and she immediately bursts into tears.

-You call her Cinderella and she freaks out because FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHE IS JAKE THE NEVERLAND PIRATE RIGHT NOW. She was Cinderella yesterday. YESTERDAY!

-She melts down and starts crying when you ask her to sit on the potty. She reaches out for you, pleading, “Maaaammmaaaaaaa!” with fat tears rolling down her cheeks. Your husband comes in to see what is going on, and as soon as she sees him, she starts cracking up and affectionately saying, “Daddy!” As soon as he is out of her sight, she turns back to you and starts crying and whining again, still sitting on the toilet. Daddy gets laughter; Mommy gets a whining, naked, pooping preschooler.

-“You get yelled at for not knowing the words of the song/rules of the game/words of the story … that they are making up … in their head … as they speak.”-Michelle Haddock, Tennessee

-“My son Noah, who is 3 and a half (he reminds me often), says when he’s angry at me, ‘Go away and never return!'”-Charles Moss, Tennessee

-“I knew we had a threenager after we took her to the shoe store, tried on 5,000 pairs of shoes, finally decided on a blue pair and rainbow pair, got to the car and opened the box to put them on only to hear her cry, ‘I WANTED THE PINK PAIR!!'”-Lori Purple, Tennessee

-“When they cry because you helped them ‘too much’ or ‘the wrong way.'”-Becky Bumgardner, Tennessee

-“My son was playing in the living room the other day, and I decided I wanted to vacuum. I told him to pick up his toys. He ignored me. I told him if he didn’t pick up his toys, I would suck them all up in the vacuum cleaner. He looked up at me, crossed his arms, stomped his foot, huffed and said, ‘Really, Mom?'”-Heather Scheer, Tennessee

-“When she slams her door and yells about you never loving her because she didn’t get dessert.”-Kathryn Lyons, Georgia

-“When she says, ‘Mom, your dress is ugly.'”-Tamara Rasheed, Michigan

-“You’d rather let them spill the milk than listen to them scream about why they can do it themselves. It’s just easier to clean it up.”-Jessica Baker, Indiana

-“When she called me a bitch … in the correct context … and she meant it.”-Elizabeth Patterson, Arizona

-“If you know the location of every single bathroom in every single store within a 500-mile radius because your toddler HAS TO POOP in EVERY store the second you are farthest away from the bathroom. And you don’t dare tell them no, because the one time you did, they pooped all over EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD.”-Jessica Beavers, Washington

-“You need body armor and a mouth guard to be the recipient of your child’s ‘love.'”-Kate Landfair-Balaban, Utah

-“When he crawls up on the counter to get himself a glass of water because, ‘I can do it myself, Mom.’So you go to walk away, and he starts crying, ‘No, stay here with me!’ You then tell him that you have to go to the bathroom really badly. In response, he immediately stops crying and says, ‘Then go already.'”-Angela Germeraad, Illinois

There you have it, folks. From the mouths of parents. Threenagers are a force to be reckoned with. They’re lucky they are so damn cute because if they weren’t, it’d be pretty tempting to just sell them on Craigslist.

FOR SALE: Attitudey 3-year-old. Sometimes poops the bed. Only answers to “snow leopard.”

So, parents, tell me: What are the telltale signs that a threenager is living in your house?

And special thanks to all my friends who gave me their best threenager stories!

Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog,Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter@mommyboots; or you can email her directly at[email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, or its employees.

Updated @ 10:12 a.m. on 9/17/13 to correct a typographical error.