the smell of my desperation has become a stench

The dreaded year

About two months after Leta turned three years old (during one of her epic, inimitable body-throwing tantrums) I remember thinking that I would rather have my vagina sewn shut than have another kid. Is that too gross? Over the line? If I stop right there and don’t mention balls or anal glands will you forgive me? No? WELL AREN’T YOU PRECIOUS.

Three-years-olds. They are awful, horrible people. I didn’t say they were the WORST people but only because I’m sure there are murderers out there who listen to Nickelback. 

You’ve never lived with a three year old? It goes something like this:

“Stop. Stop. Stop. STOP IT. STOP. STOP. No. NO. NOOOOOO. STOP. STOP. Put it down. Put it down. PUT IT DOWN. NOW. STOP. No. No. NO. NO. STOP. NOW. NOOOOWWWW. STOP IT. So help me god, put the fish back in its bowl.”

Marlo will turn three next month, and oh my. My soft, little dimpled Donette is showing signs of growing horns and webs between her toes. And it has hit suddenly, out of nowhere. One day she was full of wonder and singing Itsy Bitsy Spider in a funny voice and then BAM she’s looking me straight in the face as she takes her bowl of cereal and dumps it on the floor. She didn’t even break eye contact when she dropped the bowl and pointed at it, like, WITNESS THIS, BITCHEZ.

Last week while Leta was at her piano lesson I took Marlo to the store to pass some time. And normally, the old Marlo, the sweet two-year-old with the adorable lisp, she would have reached up and grabbed my hand as we walked through the door. She would have pointed at all the colorful packages and gasped. She would have toddled up and down the aisles causing every woman there with a ticking biological clock to strip naked and have sex with the guy stocking chicken broth.

But this Marlo, the nearing-three Marlo, she ripped her hand from my own when I lovingly reached down to hold it, hoarsely groaning, “STHOPPPP MY HAND.” That’s the phrase she uses when she wants to be left alone. When I brush her hair she screams, “STHOPPPP MY HAIR.” When I wipe her mouth she shrieks, “STHOPPPP MY FACE.” Fine, I’ll say. And then the adolescent me cannot resist licking both of my hands and rubbing them from her forehead all the way down to her neck. 

Has anyone ever debarked their three-year-old? Details, please.

This Marlo picked up cans of soup and tried to stick them in her shorts. When I took the cans away she showed her competitive streak and threw her body in an arc to the floor, almost as elegantly as her sister once did. But here’s where Leta wins: Leta didn’t care if you walked away. She tantrumed because it was her body’s way of processing conflict. Marlo? Marlo cares. She tantrums because she wants the attention. So when I walk away and remove her audience/victim, she hops up and runs after me while screaming, “WAIT! WAIT!” Excuse me? Were you saying something? Because I was seriously underwhelmed with that performance and I’m going to leave a scathing Yelp review.

And then. UGH. It was one of those parenting moments depicted in movies and sitcoms, and when it happens in real life you’re like, GROSS. Network television GETS ME.

I had Marlo in my right arm, a bag of groceries in the other. And as I was unlocking the car she wrestled her way off of my hip to the ground and took off toward the back of the car. Instinct kicked in and I dropped everything: keys, purse, groceries, dignity. I managed to lunge two steps and grab her by the arm just as a car whipped by not even two feet from her face. My heart throbbing in my throat, I picked her up, put my face probably a little too close to hers and said very sternly, “DO NOT EVER DO THAT AGAIN.”

To which she replied in a mocking tone, “Blah blah blah.”

Oh no, you did not just blah me. Let’s cut to commercial so that we do not have to bleep my masterful violation of that one commandment saying never to take the Lord’s name in vain JESUS BALL SACK VICE GRIP ON YOUR NIPPLE CHRIST.

I bit my lower lip and tried to lower my heart rate as I opened the door and set her in the car seat. As I was buckling her in she laughed, shook her head back and forth and sang, “Dangewous! DANGEWOUS! DANGEWOUS!

That was a week ago. She is still in a time out. Don’t worry, I’ve checked on her a couple of times to keep her hydrated.

  • kmpinkel

    2012/05/10 at 1:00 pm

    As the parent of four, my youngest the ripe age of three, I salute you with a bourbon. This is why we drink or rock and drool in a corner. I ran into a teacher and she almost mockingly said after asking her age, “oh yes, the passionate age”. I’ve never heard it put so eloquently. Bitch. Feelin’ your pain, sista, feelin’ your pain.

  • Doghouse Mama

    2012/05/10 at 1:02 pm

    My cat’s vomit doesn’t seem so bad anymore! I’ll just stick with my animals, thank you!

  • Jen28

    2012/05/10 at 1:05 pm

    After telling my just 3 year old she would have to get into bed after finishing on the potty, she said to me from her seat on the toilet, “Like THAT’s going to happen,” with a big eye roll to boot. I survived the 3 year old, but am so afraid of the teen years.

  • Bella-Sweet

    2012/05/10 at 1:06 pm

    I don’t have kids and I feel like hurling after reading that.

  • Pandora Has A Box

    2012/05/10 at 1:11 pm

    I’ve long held that if Marlo and The Littlest Box were ever to meet, the world would explode. Into smithereens. Boom.

    He’s three and a half, and suddenly, he’s the biggest asshole with the cutest dimples you’ve ever seen.

    This morning?

    Me: “What do you want for breakfast?”

    Him: “I want oatmeal.”

    I make the oatmeal, which is the same thing I make him EVERY morning. I hand it to him. He tries to fling the bowl from my hand.

    Him: “It’s too hot!”

    Me: “What?!” (It’s 6:30am and I haven’t had any coffee yet, so forgive me for being a dolt)

    He stomps off. He returns ten minutes later.

    Him: “Mommy, I want oatmeal.”

    Me: “That’s great. Here’s some at the table.”

    Him: “That oatmeal is too cold.”

    All I’ve got to say is that my unholy terror, who has now added mercurial and willful to his repertoire, is going to be the death of me. Especially if he and Marlo ever meet.


  • mleah

    2012/05/10 at 1:20 pm

    When I was that age I threw a tantrum in the grocery store ONCE. I say once because I was cured by my mother’s reaction to her child screaming and flopping around on the floor. She stared down at me, started clapping and yelled “Everyone, please come witness this grand performance by my very own daughter!” Apparently I got up, brushed myself off and sulked away. That story still cracks me up because it is so something I would do if I had kids!

  • makfan

    2012/05/10 at 1:24 pm

    I’m gay, but after reading this I think I want a vasectomy.

  • Amy J.

    2012/05/10 at 1:27 pm

    Now this…THIS…is the Heather I’ve missed.

    This kind of writing. This kind of story.

    Yes, yes and YES.

    And, um, sorry Marlo has morphed. It happens to the best of them.

    Remember, the odd years always suck…both in ages and grades in school.

    We’re in 7 for the youngest right now. Oh. Good. LORD.

    Oldest is in even, PRAISE JESUS.

    We’re in even for grade level for the oldest (YAY), which means next year will suck donkey balls.

    Hang in there Heather. And invest in some new running shoes and new prescription for Xanax : ).

  • floridagal73

    2012/05/10 at 1:32 pm

    The “blah, blah, blah” still has me laughing (not at you, not at all, because it’s really not funny, but holy hell kids can really give it right back to us). My kids went through a blah, blah phase and I’m not sure there is a response that can more wholly prompt you to wanna smack the smirk right off their sweet little face. You don’t – but you want to.

    My 2yo daugther is a spit fire, and I’m looking forward to the threes like, never. With my boys, I remember taking them to daycare and practically throwing them at their teachers, saying “he’s yours now!” and running away.

    I guess the only consolation, and it probably really isn’t any, is that we are all going through it. LOL So good luck to us!

  • awstone

    2012/05/10 at 1:32 pm

    I feel your pain, no only does my sweet little 3 year old boy act just as charming as Marlo… he also now has added escape artist to his repertoire. To the point where now I have a table blocking our front door, as all bolts and locks can not contain him. I am tired of the neighborly call “your son is down the street in his underwear again”. Last week I was at my wits end as he is screaming at me, like no one has screamed before…
    he tells me “Mommy, you are a bad bad boy, you have no friends no more, I am telling Daddy he says yes, no more food for you”. Geez if he had added barring me from my sacred TV in that verbal abuse I would be crawled up in a ball… At least he knows what’s important to me…

  • Blasi

    2012/05/10 at 1:38 pm

    Oh dear, not to terrify you more, but it is only the start. It will morph to “I don’t love you anymore, I’m leaving this house and NEVER COMING BACK!”, because you tell her there is no more pita bread in the cupboard.

    Still, the “blah blah blah”? Thats’ the one phrase that still pushes every single one of my damn buttons and I have to do deep breathing techniques to keep CAS from knocking on my door…

  • somethingcool

    2012/05/10 at 1:39 pm

    For my kids, three was nice. Nicer than two at least, so it may have been in comparison. Two was absolute hell with my first, but only bad for a couple months with the second. Then three was okay. THEN four. Fucking four. I’m listening to my four year old scream right now, actually. But it’s not even the screaming. It’s the “I can’t hear you anymore, even though you’re two feet away” and with the second, the “I’m going to be a bitch to everybody now”.
    Overall though, I guess I’d say that my firstborn’s terrible twos were the worst part of my adult life.

  • Cateyez

    2012/05/10 at 1:52 pm

    Truer words have never been spoken. I have a 3 year old. I’m living what you’re living right now. She was sweet, cute and awesome, like, a minute ago. Then she turned 3 and all I can do is laugh at her half the time. 3 year olds are SO irrational!

  • sabina

    2012/05/10 at 1:52 pm

    OH this made me laugh. I know it’s not funny, but I remember it so well. For us it was three to four. I would start hyperventilating on the way to preschool knowing I had to deal with that little monster all night. She’s amazing now. I know you know it passes… but man it sucks while you’re going through it.

  • hmfirefly

    2012/05/10 at 1:58 pm

    i love you all with your three year old comments. makes me feel so much better! oh, and makfan, you are hilarious.

  • hmfirefly

    2012/05/10 at 1:59 pm

    oh, cateyez, glad you’re laughing!

  • doorot

    2012/05/10 at 2:00 pm

    That happened to me too. 4 years 3 months 2 days and 19 hours ago… My youngest has now turned the sweet age of three. Help me, pwease?

  • kristinec55

    2012/05/10 at 2:11 pm

    When you said she follows behind screaming “WAIT!WAIT!” I heard my Lilly doing that same thing in the store, because she does. It’s like they hit three and BAM, they are independant thinkers or something, which is totally unacceptable.

  • apostate

    2012/05/10 at 2:23 pm

    Shall I tell you how my dad would have handled that little scenario? First, get out the smelling salts because some of your readers are not going to like this. Okay. I’ll just give you a hint. It starts with “S” and rhymes with “wanker”. And while it’s not all that politically correct these days, it was usually pretty effective in getting his point across. It didn’t require a lengthy time out and was not soon forgotten. If memory serves, we didn’t shit with him very often.

  • shotsjr

    2012/05/10 at 2:23 pm

    i’m so terribly, horribly afraid of this. everything i’ve read about three-year-olds has left me in cold sweats, and my adorable, wonderful, perfect little man turned 2 just 2 months ago. i’m doing my very best to enjoy every single minute of the cuteness. even when he throws tantrums and acts like a total turd i try to revel in the fact that this is NOTHING, and hence i should use it as practice for the real show that’s coming. he’s so incredibly independent and energetic, too, i can’t image that this will be a good thing come 10 months from now. excuse me, but i need to stop wasting the precious snuggle time i have left…

  • JustRhi

    2012/05/10 at 2:24 pm

    OMG — Yup. That’s 3 alrighty.

    I just had a chill as I recalled my (now 14 yr old and wonderful) daughter at age 3….I was ready to sell her on ebay at least once a week. Oh and what made it so much better was her dear daddy was 8 hours away in Regina training to be an RCMP officer. Even when he got back, his ‘special secret police skills’ did NOT help with her stubbornness. He wouldn’t even let me borrow the handcuffs….

    OTBS, she is now a funny, creative, loving teenager who is great to be around. So, just keep chanting: “This too shall pass. .. this too shall pass.”


  • BookwormLD

    2012/05/10 at 2:28 pm

    Someone once said to me that a three-year-old is a two-year-old with experience. I think that sums it up nicely.

  • Sabine

    2012/05/10 at 2:37 pm

    Wow. Having never lived with a 3-year old myself, I read the first part of this thinking “Three is an awesome age! They are so much fun!” and read the last bit grateful, once again, that I skipped the whole ‘makin’ babies’ stage of life.

  • teamtradermom

    2012/05/10 at 2:38 pm

    It’s like you live with me or something…
    My daughter is 2 and a half…and every bit of it. The other night she was getting out of bed every other minute and at one point i came in and she was jumping on the bed. I yelled, “What did I tell you about getting out of bed?” She just looked at me and said, “I’m still in bed mommy” and kept jumping.

    Lord help us all…

  • CourtneySue

    2012/05/10 at 3:06 pm

    I guess I’m screwed because my 15 month old is already starting that crap. Are you telling me I have years to go?

    We used to joke that my youngest sister had the terrible twos, then the terrible threes, then the terrible fours. We didn’t think it would end.

  • tonya

    2012/05/10 at 3:15 pm

    When my youngest was three, she disappeared on me at our local outlet mall. Just, poof, she was not in the small store I was in. I called and called in vain, as if to make her reappear. Finally, I tore out the door and a woman who noticed my panic asked how she could help. She went one way, I went another. (It’s an outdoor mall.) I was absolutely hysterical, knowing she was gone forever. Within no time, the woman working in the store we’d been in came out yelling down the sidewalk for me, holding my daughter by the hand. She’d been up under a skirted display table the whole time. Sitting perfectly still and quiet in her little hideaway, not responding to my cries of her name. Little shit. Anyway, the store employee was very firm with her which was the best thing that could have ever happened. It scared her far more than anything I could have done. So, yeah. Have fun with that three year old. Heehee. Oh, I also have a nearly twelve year old girl. They’re super fun too. 🙂

  • AngstyJen

    2012/05/10 at 3:15 pm

    When my daughter was 3.5, I thought I was the worst parent in the world. She tested every boundary, every time, and I was exhausted. I asked some moms at church for their advice, and one of them said, “Oh, man, I hated my kids when they were three and a half!” I can’t tell you how much that helped me! My daughter is 5.5 now and full of awesome, except for when she isn’t.

  • butnothanks

    2012/05/10 at 3:19 pm

    I had a professor (a father of 6 himself) who used to refer to children under the age of 5 alternately as “retarded suicidal midgets” and “insane homicidal midgets.”

    Political correctness aside, he might have had a point.

  • ChickWhitt

    2012/05/10 at 3:41 pm

    Oh, this is when I use “the tone”. When “the tone” comes out, I swear every child that I have ever known has immediately stopped what they were doing and quivered in fear. Sarah has been pushed to the edge, you went too far, and you will stop, NOW. “the tone” usually involves canceling your birthday party, even if we are in the middle of it, removing every single toy you own, and leaving you with bread and mustard water to eat. And “the tone” always worked because they knew I would do it in a heart beat.

    “the tone” is a cold-hearted bitch!

  • TheRealBay

    2012/05/10 at 3:58 pm

    Marlo is clearly the 6-months-younger female version of my son.

    So glad to read in some comments here that we are not alone in thinking our 3.5 year old was sent from the devil!

  • Snaps

    2012/05/10 at 4:17 pm

    I have spent a lot of time in the last several years babysitting. While I understand that babysitting in no way compares to raising your own children, that doesn’t mean I didn’t see the devil within from time to time.

    A couple of years ago I was watching two girls, one just under 2 and the other was full on 3. I had fixed lunch for the youngest and was in the process of making a sandwich for the oldest. I cut the sandwich in half and presented it to her. (Mind you this is exactly how I had seen her mother do it.) She proceeded to have a full blown, teenage drama queen melt down because she wanted a “whole” sandwich, not a “half” sandwich, even though there were two halves sitting on her plate, side by side. It took every bit of my self control not to scream “IT’S THE SAME DAMN THING!!!” Thankfully (for me) her mother showed up halfway through said melt down and I got to leave. I am pretty sure I got called to babysit just so the mother could drive around town and sip a latte without hearing someone scream from time to time. I don’t blame her.

    Btw, I love how you post a beautiful picture of Marlo, so cute and cuddly that it makes my uterus hurt, and then follow up with a story that makes me thankful I took my birth control this morning. 🙂

  • Mom Gone Mad

    2012/05/10 at 4:36 pm

    Consider yourself lucky you got an extra year. It’s supposed to start at age two. Pretty soon you will start counting down when they go to college….

  • mommica

    2012/05/10 at 4:50 pm

    So get this: When my older daughter was satan (i.e., between the ages of two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half), I was PREGNANT with my younger daughter. Mmm hmm. I win.

  • Sabine

    2012/05/10 at 5:22 pm

    These stories frighten me. Is this the age where people start putting their kids on leashes?

  • commasplice

    2012/05/10 at 6:43 pm

    My nephew, at the age of three, composed a song with the following lyrics:

    “It’s daaangerous to have a goooood time!”

    He and Marlo would get along just fine.

  • tinacolada97

    2012/05/10 at 6:51 pm

    I’m totally ready to get flamed for saying this: When my son turned three, I started believing in spankings. Previously, I’d been all “I’ll never do that to my child”—then one day he ran out into the street without looking for cars. I yanked him back onto the sidewalk and smacked his butt because I NEEDED TO GET HIS ATTENTION RIGHT NOW. And honestly, I figure getting a spanking hurt a lot less than getting hit by a car!

  • rmaindc

    2012/05/10 at 6:53 pm

    ,,,i popped two pills today just in case!,,,

  • SMD

    2012/05/10 at 7:51 pm

    My son is a week older than Marlo and his recent favorite is to say “Stop that you idiots!” when I’m changing his diaper. I’m pretty sure he got that from either the Toy Story or Cars movies (he loves them all and quotes them sometimes), because idiots is not a word my husband or I use. Asshole, douchebag, yes (though not usually in front of the kids), but we don’t say idiot.
    Oh, and yes, he’s still comfortably in diapers and will probably be for ages since he doesn’t seem to mind sitting in a pile of shit for hours.
    He also loves telling people “I was a bad boy. Mommy took all my toys away. She just threw them in the garbage.” It’s only sort of true, but sounds really bad when he’s telling people in the neighborhood grocery store.
    Parenting is fun!

  • jessikins

    2012/05/10 at 8:21 pm

    OMG…You know why your post is so funny? Because it’s so damned true, that’s why. My youngest is now nearly 4 1/2 and I’m still struggling. She has had a significant speech delay so while I’m not getting a full range of verbal abuse out of her yet (oh, it’s coming), what I get plenty of is the Whine. I am so over the sound of whining I can’t even tell you. She wants some water? Whine about it. That pillow way over there on the other end of the couch that she must have? Yup, more whine. Refuse to keep her company in the bathroom while she pees? You guessed it. Whine fest. I would take extra super long nail extensions over the chalkboard over the incessant whining that goes on all day long. When does it end?

  • Ginsburg

    2012/05/10 at 8:33 pm

    When my twins were 3 I showed them “Hands on the car.” When I said it, they put both hands on the car and kept them there until I said “Hands off.” It was like a game. As a bonus, when they did it, they looked like they were being arrested. Some guy even asked me one day if I was training them for a life of crime.

    I remember the 3’s, they sucked. Now those twin boys are 18. 18 sucks more. Bigger vocabulary same bad attitude.

  • ladygray

    2012/05/10 at 8:51 pm

    uuuuuuugh. my son will be 3 in July. i can empathize. i can also share my booze.

  • big dog momma

    2012/05/10 at 8:52 pm

    Oh good god, the only thing worse than three year olds are four year olds. Willful, stubborn, knowitall spawns of satan! And then they turn five and are AWESOME! Give me a “terrible two” year old any day of the year over a three or four year old.

  • Jalima

    2012/05/10 at 9:26 pm

    Your daughter is very mature. My 14 year olds (twin girls) give me the same ‘tude on occasion 😉

  • johnmayersquare

    2012/05/10 at 10:15 pm

    Terrible twos were nothing compared to the thunderous threes! I LOATHED the third year of life of both my boys…the teen years are nothing to write home about either…unless it is to ask your parents to take them for a long period of time, LOL! Hang in there…

  • Bluecat33

    2012/05/10 at 10:40 pm

    This post caused me to feel both really, really glad my biological clock only ticked for a couple of years and then shut the hell up, and also, man, I’m seriously missing out by not being a mom. I’m not suited to having kids and I know that. I’m 45 now and I’m totally happy with the fact that I never had children. I’m quite sure I would have mucked that all up to high heaven. I do have a niece and nephew who are the lights of my life, and that works really well for me.

    What I definitely took note of, and had already noted, is that motherhood is NOT for sissies. My hat is off to each and every one of you. Man, it’s a tough job. And I so appreciate that there are women out there like all of you, and my wonderful mother, that choose to take on that responsibility year in and year out.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all of you — I’ll be hangin’ with my Mom laughing and having a great time. Good on ya, mates! I really appreciate my Mom and I hope that in time, and with the growing-up process and wisdom, your kids will feel about you the way I feel about my Mom – I would jump in front of a bullet to save her life or my father’s life in a heartbeat. I love them so much.

  • hopevalerie

    2012/05/11 at 12:49 am

    Can I block a website? I’m afraid that if my partner reads this she’ll never want kids. LMAO. Hang in there! Only a million more years to go!

  • The Bold Soul

    2012/05/11 at 1:04 am

    Let the contest of wills begin. I can’t believe she blah-blah-blah’d you already, AND got the context right. The problem here is that the age of reason is 7, and you’ve got 4 damn long years to survive, with her life and your sanity intact, with that adorable, snarky little monkey until she will really understand or even care about things like her own safety. And I’ll put my money on her not even giving a rat’s ass about a time-out, either.

    Has she also already rolled her eyes at you and said “MA-om!” in total disgust at your stupidity? Because you know that’s what’s next. Go with God, Heather. Or start drinking heavily. Or both. Raising this girl may be your biggest challenge yet.

  • deedeedragon

    2012/05/11 at 1:22 am

    Bon courage. My girls survived. At almost 3, the first one tried jumped in front of a moving city bus and the second one tried to commit hari kari in a pool behind our backs. It’s a scary time, parenting 2-3 year olds.

  • cmckinnon1

    2012/05/11 at 2:49 am

    Oh dear god noooo! This scares me sooo bad. I have twin 2.5 year olds and they are already somewhat evil with their antics without all the back talk, I can only imagine when that is thrown in the mix. My sister has a 3 year old that just turned 4 and she h as been trying to warn me that your sweet little toddler disappears and something really bad and behaviorly challenged takes it’s place!!!!!!! I don’t knw if I will survive it! Good save on the car though!

  • KellyLR

    2012/05/11 at 5:30 am

    oh yes, the terrible twos start at three. my daughter had a knack for throwing extreme screaming tantrums just as we or someone else was leaving…soo humiliating! threats of spanking, time outs and no movies until shes a grandma did nothing to stem the tide.. i am sure my friends left saying under their breath ‘we are NEVER going to play with THAT kid again…’ until i realized they were most likely breathing a sigh of relief that their child was not the only one with original sin!

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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