The Xanax Threes

I suspect the “The Terrible Twos” is a lie propagated by the pharmaceutical and booze industries to sell us their products. They set us up to believe that if we can just muster up enough patience to weather the second year of our child’s life, that the rest will be hugs and harmony. So as our kid’s third birthday approaches, we relax and look back with pride upon how we survived the previous two years without any lengthy hospital stays or restraining orders, and fantasize about our new future with a child who can ride in the car for more than 8 minutes and eat a meal without throwing ranch dressing. But as soon as that third birthday party is over, a new, more energetic, more resolute, and opinionated beast appears. The two-year old has shed his skin, and exposed the dirty little lie that the past year has only been practice for enduring a more formidable foe: The Xanax Threes.

Our adorable beast has been three for less than a month, but it’s already clear that we’re facing a new species of trouble. He’s still the same charming, demanding, edible-cheeked cherub that he was before November 17th, only now, he spends roughly 30 minutes a day (broken out into half a dozen five-minute chunks) in a completely inconsolable state for apparently almost no reason at all. We’ve already plowed through the theories, methods, options, and constipation meds, so we’re down to the Hail Mary of parenting: threatening to send him to his room if he doesn’t calm down. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s better than going into the panic room and singing lullabies until he’s done.

What’s different about his flip-outs now, is that he inexplicably continues them even after we’ve given him what he wants. “I gave you THE WHOLE BOX of Band Aids, now stop yelling!” should result in a cease-fire, but instead, he continues to stand there and scream “I want Band Aids” while he’s holding an entire box of Band Aids. Just to prove a point, I’m tempted to fill my mouth with cake and complain about how hungry I am. “I need more food in my mouth! Yes, the one that’s already filled with cake!” Asking him calmly if there’s something else he wants, or if there’s another, perhaps more emotional, reason he’s upset, only makes him angrier. If one of us tries to escape, he chases us. Clearly, we’re being punished and it’s important to him that we remain present until that punishment is complete. “Fine, you gave me ALL the Band Aids, but that doesn’t make up for all the time before then when you were telling me I could only have one. Not only were you kind of lying, but now I also find you weak. Frankly, I’m appalled. For that, you must listen to THIS.”

Before we know it, we’re all yelling at each other because we all have various questions, needs and desires, and it’s important to us that we’re heard.



Our poor little 5 year-old just yells right along with us,


We’ve had a three-year old before, but appear to have gleaned no lasting knowledge of how to handle one. Clearly, our little guy’s brain is going through a growth spurt of some kind. The recent changes in his sleeping patterns and jump in verbal abilities are ample evidence of that. For some reason though, he still can’t bring himself to say, “The precise reason that I’m crying is because my nose is experiencing a dreadful itch which I can’t seem to muster the energy or will to scratch. Instead of simply telling you that, I have hitherto said I wanted Band Aids — admittedly, a ridiculous, and ineffective manner in which to alert you of an itch. If you would be so kind as to scratch my nose for me, I assure you that I will curtail these histrionics at once.”

Do I want a child who talks like a character on Downton Abbey? Yes, maybe I do. I guess for now though, our plan is to get sound-proof windows, or tell everyone we adopted a dog.

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j says:

why don’t you just refuse to meet the demands of this charming and very manipulative a creature? What it is exactly you are afraid of? Neighbors? Super–Ego? Your little three year old charm going too mad?

Lauren F says:

Oh wow…. I asked about this on Facebook once a while ago, wondering why on earth the screams continue/get worse when we have agreed to what he wants and are in the process of getting it. Only got answers along the lines of “Because he’s a man lol” which was not particularly helpful! Glad to know that at least we’re not the only parents who have experienced this. I’d still like to know why, though….

Jeff says:

So it’s not just my three-year old? I thought she was possessed or was simply doomed to be referred to as “Satan’s Little Helper” for the rest of her mortal life. Maybe there is hope after all.

Megan says:

I’ve just read your post after googling for help on my three year old (this week he has turned into a psycho!) and it (along with all the comments below) has given me great comfort knowing he is quite normal.  Now just to find a way to get through it….

Linda says:

Threes are so much worse than twos.  I call it “the year of the whiner”.  Happened with all three of my kids.

Gina says:

The terrible two’s don’t start in boys until three. They are a little behind… My poor parents had a 3 year old boy and a 14 year old girl (me) at the same time. I don’t know how they made it!

Cori Ove says:

Your blogs are cracking me up today, thank you! I too have a 3 year old, and my god she drives me batty sometimes. All the screaming and freaking out for no reason! Ahh!

Meaghan G says:

I love this. Thank you!!! Shared your goodness on my blog :)

Yee says:

Your blog is not only hysterical but therapeutic. My only child was 3 on 10/7, and I swear you could be writing about her. THANK YOU for allowing us to share in your despair, as we are all feeling it as well at times.

My second born has been 3 since the beginning of Sept and I can attest to this. At times I hear sweet little old ladies tell me how much I’ll miss all of this some day. I can picture missing the fact that they were little and wondering where the time went, but I can NOT imagine missing the general “three-ness”.

Jana R. Russ says:

They lie. They don’t miss it. And they are secretly gloating that they can give the grandkids back when they are tired of the screaming 3 yr old. I know. I’m one of them. ;)

Jacki says:

Yes. Three was insane. Three was two on crack. I about lost my mind. Four is … slightly more rational, but more articulately attitude-y.

kristydevi says:

Thank you for writing this because — oh god! It’s not just me! I swear, I was questioning my sanity. My daughter, at 3 and 1/2, has become a 1940′s film noire starlet. So . . . when does it end?

rachelp says:

Wow this is amazing. My boy is 3 as of 12/9 and I completely agree with your theory. Today he cried in his bed after his nap…did not want to get out of his bed yet did not want to stay in it. I sometimes blame Caillou.

hallie says:

This whole blog is just solid gold.

spoko says:

Oh for crying out loud. Is this what you do? Run around the internet diagnosing other people’s kids based on their humor-laden blog posts? Well done.