Today I thought it’d be nice to devote an entire post to everything I love about our daughter being three.
And now, with the time I have left, I’d like to ask what my daughter’s fascination is with this view:
To me, it’s just a corner. But to our daughter, it’s a sight that inspires song, finger tracing, and protest. Maybe to see the beauty in this I need to look at it through our 3-year old’s eyes. The same eyes that communicate to her brain that chocolate syrup is the perfect accent to our drapes.
When she was two, this corner symbolized the penal equivalent of being sentenced to death row. If condemned to the Corner of Doom she would wail in contrition and collapse at the feet of the parental judge begging for mercy. The parental bailiff would then be forced to drag her the entire length of the Green Mile to serve out her sentence.
If the offense was merely a felony, like confirming that our cat could float, she was instead relegated to the timeout step. A punishment that still elicited tears and bubbling snot, but didn’t deliver quite the same emotional trauma.
Before you start yappin’ about the Terrible Twos, I can say with 100% certainty that the Terrible Twos are a total myth. A myth spoken by parents of 2-year olds whose worst calamity is a spilled bowl of Cheerios. Every parent who claims they are in the throes of the Terrible Twos takes it all back when their child hits the Tyrannosaurus Threes.
Back when Kamryn was two, way before she completely shredded every last fiber of patience remaining in my soul, we only had to deal with her testing her limits. Now, at three, we have to deal with her testing our limits.
The punishments that once dissuaded her from drawing on walls, throwing remotes, and folding our pets into suitcases are no longer effective. Confinement changes a person, and as a hardened repeat offender, Kamryn is no longer concerned with discipline and no longer respectful of authority.
Something happens when a little girl turns three. The moment the last of her three birthday candles is extinguished, she instantly morphs into one giant moody hormone. A hormone that parents are saddled with until someone comes along and marries it.
Kamryn does have her moments of sweetness but I’m seasoned enough to know that every hug, every kiss, and every cuddle is all part of her “time off for good behavior” charade. When she’s not causing household mayhem (i.e. when she’s asleep) my wife and I fawn over her. All while her cuteness is hard at work lulling us into a false sense of security.
We need to remind ourselves that the same girl who looks so sweet and innocent in her Dora jammies will soon be confronted by the primal urge to lodge blocks in her brothers’ skulls. It’s a battle she will lose. A 3-year old is no match for compulsion.
As we stand and repeatedly shout “No!”; “Don’t you dare!”; and “If you do that you’re going right to the corner!”, her brain becomes locked in conflict. The cog responsible for chucking the block will seize and hold it in mid-throw as it awaits further instructions. It’s at this time that the brain is busy comparing the potential joy of the crime with the potential severity of the punishment.
This is the same reflexive phenomenon that parents witness when their child holds a finger a few millimeters away from something he or she isn’t allowed to touch. The pulleys and gears responsible for movement inch the finger closer and closer until you say, “Stop!”
With your admonishment, the cogs grind to a halt until the brain orders them to resume the approach. The finger will then make yet another reflexive movement forward until you shout “Don’t you do it!”, at which time all the cogs will again seize. The child will then stare at you, rather through you, trying desperately to communicate that the impending offense isn’t their fault, but rather the fault of a power stronger than themselves. It’s at this time that the finger makes contact.
This is the same impulsive synapse that resulted in a block careening off Michael’s forehead. Once placed in the Corner of Imagination, she’ll sit there and sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star or trace her fingers on our walls as though she’s drawing. If we tell her to stop, she turns to us and says with all sincerity, “Thhhbbbbbbtt!”
Other times she’ll perform what I call the “Cross, Turn, and Snoot” maneuver. Staring straight into my or my wife’s eyes she’ll cross her arms, turn her back to us, and with a “Humph!,” raise her nose to the ceiling. This drives Heather absolutely crazy. If it weren’t for a few laws forbidding it, Kamryn would probably be listed on Craigslist.
If we kept adding time to her sentence for all of her corner antics, she’d be sitting there until the following Tuesday. If she isn’t singing, drawing, sticking her tongue out, or acting French, then she’s screaming and yelling in protest of our parental laws.
“I don’t LIKE you!”
“Leave me ALONE!”
“I’m going to my ROOM!”
The threat of more timeout accomplished nothing. We were lost and void of ideas. Until yesterday morning. After a screaming match over us not allowing her to have an Ice Pop for breakfast she was marched to the timeout corner. There she stood laughing. LAUGHING! Then she broke out into song before turning around the second I reminded her that she’s not allowed to turn around.
It was then that I said, “Fine, if you can’t behave then your toys will go to timeout.” I picked up her etch pad and set it atop our book case. It was like a Corner of Doom revival. She flipped out and apologized profusely through dripping tears for all of her malfeasance. I’m no sadist. It’s not like I seek out tears to feel satisfied. But I do like to make sure that corrective messages are delivered. Any punishment that results in laughter, song, and defiance can’t be all that effective.
With the discovery of the effects of toy banishment it looks as though we finally found something that works. While she cares little about her own fate, she is absolutely hating watching her toys take the fall for her behavior.
So far, it’s working like a charm and we’ve noted some improvement. I’m just not sure what we’re going to do once all of her possessions are on top of our book case. But, considering her timeout pace, I shouldn’t have to worry about that until Wednesday.