Like most parents, I've often looked lovingly at my 3-year-old son and wondered, "Is this fucking maniac going to grow up and strangle people for a living?" He has an older brother who's 5.5 and a younger brother who's 6 months old. Middle children often want things to be equal, and my 3-year-old wants us to all be equally unhappy.
When he's pretending to be a blizzard+tornado that sends Hot Wheels flying around a room, he fairly targets each member of the family. Dad, Mom, older brother, baby (that 6-month old's survival skills are going to be through the roof if he can overcome his PTSD).
Like many total wackos, though, it's hard to tell when he's going to lay on the charm or lay the smack down. He'll slowly approach my wife as she's feeding the baby, and that can either lead to: 1) him saying, "You're the best mom in the world," or 2) him throwing a set of wooden salad serving spoons at her.
Being carried to time-outs are a good opportunity for him to bite me. And time-outs themselves are a good opportunity for him to rest and plot his next move.
Last night, after we finally wrestled him into a bath and put on his lice-prevention shampoo (thanks, school), he ran outside naked to scream at his older brother "Stop!! Digging!! And!! Get!! In!! Side!!" before he found a pile of wet mud to jump up and down in.
More screaming as I wipe his feet off.
"I don't want my feet wiped off!!"
"You're bed will get dirty."
"I want a dirty bed!!!"
"Let's just say your decision-making skills leave a little to be desired, man."
More screaming for dessert. More screaming for stories. Then the marble-throwing briefly commences before I disarm him (the next person to give my toddlers marbles as a present is gonna get a kick in the dick). Into bed. Screaming for water. Throwing stuffed animals at his brother. Time out. Screaming through time-out about the marbles.
It's times like these that the more bizarre parenting strategies start entering into my head, paraphrasing Louis CK: "Yeah, of course it's wrong to Taze kids. Of course ... buuuuttttt ... what if it's just a little Taze to get them to sleep? They need sleep to operate well. And Tazing them is preferable to drugging them. I mean, they hafta swallow the drugs and he's not the best eater."
Along those lines, my wife and I were keeping all options on the table for ideas to keep him from playing in the middle of our road.
"Maybe we should hit him with the car," my wife suggested.
"I'm pretty we're not supposed to hit the kids with the car on purpose."
"Well, we wouldn't hit him hard."
"Oh, yeah. I guess that may be OK. Just scare him a little. Maybe a bruised femur and a life lesson."
Yale University's Dr Paul Bloom has studied this issue extensively and offered some calming words on This American Life recently: "Families survive the terrible twos because toddlers aren’t strong enough to kill with their hands and aren’t capable of using lethal weapons. A 2-year-old with the physical capacities of an adult would be terrifying."
Phew! Good thing we picked a pre-school that doesn't offer "Lethal Weapons Training."
Way before lethal weapons, we had to eliminate all markers from our house to save our walls, our cats, and our time in scrubbing the technicolor beards he temporarily colored on his face. I assumed he was practicing for being on the run from the law, forced to take on a new identity of 3-foot-tall man-of-mystery, with nothing but a shady background and purple facial hair.
Until he goes on the run, all we can do is observe, hope for the best, and keep that Tazer at the ready.