6 Pointless Things I Say to My 3-Year-Old

Trying to reason with a 3-year-old is roughly the equivalent of simultaneously having a root canal while repeatedly banging one’s head against the wall.

Me: “It’s time to get dressed.”

3yo: “Nooo! I don’t want to get dressed. Right now!”

Me: “But you have to get dressed so you can play outside.”

3yo: “I don’t want to play outside!”

Me: “Okay, that’s fine then.”

3yo: “I want to play outside, now!”

Me: “Okay, let’s get dressed.”

3yo: “I can’t!”

And repeat, ad infinitum. For 12 hours. Please give me the number for the nearest head banging root canal procedure location, right now!

And yet, though I clearly understand on an intellectual level that reasoning with a 3-year-old gets me nowhere, that doesn’t mean I don’t keep doing it. Every day. Multiple times. And even worse, I find myself saying the same pointless things over and over, somehow believing that this time I will finally break through. Who is the unreasonable one now?

1. Do you want to eat ______?

Fill in the blank with anything other than M&Ms, yogurt, or mac and cheese and the answer is no. And even if one of those options is on the table, the answer is probably still no. Particularly if the M&Ms aren’t blue or red or stacked neatly in a pyramid in a bowl that’s not too big or too small; or the yogurt container has been opened or not opened or the virginal top layer has been sullied by spoon indentations; or the mac and cheese is yellow or white or not served at room temperature. Sigh, let’s move on, this is already stressing me out.

2. Are you ready to______?

Fill in the blank with take a bath, get out of the bath, go to the park, go home from the park, get dressed, get undressed, or go swimming in a river of chocolate while unicorns fly overhead setting off fireworks. Let me stop you there. The answer is no. The answer is always no. Which leads to the next logical question…

3. When will you be ready?

And by logical question, of course, I mean completely pointless question. Have you really not figured this out yet, genius, 3-year-olds have no concept of time. The answer will always be “5 minutes” or “hours.” And frankly, either answer is equally valid. Quick aside: By now, I’m sure many of you are saying, “Clearly your problem is you ask too many questions. Just tell him what to do, don’t ask.” And while I don’t dismiss that option entirely, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to this week’s edition of Good Luck With That.

4. Any “If…then” statement

If…then is the ultimate fool’s gold. It seems perfectly logical, who doesn’t respond to a good if you do this, then you get that scenario. Oh right, 3-year-olds. For example, if I say, “If you take your medicine, then you can have a treat,” literally the only word my 3-year-old hears is “treat.” So now the situation is two times worse. Not only will the medicine not be taken (at least not willingly), if I don’t turn over the promised treat there will be a second, apocalyptic meltdown that makes the original meltdown seem like a tea party.

5. It’s not a big deal

Actually Dad, yes it is a big deal. When you’re three, everything is a big deal. Whoever coined the saying, don’t cry over spilled milk, clearly never met a 3-year-old. Not only will they cry over spilled milk, they will also cry over misarranged pillows, misaligned silverware, and misplaced puzzle pieces, among other things. If nothing else, you do have to admire their emotional honesty.

6. Why won’t you ever do anything I want to do?

It’s the end of another long day, I’m tired and frustrated, and this is where we end up. This one definitely scores highest on the pathetic meter. And yes, I have actually said this out loud. It’s not something I’m proud of, but at least I’m emotionally honest enough to own it. Hey, maybe I am finally learning something.