Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Age of Precarious

"And I will warn you now that not their blood but your suspicion might build evil in them. They will be what you expect of them." -John Steinbeck

The terrible twos have one hell of a public relations machine. That's all you really hear about. Even before you have children. Well, we're living through the terrible twos. It's a daily grind with its ups and downs. But overall, not so terrible. 


We are being told of a another, lesser-known, seldom mentioned phenomenon approaching. I'd never heard of it before. It's called the "trying threes."

The name itself is pretty lame. You can see why the "terrible twos" get all of the publicity: great name, great anticipation involved (albeit nervous anticipation), great drama. 

The "trying threes." Sounds made up, right? I thought so too.

Now I know... the terrible twos are apparently just a warm up.

At a moment's notice, she can go from happy, smiling, singing, to throwing herself on the floor and screaming and crying because she doesn't want to take off her jacket. As a result, the priest is now on speed dial.

But I'm renaming the "trying threes." This, my friends, is the dawning of the "age of precarious." God only knows which age - if ever - it will end.

At times like this it's best to call an audible. Like in football, when you know the play you called isn't going to work against the defensive formation. That split-second decision can win or lose the game.

There we were one October Saturday, like so many other families, picking pumpkins at a local farm. Everyone wants that magical, adorable, memorable snapshot. The child holding the pumpkin. The child walking amongst the pumpkins. The child frolicking amidst the pumpkins.

We got none of that at first.
Our daughter could not have been less enthused. She could not have been less cooperative.

You could almost sense that she understood perfectly well that this was going to be a walking activity. Yet, she insisted on being carried... and only by my wife. My wife, who is starting to complain loudly and not all too indiscreetly that her "back is hurting" because our daughter is "getting heavy" and that she "can't carry you around as much anymore."

She was whining, crying, complaining. My daughter was, not my wife. 

So we put her down in the pumpkins, let her cry, and we huddled up to decide how we should proceed. Do we stick to our parenting plan, and make this excursion miserable for all of us, or do we want to have fun with our daughter in the pumpkin patch?

We called an audible.

We made her stop crying first. And in exchange for her peaceful compliance, we picked her up. Rather, my wife picked her up. She was fine after that, and so were we. The remainder of the expedition was enjoyable. Laughter ensued. Smiles surfaced. Memories - happy ones - were captured.

There is no rule book, no playbook. There are just reams of blank paper awaiting the chapters of her life.

You never know what defense she is going to throw at you. The schemes, the blitzes, the coverages. She's a mad scientist. You just have to be prepared to change your strategy when your plan isn't working. Line up in the shotgun. Run a reverse. Fake a punt. Sticking to your guns and digging in your heels is just plain stubborn and childish. It's a recipe for disaster. You will lose. Your child will lose. The people around you will lose. Misery will ensue.

So expect the best, but prepare for the worst. And if she gives you her worst, change the play. Make chicken salad out of it. For your sanity. For hers. For everyone else around you. What other choice to you have?

It's a new age. The age of precarious. Time to be flexible enough to come up with a new approach in the blink of an eye. 


  1. bonus points for the steinbeck quote. well done.

  2. Precarious has just begun. The moments that are planned are always interrupted with a burp or twelve.

  3. Just when I thought I should stop wishing my baby would stop growing I read this post... sounds terrifying!

    For Love of Cupcakes


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