Like any new experience, parenting is adding new words to my vocabulary. Take “threenager”, for example. Up until two months ago, I didn’t know someone had coined this portmanteau, and that it was actually in common use in parenting blogs.

The revelation started with an observation about my daughter D–‘s current developmental stage. D– has always been quite expressive and her vocabulary pickup has been fast. Owing to this, her “terrible twos” were mitigated somewhat, because she didn’t have to suffer from the frustration of the inability to communicate.

But I saw that she was becoming more and more headstrong, insisting on doing things on her own, with that smug self-confident air that says, “I know what I’m doing.” Like wearing mismatched shoes on purpose, for example. And the sass. And, of course, the attendant tantrums when she didn’t get her way.

“Terrible twos?” I remarked to my wife. “Though it seems to be coming a little late.” “You know what comes after ‘terrible twos’?” she replied. “The threenage years.” So I looked it up, and it was apparently a thing. “A toddler who displays the moodiness and the attitude of a teenager.”[1] Perfect.

My cursory research tells me that ‘threenager’ first appeared in 2008, but in a different context: “Someone in his thirties acting like a teenager and rejecting the responsibilities of adulthood.”[2] In 2015, that turned into: “Three year old child spouting attitude like a spoiled teenage.”[3]

The earliest article from a major news outlet I could find was The Washington Post’s “Navigating the Choppy Waters of Life with a Threenager” [4] “Children begin to show signs of independence between 18 and 24 months…They are saying, ‘I am my own person,’ in a big way…. They are saying: ‘I have ideas and I want to carry them out and I want to carry them out verbally.'”

Fortunately in this enlightened age of the Internet, we can turn to blogs and videos for validation and support. Despite the myriad articles, they generally point to managing emotions and providing support and acceptance as a way of navigating the threenage years.

And I can see that in our dealings with D–, everything is new, with feelings she cannot adequately label balancing against burgeoning independence. Really, like a teenager. And I love it, because it’s so funny.

And the kicker: I get to manage this again in ten years’ time.

[3] Ibid.