My 2-year-old is a force to be reckoned with. He is our third boy and surprising in every way. Bright and funny like my oldest, sweet and sassy like my middle and a lot of other things unique only to him — sociable, snuggly, ferociously happy and almost completely fearless. But here’s the problem: He holds some seriouslymisguided beliefs about how life works.
Why? Well, these misconceptions — aka pretty terrible little lies — almost exclusively stem from the fact that he’s a third-born child. The world is a different place for him than it was for either of my older kids. Let older siblings everywhere take note: These are the imaginary “rules” the youngest of the family is living by. Let’s all hope all those family babies — especially my son — learn just how untrue these “rules” actually are in the real world. If they don’t, we’re all in trouble.
1. Nothing will ever belong to him
There is no such thing as “mine” when you’re a third child. You’re at the bottom of the pecking order. My son has accepted that at this point in his life, nothing is truly his; whatever he is holding might be snatched away at any time. At least the upside is he has learned not to get attached to things. Someone stole his blue car? Whatever. There’s a red one over there he can use.
2. “Brand-new” doesn’t exist
If my son is wearing a new item of clothing, it’s because a family member gave it to him for his birthday. Otherwise, it’s all hand-me-downs all the time. There’s literally an entire wardrobe of items in our basement fitting every size and season. At this point, my youngest probably just assumes that alljeans come frayed at the knees — and all “new” shoes have scuff marks on them.
3. Buildings are made to be knocked down
My older kids know that structures made of pretty much anything should only be built behind locked doors if their baby brother is home. My youngest son sees any towering construction — be it made from magnet tiles or wooden blocks — as nothing more than an invitation to Godzilla that thing to pieces. Put Lego people inside the Empire State Building? Create the world’s tallest station for miniature Thomas trains? Why would anyone do that when they could simply knock the tower to the ground in spectacular fashion?
4. The most reliable method of getting attention is to take your diaper off
Let’s hope he outgrows this one for the world’s sake. So, I try to pay equal attention to all three of my kids (really). But there are inevitably times when my youngest is looking for someone to read him a book or make him a racetrack, like you do, and everyone is busy with other things. He has learned the quickest and easiest way to catch Mommy’s or Daddy’s eye is to do something that has potentially disastrous consequences. For a 2-year-old, this is as basic as removing a full diaper. Or removing a clean diaper and peeing or pooping on the carpet instead. Either way, he knows we’ll drop whatever we are doing to intervene. And there you have it! He wins every time.
5. Everything is broken or missing a piece
Want to play Mousetrap? Too bad; we’re missing the bathtub. Want to put together that floor puzzle of the solar system? Good luck finding the top half of Jupiter. I wonder if my son thinks these items are sold with pieces and parts deliberatelymissing or if he already recognizes that our house is a black hole that sucks up anything not contained within its original cardboard box.
6. Pushing, smacking & eye-poking are the best ways to resolve conflict
When you grow up with two brothers, it becomes immediately clear you have been dropped into a “survival of the fittest” kind of situation, and you are going to have to punch and scratch and claw your way to the top. But my “baby,” who is in the 90th percentile for height and weight, can not only hold his own in a brotherly brawl; he often comes out on top. He has elbows and knees, after all, and he’s not afraid to use them.
7. If you put something down for a second, it’s fair game
This one especially applies to toys, graham crackers, Goldfish, Cheerios, hot dogs, potato chips and lollipops.
8. Whatever it is, it’s someone else’s fault
As the baby of the family, my son gets the benefit of the doubt more often than the older kids do. My husband and I try not to give him too much preferential treatment, and if he’s clearly to blame for a squabble, we act on it. But at the end of the day, I’ll admit my youngest probably gets away with the most. “He’s too little to understand” is a common mantra around our house. And it’s mostly true. He’s only 2, so sometimes he doesn’t even realize he’s misbehaving. Sometimes.
I’m confident that eventually, my son will figure out the world doesn’t work at all the way he thinks it does — or at least, he’d better figure it out. Until then, you can find him destroying that city block of Legos, ripping off dirty diapers with abandon and elbow-clearing a path through his big brothers to get to the dinner table first. And he’s doing it all in secondhand shoes.