Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Third Child Syndrome

After a hefty dose of Merrick, one of Stryker's friends told his mother this: "Merrick has a bad case of Third Child Syndrome."

The mother, being a woman and all, laughed and said "look who's talking" to him, as he was a third child himself.

But perhaps it takes one to know one?

Last night, the Matron was pondering why she was not looking forward to her upcoming whirlwind trip to visit her sister four hours away, in Marshall Minnesota. Could it be:

A) Marshall is 4 hours away.
B) The Matron is flying solo as John has to work.
C) Because of other commitments, the Matron is starting this 4 hour drive (alone) at 3:30 pm, arriving at the convenient hour of near bedtime.
D) The Matron is flying solo as John has to work.
E) After a single full day, the Matron will haul those children and all their junk back in the van to make that 4 hour drive again. Alone.

We all know how she feels about Transportation, generally.

Now, nearly everything about this adventure is perfect! Her generous sister put the penny on the hotel room! Her brother and nephews are flying in from New Jersey! All the cousins will be together. Lots to look forward to!

There is, of course, the thing about the Matronly practice of morphing into a toddler with a meth habit when around her mother, but that's another blog post. And not the problem (well, okay, not this problem).

The thing that has the Matron worried about the whirlwind trip is the Third Child Syndrome. Or, the child currently in its evil clutches: Merrick.

Surely, you've experienced this malady, but just in case you're uncertain, here's the official American Medical Association definition:

Third Child Syndrome: A chronic condition with psychological and physical manifestations. Afflicts only children who are third and youngest in their family. Physical presentations include whining, screaming, crying, dropping to the floor, flailing and in the most severe cases, hitting older siblings. Psychological presentations include the inability to process the word 'no' and the insistence that the third child get his or her own way at all times. While time may camouflage the symptoms, Third Child Syndrome will produce mean-spirited and selfish children who grow into similarly suited teenagers and even adults, should these symptoms remain unchecked. The only certain cure is firm parental hand and devotion to limits, consequences and the word No.

Last night, the Matron and her husband had a serious conversation, in which they acknowledged that Merrick was fighting a life and death battle against Third Child Syndrome. The Matron told her husband that the real reason she was unhappy about the trip was that not only would all the fun tasks surrounding Third Child Syndrome fall entirely into her shaking hands--things like saying "no ice cream till after dinner" fifty million times without one dent in the whine machine or ignoring 'butt-head' and the sly sibling arm punch because if she tended to those problems she would be doing NOTHING else -- but her whole family would be there to witness her utter failure in this department.

Did you just read this line? The one penned by the Matron?

"or ignoring 'butt-head' and the sly sibling arm punch because if she tended to these problems she would be doing NOTHING else"

So that's exactly what they committed to doing, last night. Tending. Time-outs, zero tolerance. Even if it meant forgoing the walk after dinner, letting the laundry pile and dishes stand.

Conveniently, Merrick had not one but two friends over today, setting up that time-tested triangle. Worse, one was a year older and a girl, setting her up to be the odd one out. And Merrick wanted her to do exactly what he desired, which was to leave him alone to play with the boy.

If you leave a child in the Matron's care, know this! It is her job to be that child's ally and protector! So she was, for hours, veering in to mediate conflicts, sending Merrick to his room, immediately Tending to every manifestation of the Third Child Syndrome. She did nearly nothing else. Should she even dare to pick up a gardening tool or attempt to cut an apple, Merrick would select that precise moment to reassert his dominion.

How bad was it? She eventually sent Merrick and the boy to the boy's house in order to give the poor females in the house (the child and the Matron) a break.

She has one more day of behavior modification and retraining before that child hits the road to spend time with Grandma Mary.

Should you be the praying sort, or a person with magical powers or mystical inclinations, please feel free to deploy your juju upon the Matron! If nothing else, wish her luck. Or recommend a cocktail?


Anonymous said...

I'm the third and youngest, and I was the angel child. And that's actually been my experience with other Youngests as well. In fact, the only problems I experienced were fallout from my brother's Oldest Child and Only Boy syndrome and my sister's especially terrible Middle Child Syndrome. They were so terrible and acted out so much that I was basically ignored throughout my childhood. That's what I thought you were going to say Third Child Syndrome was, being ignored, LOL.

Anonymous said...

I have no wisdom for you with regards to multiple children, as I have one and only. However, I have used "want some cheese with that whine?" and "I hear a whaaaaambulance" with some effectiveness around here when the Teen/Child starts with me. Be strong Matron.

smalltownme said...

I have no magic mojo juju, since I stopped with 2 children (out of fear of this very syndrome!). However, Oprah's pomegranate martinis work wonders on a mom's frazzled nerves.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We have the even more dreaded "fourth child syndrome" here. Your proposed strategy is. the. only. thing. that. stands. a. chance.

Untreated, this disease progresses exactly as you have indicated.

Stay strong.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

The Matron? She has what it takes to shine in this situation, already inside her. The Matron? She prays for courage and ability. Me? I will pray for the Matron to have clarity, so that she will know that the courage and ability she needs is already on tap.

Anonymous said...

I only (!) have two kids, so can't speak to third child syndrome. However, I can heartily recommend the Rosemary Haze martini at BANK in Minneapolis. Yum. Hic.

Heather said...

Huh. Didn't know about that syndrome. Here I was all worried about the middle child. Gah!

Angie said...

Ha! You are in my prayers, I wish you luck and I suggest Gin & Tonics. Besides that, I also have a child with this syndrome, so I am sympathizing with you too. It seems I also have a mother from hell, just like you, so again, sympathy.

Why is the thought of dealing with our child's issues so much more difficult when we know all family eyes will be watching? Are we afraid they will think we are failures? Will they judge us? Will they talk about us? Will we have to listen to our mother tell us everything we are doing wrong? She is the expert, after all, right?

I'm telling you, I've had all these feelings with the same scenario.

Take a deep breath, don't be too hard on Merrick, but stick to your guns, just don't let it ruin your time. Let's face it. All the questions above will be made so much worse by your tension around the behavior and if Merrick is anything like my Brenna, he will react negatively to your tension.

You are a great mom, no matter what anyone thinks. Go with your gut and screw everyone else.

Have fun! Can't wait to hear the details.

Mrs. G. said...

May the force be with you. I am waving my son't light saber at you. I remembering biting that old parental bullet.

JCK said...

I always recommend whiskey. Hang in. You will survive.

Anonymous said...

FOUR HOURS - sorry to shout, but... I will repeat - FOUR WHOLE HOURS....a torture so vile, that military organisations across the globe should patent 'Children in the back of a car' as a WMD!

...Darling, you need a VERY strong cocktail!


Mary Alice said...

Four hours ain't so bad....try across the country moving with three kids and two dogs. If I can do it without being'll be just fine. I recommend a funny book on tape and Starbucks in the cup holder.

Anonymous said...

Hello again were kind enough to comment on my blogs, and I went to email a response, but lo and behold, the email address is no longer working...just an FYI. The Inverhills address bounces.

Unknown said...

Oh Matron! As the third of four girls I must let you know that it is not the birth order that produces said syndrome. I myself was an angel sent from Heaven even before the my insane fourth and youngest sister was born. She who is 38 years old and still screams and stomps her feet when we don't pay enough attention to her. Let her be a cautionary example.

Hang in there! Disaster awaits for parents like mine who simply threw up their hands and said "I've done my duty, now I just can't hear you. LaLaLaLa." If only someone had rescued me from the sly arm punches in the back seat...

She She said...

Third Child Syndrome?

Oh my god, is this what I have to look forward to?

Vallen said...

Does this ever affect second children f they are the youngest? Because I'm pretty sure it's what my daughter had. She was a trial throughout but has turned into a fantastic adult. If that helps any. Probably not, huh? Just remember that good foundations make sturdy houses. Keep saying that over and over. And use trickery. It's the only way while you're still smarter than they are.

Ann said...

Sending juju. You shall prevail.

Drink lots of wine.

Swistle said...

We have an unusual medical situation in our family, which is that our second child has contracted Third Child Syndrome. His doctor said he'd never seen a case quite like it in someone neither third-born nor youngest. He's planning to submit a paper on it to a medical journal.

Christa said...

I have three words for you.

Book. On. Tape.

Especially for my youngest, its like someone is still paying attention to him while I drive. Pick a good long one like Harry Potter or something.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

are you serious? im a third and youngest child and third child syndrome is most assuredly not getting all you a child i was ignored,bullied, and beat up on a daily basis by my older sisters.never was i given what i wanted and to the day i got my own job and a way of gaining my own money was i given hand-me-downs.if you spoil the youngest child them, yes, they will throw tantrums and not take no as an answer,but most likely, the youngest child goes along with whatever else is happening, not complaining or even making a problem.try being a better parent perhaps?ya,thats definatly what you should do.fucking bitch