But the worst, I think, anyway, is the fights.
A 3-year-old, at least in my experience, is pretty much on the verge of a screaming tantrum anyway. They are the aftershock of an earthquake. They are an eggshell with a crack. They are the next Windows operating system. Any slight fault and there's a crash.
Like, you know, when you want something and your sister (or, occasionally, your brother) has it. This is because:
1. The toy is some crappy little thing he/she got in a McDonald's Happy Meal and therefore it is the most awesome thing ever created. Even better than the Hope Diamond. Who doesn't want the Hope Diamond or the toy equivalent to that?
2. He/She grabbed it from you. You find this very upsetting, like someone just killed that new puppy you got for Christmas.
3. You were playing with it, but then you got distracted, like from those drug-induced hazes on Yo Gabba Gabba, and so you dropped the toy. When someone else picked it up, it was like he/she just broke a treaty and you recommended immediate nuclear retaliation.
Fights, which, as I've hinted, are usually over crap like that, getting to sit with Mom (leaving Dad with the unhappy leftovers, but that's another blog post) or, very occasionally, either what to watch on TV or not being quiet enough to pass the hearing test of a Bordie Collie when a favorite TV program is on.
Fights result in screaming, more screaming, incredibly loud screaming, then considerable effort on our part to break it up, so they don't kill each other, even when you secretly wish they would just get it over with so you could go back to a time when your house was actually quiet. In the past, our efforts meant yelling at one kid to stop it, then the other kid to stop it, then putting one kid who hit the other kid in time out, then more screaming because said kid is now in time out (which is not the peaceful Alice in Wonderland that SuperNannyQueen or whatever the fuck her name is would have you believe), then stomping and grinding the thing they were fighting over into a very fine dust that could be sold as a stimulant (actually I'm making that last one up, that's more of a fantasy of mine).
It's probably no coincidence, then, that in the last few years, as I've been thrown deeper into the parenting well, that I've grown more and more cynical about politics.
Quite frankly, after being around my toddlers for these last few years, I'm finding it harder and harder to tell the difference.
I would love to say that the Tea Partiers and the right-wingers and all these angry conservatives are responsible for this. I do think to a degree that's true. But it's everyone, and I can say that with confidence because the Tea Party used our anger to its utmost advantage in these last elections and nearly swept every cowering Democrat away. So without all that smoke pouring from our ears because the economy didn't improve the instant Obama and his Democrats took office, well, stirring us up doesn't really work.
But I have to tell you, I really wonder if it's gone too far. You know what I'm referring to now. Jared Loughner found it fit to open fire on a crowd, killing six and injuring 14, because Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was in the middle of it.
I wasn't sure what to think of the shooting. I don't really completely buy the sheriff's argument that the political crap, and that's really what it all is, let's be honest, caused the shooting. I tend to think that "disturbed" people like Loughner, as he's been described in the no-shit statement of the year, will eventually shoot a bunch of people because they're disturbed, not because they listen to talk radio. Millions of kids were bullied, including me, before we had Columbine. If this happened in a post office, we'd be talking with very serious faces about how the postal service stamp increase may cause people to go nuts, and then, when there was enough distance, stand-up comedians would have a field day with the word "postal."
But believe me it did make me wonder.
Perhaps that's because I'm in the media myself, and we media love to think after big events like this and then write (or the opposite), and if you think I'm any different, I (along with the copy desk chief) decided to run a piece just like that on Page 1 today of the Greeley Tribune.
But perhaps that's also because I'm a political cynic, and I'm really trying hard not to be. I don't want to be that way as an adult because I don't want to be that way as a parent.
It's hard for me, after all these years, to combat the burnout that I feel from all these squabbles. Things are to the point now where they (my kids, not the politicians) are super cute and affectionate and love their Daddy, God Bless their tiny souls, and I don't want the fact that they scream in the highest pitches over plastic shit made in China to take away from that.
Strangely enough, we've gotten better at managing these fights, and that's because we - er, mostly I, as Kate knew this from the start - that managing the chaos means compromise and not yelling at them to knock it the hell off.
I know. It sounds like a lecture now, doesn't it? A letter from Dear Abby. A lesson at the end of "Blues Clues." Yeah. I know. We've heard it many times.
But are we listening? I'm not sure. I would say no. We seem to have gotten to the point where we enjoy the yelling more than the compromise. Those shows get higher ratings. We'd rather accuse and get angry and hurl insults at each other because I'm a Republican and you're a Democrat and we're all for cutting the deficit as long as it doesn't affect ME.
It's still hard to believe that someone would assume that the next step from all that would be bullets. But it's not as hard as it should be.
We've managed to soothe hundreds of tantrums of 3-year-olds. I can deal with them. But I have yet to figure out adults. Who is more mature? The jury's out. Show me.