“Your Three Year Old – Friend or Enemy” Louise Bates Ames, Ph.D and Frances L Ilg M.D. (1976); 151 pages- Started February 21, finished February 28.

One of my favorite child-rearing books is called “Blessing of the Skinned Knee” (which I have already read twice, so I am not going to review here– but it is terrific) and the author makes a few positive references to the  “Your __ Year Old” series.  Months ago I looked up the book on three-year-olds, and was told by the fine reviewers at Amazon that it was basically an overview of kids’ standard behavior, it is not a how-to book, and that oh, by the way, it was a bit dated.  Lately I have been thinking that it would be cool to know if all of the hilarious things that Ben does are typical for kids of his age group, and maybe get a bit of insight into what is going on in that head of his (a lot, I have learned.) And the title was just too funny, so I asked Josh to order one for me– as cheap as you can find it, I said. And lo and behold, a used copy arrived a few days later. I laughed when I saw the cover because it the kid in the picture has got to be OLDER THAN ME! Only just now, when looking to upload the image for your amusement, did I find out that there is actually a “new” edition from 1993. So when I say that yeah, this book is dated, I mean the one I read is really dated. (I know, I know–that’s what I get for having someone else doing my shopping…) But if you are interested in a series on child development, this one is fairly sensible. But I would definitely go for the editions printed more recently than 1976.

Two curious things about this book– apparently 30 years ago the only part of child-rearing involving the father was… scolding their kids at the dinner table for having poor table manners. Really, that is one of the only times men are mentioned in this book at all. (Yes, the lack-of-dad thing is incredibly annoying, but I was able to get past it… I was also relieved that at least the authors did not endorse fathers acting like jerks.)

And then, after the chapters on typical three-year-old minds, abilities, and so on, came the best chapter of all– “Stories from Real Life”, where the authors give examples of some of the letters they’ve received from parents- um, I mean mothers.  The following letter was so incredible, I have to write out the entire thing for you. Worth the price of admission, I swear.

“Dear Doctors: I have a problem of fear in a usually fearless boy who is just three. When he was about a year old we gave him a clown that rolls bath and forth with a very realistic face and eyes that roll. At first he seemed a little afraid of it, but soon he seemed happy enough. In fact, for a time he liked it so much that he carried it around. A few evenings ago we saw a TV program about a circus. There was some violence in the picture. A knife thrower was trying to kill some other man, and although he wasn’t dressed as a clown, there were clowns in the play. I don’t know if that caused it, but the next evening our son said “That clown is going to hurt me.” His daddy told him no, that the clown was just like any other dolly. This morning the first thing he said was something about the clown. I thought about burning the clown before his eyes, but perhaps that would be too dramatic. We are going to leave soon for a vacation – would it be best to take the clown along or leave it at home?”

The authors’ response was basically what you’d think… 3-year-olds shouldn’t be watching violent TV, a scary eye-rolling clown is a dubious choice for a baby toy in the first place, don’t take the clown on the vacation, etc etc, and oh yes, by the way, are you INSANE? BURNING THE CLOWN IN FRONT OF YOUR KID WOULD INDEED BE TOO DRAMATIC!!

The moral of the story– never, ever, let your kids watch violent clown programs.
(And, if you meet some frazzled guy in his late thirties who is completely terrified of clowns, it is most likely the poor child of these crazy parents.)