My little man,
You are three now. A question you have asked me every day since your birthday. “Mommy, am I still three?” Yes, you are still three. You will be three for an entire year, but I have a hunch it will feel like too soon when I am reassuring you of your status as a four-year old. Next year, you will have just started school when your birthday arrives. You will be exiting the car on your own to run into pre-school with your little back pack swaying and bouncing with your steps. You will know new friends and have new places to go and learn so many new things. But I won’t think of any of that now. No, now, I am going to enjoy three.
The problem is, though, that I don’t think I’m very good at three so far, and that is troublesome. Three, three is the age I have been looking forward to the most, I think. Well, three and four. When I worked in the summers in college at a daycare, I adored three. Three with all of its unpredictably hilarious behavior, three that still has chubby fingers, three that is independent but still so sweet …
Well, my son, you are knocking the gently hazy edges of three right out of my brain. There is nothing gentle and hazy about three. Three is wiggly and challenging and alive. So alive. Three is you being able to express your emotions with your very adult vocabulary, but not quite knowing that you can use those words all of the time, instead of screaming your discontent. You can say, “Mommy, I am frustrated with (fill in the blank) because (fill in the blank) but it takes us so long to GET THERE. Your first reaction is tears and squeals when I know you’ve got it in you to just tell me about it. It’s that, your amazing capacity for words, that makes me expect too much from you. The tantrums and screams are puzzling to me because you have the words. I’m sorry I expect you to know at three years and a few weeks old exactly how to use them, when there are so many grownups who never learned to do so. I should understand, especially me, who is so much better on paper, who can’t always get there when I have to say the words out loud instead of typing them.
Three is wonderfully funny and fiercely loving. There is desperation in your little fingers when you cling to me when I try to crawl out of your bed at night to head to my own. You are tenacious, wanting and needing me to hold you, to let you sit on my back piggyback style as I go about my business. At least, as much as I possibly can go about my business with a three year old cutting off my supply of oxygen. I have been told I shouldn’t let you. I have been told I should really make you sit in your own seat to eat and not in my lap, grabbing my hair with your food-stained fingers. And I know. I know that I shouldn’t but then I think, but next year, he may not want me this ferociously. Someday, all too soon, you will be a big boy and I will miss those days that I couldn’t eat without you wiggling on my lap. And my confession is that there is desperation for me too, when I kiss you goodnight and leave you. My grip is tenacious, too, little one, because I know you will want it less and less the older you are.
You already tell me now that you are a grown up. You tell me this when it is time to get in your car seat and when I try to make you do any of the things you deem fit for babies only. “But moooommmeeee,” you protest. “I am a GROWNUP!” Oh, my love, you are so grown up in so many ways, so let’s hold on to those things that make you my baby for as long as we can. Let’s make tents with the sheets, and pretend, and play, and read, and laugh until we can’t breathe.
In the meantime, I’m going to collect these moments, these memories, so I never forget. I wish there was a way to record each and every one of them. I want to write volumes – an entire encyclopedia set’s worth of memories. Except I don’t want them to sit and get dusty like encyclopedias tend to do. I want them to be well read and loved, with cracked spines and worn pages. I want them to be your favorite books, the ones you’ll read until you are quite an old man. I won’t be able to write as much as I want. If I did, I would spend so much time writing about you, I wouldn’t really experience you, so I’ll settle for something in between.
I want to remember that you say “sher” instead of she or her. That you get upset when I tell you I love you because YOU want to love ME, so I tell you that the great and awesome thing about love is that we can love each other infinite amounts. And, now, when I reluctantly drop you off at the baby sitter’s every morning, you say, “We both can love each other.” And I turn into a little puddle on the floor because that is the sweetest thing my ears have ever heard. You still ask, “Mommy, can I hold you?” when you want me to pick you up. You are loving and kind. You helped me shoo a grasshopper out of the house last night for 10 minutes, telling him the whole way, “I KNOW you can do it, grasshopper!” You love our dogs, and you love to be silly. You are still a little question mark to me in many ways, and I have a feeling that won’t change with three or four or maybe ever. But I wouldn’t change it all, any of it, for the world. Even the moments I worry, or feel frustrated. Not one single moment. Well, maybe the one where you accidentally slammed a hand weight down on my ankle the other night, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing. Keep challenging me, my little man, and please keep asking me to snuggle with you, to kiss you good night, and please keep reminding me that we both can love each other. We can. We do. And I am so, so lucky because of it.