Let's talk about three years old.
Asher is a month away from his third birthday, but developmentally he looks, sounds, and acts like a three-year-old. And that, my friends, is equal parts lovely and insufferable.
In many ways three is the perfect age. I feel a little more confident that I can keep a three-year-old alive, and that's a relief. There is less barreling into oncoming traffic and fewer attempts to scale the kitchen cabinets. He washes his own hands, puts his plate in the sink, attempts tractor tipping like Mater, walks beside me (mostly) in parking lots and around the block. I can also (mostly) both have him with me and complete a sentence at the same time. Maybe completing a sentence is a little too ambitious - I can at least scan the playground for his little red t-shirt and know that he can safely navigate the climbing wall, compared to my former role as goalie when he was younger. On Saturday I even paid bills while he sat quietly (doing his own "paperwork" beside me) for nearly an hour. There is no doubt that my baby days with Asher are behind us. I now have a little boy.
But even though he's a boy, he's still little, and he's still mine. He still wants to read stories in my lap, still wants to be in whatever room I am in, still wants to cook with me and play guitar with his dad. I'm not even terribly sad (though I am somewhat astonished) to say the baby days are behind us, because most of the time, there's a lot to enjoy about where we are now. He's old enough to remember his own safety blanket, and young enough to still need it. Most of the time, three is very sweet.
Until it's not. Until Asher announces He Will Not Do It. Whatever it is that has been asked of him is Not Going to Happen. Let me say that I do my best to avoid power struggles. My children have plenty of freedom to make choices and be assertive, and my expectations of them have been the same as long as they have been moving. The rules have not changed, but three-year-olds are notorious for a stage that I call "You Can't Make Me." So if he chooses to go toe-to-toe with me, I step up to the plate. I hate power struggles and avoid them when possible, but if I can't avoid it, I'm going to win it. And in case you don't have one in your own home, I am here to tell you that hell hath no fury like a three-year-old child. When I am carting my screaming, thrashing child out of the park, attracting the attention of every mother in a half-mile radius (I'm not exaggerating), I loathe this age. I want to yell, "Who are YOU? And what have you done with the tender-hearted baby I used to know?"
So, yes. Here we are. Like every age, there is a lot to love, and a little to dread, about the next year. When it's over I probably won't even remember what was bad about it. I'll probably look back when he's ten and think, I wish he was three again.
But the next time you see a mother carrying a hysterical child over her shoulder, he's probably three years old.