If we can just survive three

September 16, 2009

When my son was born, I wrote him a letter in which I encouraged him to always “speak up, stand up, be you no matter what.” At barely three years old, I have had to gently remind myself that I’m already getting exactly what I hoped for. 

His two-year-old mantra, “Me do it!” has evolved into “I can do it myself, Mom.”  When once he wore whatever shoes I put on his feet, now he won’t wear shoes at all unless they are blue. 

When a simple, “Because I said so” used to suffice, now he wants to know why.  “But why can’t I stand on the kitchen table, Mom?” 

No doubt about it, my son is an individual.  He knows exactly what he wants for breakfast, and if he changes his mind as the plate is set before him, he is not shy about expressing that fact. 

He would rather go to bed hungry than eat anything other than hot dogs, pizza, macaroni and cheese, or chicken nuggets for dinner.  Whenever I have the energy to force a bite of healthy food into his mouth, he demonstrates his remarkable gag reflex. 

When I say the word “No,” my son hears, “Ready, Set, Go!” 

I have learned to never say no without first removing the offending item from his hands.  This occurs when he encounters things like gum on the sidewalk, or after I’ve caught him with his finger up his right nostril. 

Don’t be surprised if you see me tackling my son to the ground to pry a piece of used chewing gum out of his mouth, or slowly sneaking a tissue out of my purse in church to catch his finger just as it’s leaving his nose, before he can poke it into his mouth with a devilish laugh. 

I don’t know how someone so picky about what he’ll eat for dinner can be so casual about what he places in his mouth between meals.

There is no sense putting anything out of his reach anymore.  If he wants it, he can find a way to get it.  The step ladder that I keep in the kitchen so he can help me cook has turned on me. 

I came out of the bathroom the other day to discover it perched precariously on top of the toy box.  If I had entered the room one second later, my son would have toppled to the floor with the step ladder on top of him.

Three is when children laugh in the face of childproofing.  All of my efforts to protect my child from himself have been for nothing.  My new tactic is to downplay things that are dangerous. 

“Oh, these boring old scissors are no good.  Let’s use these cool green scissors instead.”  (You know, the ones with the rounded tips and the no-pinch handles that we keep in your easy-to-reach craft drawer.) 

Yeah right.  My son is no dummy.  Anyone with half a brain can see that the scissors on top of the refrigerator are way better for cutting electrical cords while they are still plugged into the wall.  At this rate, everything in the house is going to be stored on top of the refrigerator. 

Where’s the scotch tape?  Top of the refrigerator.  The rolling pin?  Top of the refrigerator.  The computer?  Look on top of the refrigerator.  People will drop in for a visit to find me huddled up there next to the can opener, trying to balance my keyboard on a box of matches.

I love my son’s growing personality.  I love that he has so many preferences, and he has the confidence to express himself.  It is what I wanted for him, and I hope he can hold onto that confidence into adulthood.  I am excited to see how all these wonderful quirks manifest in his grown-up self. 

But first, we just have to survive three.

This article first appeared in the Lewistown News-Argus and the Sidney (Mont.) Herald on September 16, 2009.