Three-Year-Old Wild Thing

“Santa is watching,” I tell my daughter who appears to be dangerously close to putting a large pot over her baby brother’s head.

“Oh no,” she cries, collapsing in a heap on the hardwood floors. She cries inconsolably, gasping for breath. “I am so naughty,” she wails. I sit down on the floor and wrap my arms around her body and give her a tight squeeze.

“It’s okay,” I whisper. “It’s not yet Christmas, you have time to be better,” I rub her back with my hand. My words are the opposite of soothing.

She bolts upright. “I CAN’T,” she screams. “I want to stop being naughty, but I can’t.” She is distraught and realizes that behaving is not a possible. “SANTA WILL NEVER BRING ME ANY PRESENTS,” real tears stream down her cheeks.

This is the seasonal variation of her wailing, “I want to be good, but I just CAN’T,” or “I want to stop crying, but my tears just won’t stop.”

*****

I walk into my daughter’s preschool classroom. I love picking my three-year-old up from school. Typically, she runs at me with open arms, yells “Mama” and grabs hold of my legs. I never get greetings like that. Today I walk into her classroom. My daughter is huddled in the corner behind a table. She looks up, sees me, and screams, “GO AWAY,” at the top of her lungs. These public greetings can be embarrassing. I approach her and her shrieks grow louder. She opens her mouth wide and ROARS.

“What are you doing? We’ve got to go.” I snap, kneeling down beside her. She holds a Ziploc baggy that contains a chocolate in her hands and like a wild animal she tears at it with her teeth.

“What are you doing?” I repeat, slightly horrified by her animalistic behavior.

“I want my treat,” she growls. The teacher told her she could not have a treat until she finished her healthy food. My daughter’s lunchbox sits full on the table.

“Maybe you shouldn’t put treats in her lunchbox,” her teacher suggests as we exit the classroom.

 ****

“MOM,” my baby howls. I glance at the clock, 2:30am, jump out of bed, and run to her room. “There are spiders,” she murmurs still half asleep. “Mommy snuggle,” she implores. I lie down in her bed, placing my head on a stuffed animal. I try to fall back to sleep. Moments later, she barks, “MOM SIT IN THE CHAIR!” She doesn’t want me to share her bed, the bratty child wants me to sit in the chair by her bed.

 Seriously? I think. Are you kidding me? Last time I climb in her bed.

****

The baby screams and instantaneously, she screams, “I didn’t do it.”

“What do you mean you didn’t do it?” I say. The three-year-old and the crying baby sit beside each other next to the steps.

“What happened?” I ask.

“Oh, I just bumped his chin against the stairs.” She answers innocently. “Is that bad?” Her grin is devilish.

This kid thinks she can get away with anything, and she probably can.  In the future, I just hope she uses her charm for good and not evil.

****

A professional family photo shoot at Wash Park, my wild child pops a squat in the middle of the very public field. There is no shame in her game.

****

We are at the playground, waiting for her big sister to get out of school. I push my wild child on the swing.

“Try pumping,” I say, she knows how to pump her legs, but she has no desire to do it on her own.

“DO OR DO NOT, THERE IS NO TRY,” she croaks in her best Yoda voice.

Okay, Yoda, you win. You may have the force on your side, but you are dangerously close to sliding to the Dark Side.
Solot summer 2014-9874

Photo credit: Julie Harris Photography

Three

Solot summer 2014-0262

You are three!!!! How can it be that my baby is three? You are my firecracker, thunderously loud and blazing in color. You make my eyes twinkle. You are magic and you make me and everyone that you touch feel special. Charming to the nth degree like no one I have ever met.

Your monstrous tantrums and disobedient spirit erased by warm snuggles and kisses with physical force behind them.  Kisses that literally leave marks on my arms and cheeks. Your kisses are 1/3 kiss, 1/3 suction, and 1/3 bite. Your emotions are bold and looming, they march into a room and swallow us whole, coming as quickly as a storm on a hot Colorado summer afternoon. When you are scared, your body physically trembles. When you are mad, you roar. When you are happy, you shout with glee, “this is the best day ever.”  Love, fear, sadness, and anger explode out of you like a physical force.

This year you went to school on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The highlight of those mornings (other than my walks and workouts) was picking you up from school, the energy and excitement that rushed my way as you screamed my name and leapt into my arms. Pure joy, you made me feel special, literally brightened my days. But then there were the icy days – you’d see me and scream at the top of your lungs as if pained, “Mama, I don’t want YOU to pick me up! Where is Nana?” My face reddened as I felt the sting of your words. Do other children say these things? What are her teachers thinking? The ability to make me swoon, or to pierce me like a balloon, quickly and silently deflated.

“Be Nice!” I’d say as I packed your things and carried you from your classroom. “Be Nice,” a refrain echoed often in your presence.

*****

This year you made it clear that you love BOYS. “Mama, I love boys,” words every father fears hearing, we hear on a daily basis. Every day we picked your sister up from her Pre-K class and you confidently marched into her classroom. You greeted your sister who you love, and then flirted endlessly with the boys, “Hi John … Hi Carsten,” you said with a magnetic smile. The boys you greeted were the biggest boys in your sister’s class, the five-year olds in a class of four-year olds. Big John, as we called him, would start hitting himself in the head with his lunch box or any object he had within his clutches, chanting “Ow, ow, ow,” to try to make you laugh. You belly laughed in response, pleased with yourself and your admirers. Each day you chased these boys around your big sister’s classroom and as we walked to the car, you’d hash out what had occurred, “Mom, Carsten didn’t say hi to me today,” you stated seriously, “but John said ‘ow, ow, ow …” you grinned mischievously.

My constant narrator, you always give me the detailed narration of the day. Your sister doesn’t indulge me in this way, but you recite all the details, including who talked to you, who didn’t, if you got in trouble, etc.

“She LOVES the boys in my class,” your sister giggled, amused by your obsession with boys and not yet jealous of the attention you seek amidst her peers.

At the beginning of this year you wanted to be one of the boys. You were in an alliance with Dad (because he is a boy). You insisted on wearing “Prince pajamas” to bed (blue and green pajamas). You always sided with the boys. You and your sister acted out scenes, you adorned in your prince pajamas and your sister in her nightgown. “I want to marry a girl with long hair,” you declared as you paced your bedroom. “Will you marry me?” you asked your sister, kissing her on the cheek. As the year progressed, you decided you wanted to wear princess nightgowns too, but you still prefer the princes and boys.

*****

As an aside, I love two-year olds, not yet influenced by their peers or those around them. They live with abandon, completely unselfconscious. They scream, shout, shriek, laugh, and do not consider how they’re perceived. Pure freedom.

*****

This year came with big changes. At the beginning of the year you moved from your crib to a twin size bed in a shared room with your sister. If given the opportunity you girls will stay up late giggling, talking and playing with your animals. Dad or I must plant ourselves in the chair in your bedroom until you quiet down. Sharing a room kept you girls up later and got the day started earlier than we would have liked. It has not been great for overall sleep in our household, but the bond you have with your sister is incredible.  Best friends. On more than one occasion I have come to your room to find you curled up in your sister’s bed. 

You became a big sister this year! At two and a half years old, you became a big sister to your baby brother Jamie. I remember you holding him for the first time on the couch. You sat seriously on the couch, arms wrapped around your brother. You looked a little worried, “Are you done?” I asked.

“Yes,” you answered immediately, relieved to escape the duty of holding him so carefully.

Sharing your mom with a baby has been difficult, but it is getting easier as each month flies by. This winter whenever you got upset, you cried, “I want my mommy back.” You repeated these words daily and your dad looked at me knowing that as always you found my Achilles heal. You know how to do that, how to find the one thing that will hurt the most, whether it is me, your dad, or your sister, you know how to make us hurt. Incredibly manipulative for a two-year old, “I don’t want to be your sister anymore,” you shouted in the back of the minivan, eliciting immediate tears from your big sister’s eyes. I don’t know where you learned it, but for good or bad, you know that your words have power.

The love you have for your brother grew with each passing day. Now I see the sparkle in your eye as you give him your suction kisses and tell him that soon he will be chasing after you. You scream his name in glee after naps, bring him toys, and sing him songs. You are my big helper. I ask for a burp cloth, “Sure,” you say in your low toned smoker’s voice and you run across the room to retrieve it. God forbid your sister attempts to get the burp cloth first you scream or roar with violent force.

You learned how to use the potty. Wherever you are when you need to go, you pull your pants down and start walking to the bathroom. You walk with your pants around your ankles to the nearest bathroom. Your big sister has told me that this has happened at the playground at school, it happens at the mall, and the supermarket. If you are outside you pull down your pants and squat. I know it is important to break you of this habit, but it is pretty funny.

*****

Your terrible twos were characterized by declarations of “I don’t like you”, deafening roars, spitting, name calling, and temper tantrums. This infuriating and barbaric behavior was easily erased by the passionate hugs, kisses, and declarations of love you tossed wildly to those around you. I hate to admit it, but you can get away with murder. You have more than one of us charmed and wrapped around your finger. You are brilliant, independent, and fun. I was amazed this year by the stories you told to your animals, your ability to focus and put together giant floor puzzles for hours, and the elaborate games you orchestrated with animal and princess figures. Riding your scooter or strider bike around the park, the wind blowing through your wild blonde hair, shouting at the top of your lungs, “THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER!” Your enthusiasm sweeps me away in a wave of pure bliss.

You are a glorious independent spirit. Love oozes out of you to all of those around you. A charmer, my fierce firecracker – explosive, bright, brilliant, breathtaking, beautiful, and loud.

I love you so much. I can’t believe you came from me. I can’t believe you are three.

 Solot summer 2014-9874

A Love Letter to Two

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My dear daughter you have grown so much this last year.  I have not done well at keeping up with your baby book and milestones, but I want to take the time to tell you who you are at two-years-old.

This year you transformed from baby to toddler.  You still alternate between wanting to be a baby and a big girl.  You started the year with one or two words and ended it speaking in sentences.  Words like dog, no, mama, dada, dotted your early vocabulary. Now sentences like, “me wanna see too,” or “Baby Tiger misses her mommy” spill from your mouth.

You’re fascinated with wild cats.  Every night you sleep with Leppy, your stuffed animal leopard.  Wild animal figures and dinosaurs fill your imaginary world.  You also love Snow White, princesses, and castles.  In a year developmentally defined by parallel play you have been pulled into an imaginary world of play with your big sister, joining tea parties, slumber parties, far away lands of Lion King, and pretending you’re the lost boy “Cubby” from Peter Pan.

You are my sidekick, my partner in crime.  With your sister there was time for endless mommy and me classes.  I try my best to do fun things with you too, but our mornings when your sister is at school are often filled with shopping trips, helping with laundry, cleaning, and bike rides around the block.

Your sister is your best friend.  Everyday when we picked her up from preschool you rushed to her with open arms shrieking her name in happiness.  She was so proud to have her baby sister greeting her at the end of each school day.  You give her daily hugs.  You tell her you love her.  After naps you always ask to wake her up.  She loves you enormously.  You are her best friend too.

You are charming, social, and comfortable with the big kids.  This past winter you started greeting your big sister’s friends at school on the playground, “Hi Grace, Hi Annie, Hi Ellen,” as you raced to catch up with them and pushed yourself into the line on the slide.  I can already see the competition over friendships budding between the two of you.

Your emotions are electric, high voltage from one extreme to the next with no insulation to protect us from the shock.  At this age your sister had a couple tantrums, but you throw many tantrums.  You love to play outside and you often scream and kick when we must go in for the night.  Your scream is loud and high pitched.  You scream when my foot enters the room and you know that bedtime is approaching.  You scream when your sister reaches to have a toy in your grasp.  You scream when the dog comes too close to your food.  You fight teeth brushing like a kick boxer.  Your scream punctuates our days.  You are strong willed.  You make me fear adolescence.

Mid year your scream mutated to a roar.  You became the wild tiger you adore. You roar at your sister.  You roar at flies.  You roar at ants.  You roar at the dogs.  You often roar at me.

You have a little gremlin voice.  At two your voice often sounds as if you smoked a few too many cigarettes.  It is so low compared to the chirpy voices of your peers.  It makes me smile every day.  To add emphasis you sometimes whisper the last words of your sentences, it works and I don’t think there is anything more adorable in the world.

I gave birth to the infamous biter that you read about in parenting books, fear to have in your playgroups, and look at and think “my child would never do that.”  For a couple of months you bit.  You bit your sister.  You bit the dog, poor Cru I can still see the shock on her face.  You bit your Dad.  You bit me.  I think and hope this behavior is finally fading, but I had moments of fearing your preschool future.  Luckily, so far you’ve kept the biting within the family.

You are adventurous.  You jump from the side of the pool.  You put your face all the way in the water.  You float on your back and look up at the sky, closing your eyes peacefully.  You fill cups of water in the tub and pour them over your head.  Sometimes you are surprisingly sensitive, “me scared mama” as we climb onto the train at the zoo.  Some TV shows scare you.  You say, “me scared” and grab my arm and bury your face in my shoulder.  I’m impressed you articulate your fear.  I love that you love to cuddle.

You are a daddy’s girl. You say, “Me ride daddy’s car.” This summer you’ve insisted, “Me want Daddy stay home and Mama work.” Sometimes your words sting, but I agree he is golden.  I too love to spend my days with your dad.  You, my daughter, are golden too.

You have your dad’s dark skin, dark eyes, curly hair, and my long torso.  You dribble a soccer ball, shoot a basketball, and love to run.  You spell your sister’s name over and over again.  Starting at 18 months, you saw signs with letters on them and sang your jolted ABCs in recognition.  You count to ten. You know your colors.  You sing the months of the year song that your sister learned in preschool.  You imitate your sister and have mastered language and ideas so quickly.

You are our welcoming committee, pure love and warmth.  You shriek with excitement when your dad comes home from work and rush to see him.  You exhibit joy whenever your grandmothers enter the house.  You love your Zaidy.  You run excitedly to give him the first hug and be lifted up into the air.  You love your cousin (three months your senior) and have claimed him as “your own” since big sister has her own big girl cousins.

You talk constantly.  Your mouth is constantly running telling us what you are thinking, what you are doing, what everyone else is doing, and what you were doing when your big sister was doing something else.  There is no end to your stories.

This year you acquired a love of books.  Your sister loved books from an early age.  A year ago you did not want to focus on a story, you now love to sit and read.  You love books that rhyme with musical language.  You love books about animals.

No label describes you.  You are wild cats, triceratops, and princesses.  You are playing sports and playing dolls.  You are outgoing and the next moment you hide in my shoulder.  You are giant snuggles and ‘leave me alones’. You are rough and tumble and pink fluffy skirts. You are impossible to capture in words and labels.

You teach me every day.  You taught me that my parenting or lack thereof did not make your big sister a rule follower or cause you to throw tantrums.  Our children are who they are, there is no singular parenting strategy for well behaved children. Parents cannot take all the credit for their childrens successes or all the blame for their flaws.  You taught me not to take everything so personally.  You taught me that parent preferences change, I can’t be offended if you want dad to say goodnight.   You helped me to start to let go of my perfectionism.

I am so lucky to be your mom.  You will press my buttons, but I will always be awed and inspired by your fire, spirit, and warmth.  You are my firecracker baby.

I love you two-years-old.

Babies and the Female Anatomy

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“Mama, how do babies come out of their mommies’ bellies?”  My three and a half year old asks as I am tucking her in bed.  We have already read a story, she will want water in a moment, and will shortly thereafter call me back to get her another book for her to read on her own.  The tug of war that is the bedtime routine, the struggle for me to get downstairs and have a glass of wine and her to keep a hold of me for one more minute.  I’m used to her delaying tactics, but this is a new question and I am completely unprepared.  I didn’t think we had to worry about the birds and the bees until at least elementary school.  Isn’t there a story about a stork that brings a baby in the basket?  Hmmm… what to say???

“Honey, Daddy is a doctor and he can tell you all about that in the morning.” The tennis ball is now back on her side of the court, will she hit it back, or will she let the ball pass her, so I can leave the room.

“But Mommy, how does a baby come out of someone’s belly?”  She repeats persistently.

“Please, can we talk about this with Daddy tomorrow?” I implore desperately.  “It’s really late and you know I get very cranky if I don’t get my sleep.” Panic, I don’t want to talk about body parts at all.

“Mom, how do they come out?” She rallies back, accurately placing the ball deep on my side of the court.  Hmmm, what is socially appropriate for a three year old?   The stork keeps popping in my head.

“Well, sometimes a doctor has to cut a woman’s stomach open to pull out the baby.”  The minute the words come out of my mouth I realize how scary this sounds.  Issues, is it really that hard to say vagina???

She looks at me with a confused expression and asks, “Food is in our stomach and comes out our bottoms – do babies come out of our bottoms with our poopies too?  Do they get poopies on them when they’re born?” She asks a little scared.  I smile happy that she is not stuck on the doctor cutting a baby out of a stomach slip up.

“No, a baby comes out of a woman’s vagina,” I say a little more embarrassed than I should be, but at least I’m answering honestly.  I can picture her sitting next to her grey haired, Jesus loving, preschool teacher Ms. Alice, discussing vaginas and babies tomorrow.  We may be the only non-church goers in the class, Jewish father, and now my daughter is going to bring vagina talk to school.  It’s the biology of birth, but is it appropriate to tell a three year old?  I make a mental note to ask my teacher friend tomorrow…

Now she is even more wide-eyed than she was before.  “HOW do they come out of vaginas?”  She asks incredulously, this fact clearly seems crazy to her, the physics of it seems crazy to me too.  “Do they have peepees on them?”  The ball is flying right back at me, she is consistent and persistent, I need to just put the ball away and run from the room as quickly as possible.  However, the put away shot is not my specialty.

“I guess they may have some peepees on them, but they get a bath immediately.  Remember that picture of you in a towel from the hospital?  Let’s just talk to Daddy in the morning.”  I say kissing her forehead.  Her head smells like the honey shampoo that only her father splurges to buy.

“Bonzai (her stuffed hyena) has a baby coming out of his vagina, but it’s okay because we’ll just give the baby a bath,” she explains very matter-of-fact.  I could just smile and leave, but Bonzai is a boy, so this statement is just factually impossible.

“Sweet heart, Bonzai doesn’t have a baby in his belly because he is a boy.  He doesn’t have a vagina either.  Only girls have vaginas and only women grow babies in their bellies.”  Since she only has a little sister, she knows nothing of penises, and I don’t want to explain that one to her now.  She nuzzles her head into the pillow and I pull up the covers and tuck them around her chin.  She is losing steam.

“The baby came out of Georgia’s vagina then,” she says, (Georgia is her stuffed dog).  I smile picturing the vagina talk with old Ms. Alice on Wednesday.  One of the best parts about having children is seeing everything again for the first time through their eyes.  Holidays are new again, colors are brighter, and an ice cream cone may really be the answer to all that ails you (we now eat them on a weekly basis).

“I love you so much honey.”

*****

I walk down the stairs and lie down on the couch next to my husband.  “Big girl asked me how babies come out of bellies,” I tell him.  “I told her that they are cut out by a doctor.”

“Wow, that’s not a scary answer,” he says laughing.

“I guess I was unprepared for the question,” I smile, “don’t worry I eventually told her they come out of vaginas and to talk to you.”  I take a sip of red wine and curl my feet under the blanket on the couch, my dog cuddles up in the nook behind my knees.  The day is done and all is how it should be.

“MAMA, WATER!” I hear her calling from upstairs.

“Your turn,” I say to my husband.