She's officially three now, although it's felt like three for a while.
You know, the three the books warn you about. The doctor, too. The three that means never listening, always talking back, not responding to discipline. The hardest year of (early childhood) parenting I've been told. That three.
She's definitely three.
But she's also the other three. The wonderful three. Where everything is magic to her. Everything is special. Everything a delight. Everything has meaning and everything matters. The stakes feel high at three. Three is utterly delightful. Three is rewarding. I am loving three.
She's always been full of personality and character, and like her doctor observed after being in the same room with her for less than 10 minutes, she remains 'strong-willed' and 'determined'. She likes to get her way. She is sensitive and her emotions run a tad high. We have a bit of an issue with temper tantrums that we haven't quite figured how to manage.
She has decided that she's shy, except for when she's not, which is most of the time. She is friendly, charming, and engaging other than when she's screaming no at people or taking off her coat or sunglasses because someone said they liked them. She has a complicated relationship with attention. But we've noticed that lately she has been warming up a lot more quickly to our friends when they come over. After a second of freaking out, she decides that they are HER friends and takes them hostage playing in her bedroom, never to be seen by us again. Lately she's been making friends fearlessly at the playground, the library, wherever she goes.
She still wakes up talking and keeps talking till she's asleep again although for much of the day the talking becomes singing. She LOVES to sing, loves learning new songs, making up songs often with her trademark 'dum dum' at the end. She has recently started to identify instruments in songs we listen to ('that's a trumpet!' 'that's a piano!'). She sang in 'Swedish' for our church's Julfest concert last week and impressed many that she was actually singing the words. Not sure they were the correct words, but they words all right because she wanted to practice all the time. Given her mixed record in front of crowds we weren't sure if she would do it, and didn't want to push her since she was a year or two too young. But as the big kids go so does Anna, and so for the love of song and big kids she was game. And perform she did, much to this mama's delight. We'll watch her on her video monitor at night, rocking her baby to sleep and singing in 'Swedish.' It's pretty darn cute.
We do this because it takes her, oh, well over an hour to fall asleep most nights. Sometimes she's still awake in her bed when we go to bed two hours later. Since day light savings hit she wakes at 7:30 on the dot and crawls into bed with us for a while. Obviously, we don't complain. When we get up we read books before breakfast and then we read some more books after nap and again before bed. And then probably some more books too. We encourage this, one for the reading itself and two for all the sitting still she does in this time. A miracle, really.
She's at the age now where she does half the 'reading' herself. Remembering the stories sometimes after only hearing them once or twice, or just making up a story from the pictures. She could read all day, and the truth is that so could I. Our mornings snuggling and reading in front of the Christmas tree have fast become my favorite time of day.
She also really loves to paint, draw and 'do crafts' which means to her cutting up a piece of paper with scissors - maybe her favorite thing in the world. She has literally cut one piece of paper for over an hour. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Another thing that will keep her otherwise super short attention is playing a puzzle or game, her new favorite being Sequence for Kids, or as she calls it for some completely unfathomable reason - 'credit cards'. Or, of course, watching TV. Her screen time is quite limited these days but she has a special fondness for Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Daniel Tiger and Dora. She asked for a pirate birthday party this year which was easily delivered, but the next day she told me she wanted Daniel Tiger instead. She got over her disappointment pretty quickly though when she decided that she will have a Daniel Tiger party when she turns five, and a princess party when she turns 4. Apparently 3 is the magic age where suddenly kids care a lot, a lot about their birthdays. She talked about it for months ahead of time, was giddy when it rolled around and still talks about it every day. Anything that she sees that she wants she asks for her birthday next year. I'm not sure she understands quite how far away November 29th is.
Halloween was another favorite this year, with any shyness melting away completely as she would march up to a house and yell 'trick or treat!'. Candy works wonders with this girl. She still asks me a few times a week what I will dress up as for Halloween next year. She, of course, wants to be a princess because she is brave and smart and strong like the pirate princess in Jake, or maybe just because she wants to wear a pretty dress.
Meal times remain interesting. She won't sit in a booster seat and therefore isn't in her chair for more than seconds at a time. We do our best to keep her there by playing 'what you see today?' which consists of us giving clues to something while the others guess. She is shockingly good at this game. But then again, she surprises us in every way, every day.
We are all masters in negotiation at this point, trying to get her to eat 5 more bites, or come put her socks on. Adam is more likely to concede to keep the peace, while her Mama isn't prepared to be out maneuvered by a preschooler. I'm also not great at picking my battles, but this isn't about me.
Point is, she insists on dressing herself now. Which often means wearing her dress up clothes out in public. I wouldn't let her be a princess the other day to do errands because she'd be way too cold, so she was going to be a lion until she changed her mind and just wanted to wear her pink polka dot leg warmers, purple zigzag boots, pants, pink striped skirt, pink and orange toque, pirate bandana and pirate hat. She said her theme was 'pirate princess'. The next day it was 'superhero ballerina' complete with cape and tutu. So. When I follow the advice to give her two options and let her choose, she asks why she can't wear X, and frankly I have no good answer. Thus sometimes we are a cowgirl at church, but most often just wearing a lot of bright pink. She has drawers full of cute clothes that don't get much wear. And Mama learns yet another lesson.
She's perfectly healthy but still tall and skinny as can be. Her bone structure is tiny, her legs a mile long. She still wears infant size mittens and can fit in skirts for 3 - 6 month olds but wears size 4 in pants and shirts for the length.
Her allergies are going strong so she's still on a vegan plus meat diet which sounds really healthy but in reality looks more like a lot of noodles, chicken nuggets, rice and beans, fruit, tons and tons of soy milk and as much candy and cookies as she can finagle. I would hang my head in shame but as her doctor says eating at all is ever so much healthier than not eating. And don't worry, she loves her vitamins - probably because they are basically gummy bears. Last week she decided she liked broccoli (for a day or two) and hell froze over.
She's still playing soccer and loving it and has been in a class with mostly 4 year old boys for the last few months. She's really quite good when she's focused, but is clearly outrun by the older boys partly because she likes to stop and add some pirouettes along the way. We're working on her sports(wo)manship as she likes to be the one to score all the goals, but is not so interested in the physical jostling required to steal the ball back.
She has a strange aversion to 'loud noises' and will cover her ears defiantly. She won't do the team cheer at the end of soccer without me for that reason and burst into tears when we all clapped after all the kids sang Away in a Manger at my MOPS group.
I used to say that she was extremely affectionate but not at all cuddly. I am thrilled to eat my words. She cuddles in the morning, after her nap, when we read books and get ready for bed. She's actually willing to cuddle any time at all if it means she can have her pacis and blanky. And yes, we're working on that.
And the potty training. That too. For a girl who has been early on pretty much everything, the potty training doesn't interest her much - some days. Part of this may be due to her lazy mother's hope that she will eventually just teach herself.
But back to being cuddly, she remains the sweetest and most affectionate human I have known. She is a lover, this one. There is nothing she cares more for than the happiness of those she loves. If I cry, she bawls. If I frown she needs to know why because she wants to fix it. She has a freakish memory and will hold onto the most random, apparently tragic moments for months. She says, 'sorry your water bottle broke, mama' at least once a week. It broke in August. I don't remember being upset about it, but she sure was, and is.
She loves babies almost as much as she loves big kids and is very excited about the baby in mama's tummy. She loves to kiss my bump and talk about 'her' baby all the time. Although she says she wants baby to be a 'gwirl' because she wants to dress her in pink, she has the makings to be a phenomenal big sister no matter who joins us in March. It's also pretty clear that it will do her some good to have a sibling in the house...
We're not quite sure how to teach her that the same rules don't apply to her as to us. She likes to tell me to take another bite, or sit down and she tries to speak to us the way we sometimes have to speak to her. She will ask me, 'do me a favour and pick (something) up' and we get a lot of, 'yes I can do x' and 'no way' and 'not at all' and 'no I don'ts' spoken under her breath or screamed in our faces. She also likes to stomp her feet and hit at things. But this is nothing new as the fits and temper tantrums have been around for at least a year and a half now.
But when she's good, she's the best.
I mean, the absolute best.
I can't get enough of her.
Being sick in bed so much over the last few months I have been treated to countless kisses and tuck ins. She will bring me her cherished blanky and pacis, pat my face, kiss me, rock me and sing and then will say, 'if you need anything just let me know Mama, and I'll get it for you.' She then counts as we do to close the door and says 'sweet dreams, I love you!' When I tuck her in at night she pulls me into a tight hug and has me sing while snuggling deep into her neck.
In those moments I know that I am the luckiest mama in the world.
I marvel daily at the incredible gift she is and can't fathom my luck at getting to be her mother. I get to be on the receiving end of all her hugs, kisses, smiles, songs, silly stories, and yes even her temper tantrums. I get to snuggle with her in bed, listen to her 'read', watch her imagination come to life and witness how she grows and learns every day. I get to be astonished by her ability, her intellect, her love, and her compassion.
Every day is a fight between being sad that she is growing older, that this is passing so quickly, that I won't have these moments forever and being incredibly, profoundly grateful that I get to experience this at all. That my daughter will sing Jesus Loves Me to her ailing great-grandmother then wipe the tears off my face, saying, 'it's OK, mama. I know you're sad because you're going to miss great-grandma, but I'll take care of you all night if you're sad. I'm not sad. I'm happy because she's still here now." I get to be the one to wipe the tears from her face when she's overcome with sorrow, or anger or some unknown emotion. I get to hear her make up silly songs, giggle a million times a day. I get to see the unbridled joy on her face when her dada comes home from work or she makes me laugh. I get her skinny little arms thrown around me in a huge hug and my face plastered with kisses after every single time we're apart, even if it's only an hour or two. I get to watch her become the person God made her to be, as similar and different and so very, very much more than I ever dared to dream.
At three she is both 'big kid' and baby. I still love the way she smells after a nap, and when she's sick or tired she's very much a baby who needs her mama. As I watch her independence and fearlessness grow I am very much grateful for this remaining vulnerability and neediness. She just turned three and she's never going back. All I can do is hold on tight, count my blessings and try to let her go.
Three is magic, and she is my joy.
I love you Anna Grace. More than you will ever, ever know.
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