Bing! The chime on my phone rings, indicating a new message. It’s a video from Chris, reaching across the country to me while I’m on a work trip in New Mexico. It starts focusing on Sprout, being a lump on the couch with his red velour blanket over his head. The camera then swerves to Little Bird, who is walking towards it. Walking! When the hell did that happen? At that moment, I realized just how long a week away is when you have young children.
I found out that I couldn’t attend my grandmother’s funeral in my ob-gyn’s office. After my doctor observed that I was several centimeters dilated, I asked, “So I shouldn’t go to New Jersey on Monday then?” Looking up from between my legs, she said, “No, You probably shouldn’t travel out of state.” Between the fact that I missed the funeral and the baby was born that afternoon meant that I never told my older son about my grandmother’s death. He had only met her once, briefly, so it would have met little to him anyway. But it made me realize how urgent it was to talk about the subject with him.
In particular, my other grandmother is getting up in years. Sprout has met “Grammy” several times and remembers her. While her passing may be years away, there’s no way to know. Needless to say, I didn’t want finding out about her death to be Sprout’s introduction to the topic.
But I had no idea where to start.
The room is dark and my eyelids flutter. My baby, who is in my arms, squirms and calls out, shrieking, then whimpering. I startle awake and gaze down at him, taking in his round cheeks and elfin nose. His eyes are closed, but out of exhaustion, not relaxation. Cries of pain and discomfort slip from his mouth, no matter how much I hug or rock him. His teeth are coming in and even medicine isn’t quite enough.
I am not the mom just standing behind the kid thinking, “Oh that’s rather mean. Lalalala.”
There are times I simply don’t like my three-year-old.
Fellow parents of three-year-olds may be gasping in mock surprise.
However, I really thought I could avoid this feeling. Child psychologists say that toddlers can tap into some of our deepest insecurities. Or as Chris jauntily sang to me the other day, “Toddlers are emotionally abusive.”
The bride walked down the aisle, a flowered headband in her short, black hair. As everyone watched expectantly, I shhhhed my yammering three-year-old son. While the readers recited statements from the couple’s grandmothers, I struggled to hold him on my lap. As a member of the wedding party read a passage by astronomer Carl Sagan, I finally hauled my kid down the aisle. The two of us spent the rest of my friends’ wedding in the back of the building. I alternated between trying to catch bits of the ceremony, grabbing him as he sprinted out the door, and whispering to him about how disappointed I was. It was a pretty low moment in my parenting career.
It wasn’t supposed to go like this.
Most three-year-olds are not still in cribs, having transitioned to toddler beds long ago. But in this case, Sprout is not “most kids.” He’s never tried to climb out of his crib, uneasy with scrambling down where there isn’t obvious hand and foot-holds. Because there was no great need, we put off the transition as long as possible. But with his third birthday passed, a potty-training blitz coming up, and preschool approaching, we figured it was time. It was only slightly more chaotic than we expected.
Nope, these aren’t my kids. I don’t like sharing photos of them, so stock random boys it is!
Returning to work, one of the first questions people ask is, “How is [Sprout] doing?” And my answer is consistently, “He really loves his brother. But he’s a bit aggressively affectionate.” While I’m grateful that he adores his brother, sometimes the ways he shows it aren’t very appropriate. Oddly, even though we’re freaking out, Little Bird hardly ever seems to mind.
Here are a few of the things he does that are sometimes adorable, sometimes a Very Bad Idea and most often, both.