My Yoga: Check! In my favorite outdoor yoga space. Short, but being back on the mat was comforting.
My husband and I have three children. My third child is three years old. Each time one of my children has reached three years of age, I have sworn that the terrible twos are only a myth; that the actual terrible time is three. All three have become outspoken, opinionated, and stubborn upon the morning of their third birthday…or there about. And yet, I find that this time of striving to exert control over their lives is the time when I really fall in love with my children for who they will become as adults. No longer are they obedient infants who always smile when I walk in the room. No longer do they eat what I give them without question, when I offer it. No longer do I have sole responsibility for what they wear or how they spend their time. I begin to see interests that will last for years, tendencies that will determine how they will react in times of crisis, or fear, or great joy. This is the time, difficult as it may be at times, when I am introduced to the unique humans in my care.
I think that my favorite thing about three is the daily opportunity to witness moments of discovery along with these children. Just last week, my youngest looked over my shoulder as I was reading and asked if I was “looking at letters.” Tonight as I type he is watching me “make letters.” What a grand realization I am privy to witness. He is in the first stages of learning to read and somehow I have been present enough to take notice. When I am old, there may be memories that overshadow this moment, but for now, I am thrilled to watch in wonder.
Our children were all adopted at birth. While I do believe there is a great deal to be said for the love and nurturance I can offer my children, I have seen that there are just some things about us that nature will control. I have witnessed the development of the biological children of my siblings and friends and have seen these children exhibit vast personality differences. But, having three children with completely unrelated genetic makeup has made this process of turning three so much of an adventure every time.
When our oldest turned three, she began weighing consequences against breaking the rules to get what she wanted. She began asking finely pointed questions about her circumstances before deciding to take action. She began to delve into subjects that interested her, usually related to animals. Her interest in cats led her to replace all inhabitants of her doll house with cats, to strip naked and roam the house as a cat, to read books about cats, to memorize and reenact the play Cats, and to write new songs and poems for extended scenes about her favorite characters. All of this done with amazing accuracy and knowledge beyond what was expected of a child her age. Today, at eleven, these traits are magnified. She is singularly interested in animals, at times obsessively, and displays knowledge and intuition beyond what she has been taught or expected to know at her age. She still weighs the consequences if an animal is involved in the decision, though she is the most likely to concede to parent expectations in all other areas.
Our middle boy, at the age of three, began to react to the world with fierce emotion. I remember the day that he made this certain, extremely contorted, face about something he did not like. I recall thinking, wow, that was new and intense…wonder if that will last? He would beg to stop listening or watching during stories or movies if a character made an unwise decision; one that broke the rules or would land him or her in trouble. He cried if I pretended to cry during playtime…but he had the heartiest laugh and a smile full of joy during happy play. He cared deeply for his sister and often offered to share toys or treats with no prompting. And, when he went to preschool at the age of three, he took over the classroom…through every emotion that he was experiencing. Today, he is almost eight and in more control of how big his reactions are to his emotions. It is clear, though, that his whole world is based on his emotional response to every situation. He still cries at movies, and he still gives his whole heart to those he loves. He still reacts in anger sometimes when no response would work better, but he still reacts with unbridled joy when the rest of us restrain our excitement. I worry about his future, especially his teenage years, but I know the happiness he experiences in his life will be far more intense than most people can imagine.
Then there’s this youngest child…this current emerging being. He is attentive to all those around him and responds to the emotion of others. He is not selfish in his love or with his belongings. He can sit for very long periods of time studying a page of a book, building a train track, studying a new sight. He is imaginative and entertains himself so well for so long. He is certainly self-directed. Yet, he is my only child who cannot sleep alone. He is the least interested in potty training. He is the only one of the three who I have been able to trust to walk beside the cart on a trip to the grocery store. And he is the only one who shows frustration by asking for something, like milk, and angrily saying he doesn’t want it when it is given, only to beg for it again when it is taken away. I wonder how these emerging traits will settle into his personality.
I am privileged to see these three unique beings become adults. These times of wonder for them are just as full of wonder and awe for me. These are the memories that will sustain me when I am old; at least they will help make me who I will become in that stage of my own life. I pray that I have the mindfulness to take part in three while it lasts.