I love three. Even before I had kids, my nephews and nieces showed me again and again how wonderful three can be. At three, every idea that floated into their heads burst forth with enthusiasm while they danced, sang and leaped through their days. They had quirky, vivid imaginations and saw beauty in everything. They felt all grown up. They had mastered speaking enough to carry on hilariously rambling, sweet conversations, while still stumbling on pronunciations and not-quite-right phrases that added to their irresistible charm.
Having children of my own has only reinforced that this is my very favourite of the younger years. Four and five have their own gifts and glory, but for me, there’s nothing so through-and-through delightful as the innocence of a three-year-old child. And my three-year-olds aren’t even alike; Anna was full of questions from dawn to dusk, with boundless energy and dizzying insight into the world around her. Avery, now three, is completely different, equally delicious.
What I love most about her right now is how much she is talking. She’s turning into more of a chatterbox than I anticipated and I love hearing what’s rattling around in her head. She is shedding her shy label and opening up around other people, rather than cowering when they speak to her. She has a bit of a “Jersey” accent (“Anna took my caw!”) and still mispronounces her s-blends (“I need a foon for my cereal”) and mixes up her words (“I can’t know that!”) and her cute talking always reminds me of how little she is, no matter how big her ideas. Don’t tell her I said that. She doesn’t want anything to do with being a little girl anymore, which is why she was so eager to ditch her overnight diaper. She is extremely motherly with younger kids (or kids who are smaller than her, even if they’re older). “Come along, Maggie,” she’ll say in her most tender voice to our two-year-old neighbour as we go for a walk. “We don’t want you to get lost, do we sweetie?” She refers to all kids as sweeties or sweethearts, as in “I see that dad, but where are his sweeties?”
She is growing up in her interactions with Anna to the point where they can play longer games together – usually Avery is the mom, taking care of Anna or, the latest is Anna is a dog and Avery is her owner. They don’t always get along, but Avery is showing a great ability to compromise — and also a deep caring for her sister, who can have a fiery temper. If Anna’s having a meltdown or in time-out, Avery will often go and sit with her and pat her leg or hold her hand. She wants to hug and kiss Anna before bed, even if they’ve been arguing, and last night said to her, “I hope you have a good sleep, Anna. I can’t wait to see you at breakfast time.”
She can also be a typical bratty little sister. She blames Anna for things she didn’t do and looks at me, all innocence and big blue eyes, when I question her. And, probably one of the most frustrating things for Anna (and I’m sure this will be ongoing!), is that Avery is a total do-gooder. If Anna’s getting in trouble for getting off her chair at dinner, Avery will say pointedly, “I’m sitting in my chair nicely, aren’t I, Mom?” She has a mom voice (“Anna, you have to ask me nicely if you want my doll” or “You need to apologize first!”). As much as she frustrates Anna, I admit that Avery’s mom-voice often produces better results than mine.
Avery has a quirk about footwear. For the last year, she’s been big on wanting to wear two different shoes or two different socks, or two pairs of socks at once. (It makes laundry sorting extra confusing.) That’s when she succumbs to sock-wearing at all. So many times we’re about to walk out the door and she’ll have one bare foot. “Where is your sock?” I’ll ask with exasperation. She’ll smile and shrug her shoulders. And for at least the last year, she’s been able to get her shoes off without using her hands, just pushing the heels with the toe of the other foot. It’s so grown up!
She loves to dance around, or practise hopping on one foot, and sings to herself when she’s playing, making up words as she goes along. She is still my cuddle bug and wants to snuggle up on the couch as soon as she comes home from preschool. She loves to help me do things like baking and sorting laundry. We play games at bedtime, where we whisper in each other’s ear how much we love each other (I love you more than my Baby Alive; I love you more than chocolate chip ice cream).
Avery doesn’t like to tidy up anymore and has a frustrating new habit of eating next to nothing at any meal. She has been in a “no” phase and we’ve started giving her time-outs for refusing to do what she’s asked. She cries in time-out. She is very sensitive to getting into trouble and once said to me, “I just want to make you happy, Mommy!” She’s a Virgo. I think it’s just the way she is. She can get grouchy, but it blows over pretty quickly. She’ll often realize it’s not worth the fight and say, “Oh, all right Mommy!”
“S is very excited to come and see our tree house,” she said to me the other night while I was giving her a bath. “Oh?” I said, thinking S will be very surprised that we don’t even have a tree in our yard. “Did you tell her we have a tree house?” Avery smiled her new mischievous smile, showing all her teeth and scrunching up her face. “I was just pretending. Am I funny, Mommy?” Her new thing is being funny. She likes to tell jokes that don’t make sense or make things up and then say she’s just being funny. “I’m not lying, Mommy, I’m just joking. It’s not the same.”
Last week, after we dropped Anna off at Senior Kindergarten, Avery and I went to the office to pick up her Junior Kindergarten registration package. The woman who runs the office told me how much she adores Anna and how excited she is that Anna’s little sister is coming to school.
As we walked home (I walked, she skipped along beside me, holding my hand), Avery said, “I can’t wait to be a JK!”
But I can.
I had a little more time with Anna, who started JK at four-and-a-half. But Avery will just be turning four the week she starts school and in so many ways is still a baby to me, even if I can’t say it out loud. She will be fine. We will be fine. But in the meantime, I’m holding on to my last three-year-old as tightly as I possibly can.