Ria has been three for just over two months, and I have to tell you: three is different then two. About a month before her birthday it was like someone had flipped a switch and she just changed overnight. She stopped being a sweet little toddler and turned into this little kid. No hint of baby left about her (as she reminds me whenever I call her my baby!). I feel like a lot of parents find three a very trying age, and it really has been. But it’s also pretty cool. Being three seems to be a complicated thing. Here’s what three is like in our house.
Three is smart
When Ria was two, we would tell her things and she would stare at us blankly. I thought that she didn’t get it, and would find it a bit frustrating. However, it seems that she was just soaking everything up like a sponge because when her language skills improved (at three) to full sentences with decent grammar, I realized that everything was in there; she just hadn’t been able to articulate it properly. It’s amazing. She can tell long stories, sing her ABC’s, and count. Mr SH is big into birds and now Ria can identify an incredible amount of birds in his books and many by the call they make. It’s mind blowing — I don’t know even a quarter of the birds that she does.
However, this smart, articulate kid is also suddenly sassy, defiant and bossy. She will mimic back the exact words and tone I used to get after her for something. Oh it makes me crazy! I have started to see, that some of what seems like rudeness, is just a gap in language. For a long time I would ask her things and she would say “no?” It took a while, but I learned that she meant “I don’t know.” Once I figured that out I realized that she wasn’t being sassy (about that!); she just wasn’t using the proper words. The same goes for “you can get that for me” instead of “can you get that for me?” She didn’t mean to be rude; she just hadn’t gotten the sentence structure down. She’s learning so fast that it’s easy to forget how new it all is to her.
Three is trying
Ria is constantly pushing the boundaries with false confidence. She loudly announces things like “I can have another cookie if I want to!” with a tone of absolute certainty. I can see her look at me like “I can? Can I? You said only one but did you really mean it?” She always wants to see just where the line is today. I know that she’s just pushing in order to feel secure in the knowledge that her life still has rules and order. But also, she wouldn’t mind another cookie. It’s hard because it often feels like I tell her the same thing a million times and still she’s ignoring me. She’s not though, and I know that consistency will wear her down eventually. I can’t always see the progress, but no one said this parenting thing would be easy.
Ria is also still young enough that when she gets overwhelmed, she loses her words and just crumples down and sobs on the ground. It’s so frustrating because it feels like a drama queen attempt to get what she wants. There’s a bit of that, of course, but I do have to remind myself that for all her confidence and newfound skills, she’s still hardly more than a baby and strong emotions can be too much on a tiring day.
She is also very jealous of our attention, which can be a bit rough when it’s just me and the girls. She’s too little to fully understand “fair” and just thinks that it takes me way too long to put Sunny to bed at night. When Sunny was learning to walk and would totter back and forth between us, Ria would sometimes run in front of her and launch into our arms. Surely the baby is not as much fun as me? Right? Right? Tears all around.
Three is Social
At two, Ria wouldn’t talk on the phone, she stared at strangers and often hid from our friends until warming up a little. At three, everyone is her friend! She will tell everyone we met about her new sunglasses, or that we went to the fruit stand. She talks on the phone with her grandparents (starting on her birthday!) and will skype with family members she’s never met before.
I was at a ladies’ group last week and we were watching our three and four year olds run around playing together. A mom with a girl about the same age as Ria commented that it was so nice, even three months ago they wouldn’t have played like that. And she was totally right. Ria is transitioning from playing near other children to playing with them. It’s really fun.
Three is Hilarious
Now that Ria is more articulate, she can tell hilarious stories and really knows how to ham things up and be funny. She’s little enough to be completely unself-concious about things like a piggy snorting dance or flapping her elbows like a bird on the trampoline. She’s also learning to make connections between things, but she doesn’t always get it right, such as “Daddy is a boy, but he’s not a grown up because boys can’t be grown ups!” While I know some women would say she’s right about boys never growing up, it was just one of the random things she puts together and then tells you with conviction.
People talk a lot about how three is hard; harder than two. And it is. I never thought I would be someone who would yell at a preschooler, but goodness, she can push my buttons. I am constantly reminding myself that I’m the grown up. I can handle this! With my husband, my friends, and a whole lot of prayer…I can handle this. Because she’s amazing, and it’s so exciting to see the person she’s growing up to be.
How are you finding three? Or are you maybe dreading it on the horizon?