Most moms and dads I know have strong opinions about what it
means to be the parent of a 3-year-old. Some of us rejoice in
leaving the terrible twos behind, only to discover that 3-year-olds
have tantrums, too, and that they're louder, stronger and more
emotional than a year prior.
We've done potty dance after potty dance and doled out more
stickers, jelly beans and other bribes than we can count. We've
celebrated the arrival of the big kid bed and shared the same
exhausted sigh of love and frustration when those little feet come
running down the hall in the middle of the night.
Yet, in our house, somewhere amidst all the changes and
transitions, new rules and countless negotiations, a little person
I am in awe of my daughter, fueled with the same kindness and
curiosity that propelled her through her early toddler years, but
now with the words and - to my surprise - the understanding, to put
those feelings of empathy to use. My 3-year-old loves her imaginary
friend, Karen, and belts out Katy Perry and Carly Rae Jepsen. She's
obsessed with her Mickey pajamas and is strongly opinionated about
how she wears her hair each day. She plays, imagines and gets lost
in complicated games of make-believe with her 6-year-old
She is beginning to choose her own friends - sweet, good friends
- who make her feel happy and calm. Being 3 means that she's
learning letters, numbers and concepts and can appropriately
participate in family conversation.
She literally is growing and maturing before my eyes. And yet,
she still calls anything in the past "last year" and anything in
the future "Thursday." Being potty proficient has been a challenge
and there are still mornings where she begs (aka screams and cries)
for chips and other treats for breakfast.
Some parents loathe 3, understandably exhausted from the daily
demands of a frequently frustrated child. I've had those days too.
Lots of them. But 4 is weeks away and 5 and 6 will come even
My baby is her own person now with opinions and ideas, with
legitimate concerns, with thoughts about what she wants to be when
she grows up. Being 3 isn't easy, but becoming 4 is
Elizabeth Abrams is a Chicago mom of two and a TV producer.
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