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Why I Love Having a Three-Year-Old

It's so easy to complain about how hard it is to be a parent. Grumbling is a human pastime that has drawn us closer together and relieved stress for hundreds of thousands of years, and toddlers are an easy topic for our rants. Raising children has become more complicated and political than ever before (while toddlers have become no more reasonable), but I like to remind myself that even so, it's not exactly harder than it was in the dark old days. Middle class parents today are more overworked, poor, and bombarded with advice and paranoid warnings than our parents and grandparents were. But we also tend to have fewer children and spend much more quality time with each child--which is hard but also deeply rewarding for a mommy like me.

Nux Gallica has reached the age that I dreamed her the day before my ultrasound that revealed she was a girl. In my dream, she was a blonde, pigtailed preschooler standing in a bedroom like a rainbow explosion of toys, holding a crayon and scribbling out smiley faces with stick legs. That dream was like a wish upon a star, and all of a sudden I find myself looking at that little girl I dreamed up over three years ago, 20 weeks pregnant with a boy name picked out. It is an experience of humbling grace.

Children have always been precious. In every culture, in every civilization in world history, children have been treasured. There are popular stories about imperfect babies left for dead in Sparta, but in reality, even in Dark Ages Europe, children--especially children who were sick, deformed, or weak--were more often than not lavished with affection. Because childhood is short and sweet.

The firstborn child of Charlemagne, the father of Christendom and Europe, was a deformed boy called Pepin Hunchback. Although Charlemagne did not remain in partnership with the child's mother, he adored the little boy and carried him on his first visit to the Pope. The gigantic warrior walked around the cathedrals of the Vatican with little Pepin on his shoulders so the boy could see the magnificent paintings, frescoes, and statues up close.

In a time when life was a gift each day and no one made it to old age unscathed in body and mind, most parents loved their children under the shadow of knowing that any hour could be their last.

I cannot imagine.

And in the whirl of my too-busy, too-tiring life, I take time now and then to feel just how lucky I am and how ecstatic it is to be me, in this time, with my beautiful daughter. There are so many things I love about having a three-year-old child.

Dora meets Nacho Libre

I love her rainbow messes and fabulous dress-up ensembles.

The Afterbath
I love sharing her warm bubble baths full of cuddles and colors and imaginative play.

I love having a tiny but great reason to play arts and crafts, climb the monkey bars, and throw a foxtail in the backyard. 

Goddess help me, I love watching Disney movies and hearing her sing the songs in her little voice. Let it go!

I love the soft creases in her skin behind her elbows, knees, chin, and tiny armpits.

I love the perfume of her hair.

I love the adorableness of her angry face and her chubby little foot stamping on the ground when she's mad.

I love the way she says, "I misseded you, Mommy" when I pick her up from preschool, even if she was having too much fun to notice I'd come in the door.

I love reading Blueberry Girl and trying not to cry!

I love the bedtimes that take over an hour of storytelling before she falls asleep in my arms.

Even the things that are difficult--the shrieks, the rebellions, the night wakings, the constantly messy house--I even love those things, and I know they will be over just as quickly as she came to be a three-year-old from a bump and a dream.

So how about you, mamas and daddies and everyone who takes care of a small human being? In honor of Mama's Day this month, what are your favorite things about this time?


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