Dear Little R,
This being three business. It's not all superheroes and Nutella. It's a bit here and there. A bit up and down. Recently, more down than up, if we're being honest. It's bloomin' hard, isn't it?
There are so many things you want to do so desperately. And I say no to a lot of them. No, you can't watch a film today. No, we're not going to play MarioKart right now. No, you can't have pudding without eating your dinner. No, we can't play for two more minutes... it's shower time. No you can't stay in the shower... we have to pay for water. No, we're reading the book Miss O chose first. The list must seem endless to you.
And what's more, there are all these instructions you're expected to follow all day! Come upstairs for your shower. Get your pants on. Share your book with Miss O. Do a wee before we go out. Get your shoes on. Come here so I can get your helmet on. Slow down. Speed up. Hold my hand through the car park. Wash your hands before dinner. Wait while I put the laundry out. Put your shoes away. Let me wash your face. Put your head in my lap so I can clean your teeth. On and on I go, telling you to do this that and the other all day long. How tiresome. I try to dress it up;
I offer you choices: "Will you wee now, or when we get to toddlers?"
I give you warnings to prepare for change: "Two minutes to play, then shower time."
I wish with you: "I wish you could shower forever. The problem is I need a shower too."
I empathise: "I hear how cross you are. You don't want to wash your hands. Washing your hands is so boring!"
But still we end up here:
You having a meltdown. Shouting, refusing to co-operate and eventually collapsing in a heap of depressed sobs, whines, begs and howls. Me, sitting with my head in my hands, at a complete loss for what to do. It sucks. Big time.
I wish we could do everything you want, all day long. You want to do some awesome stuff. You want to be a pirate, a superhero, a vet, a Dalmatian, a bear, a dragon, an elf, a monster, a knight and a King. You imagine us forests, islands, hospitals, caves and boats. Miss O joins us as a puppy, or a princess who needs rescuing, or a mischievous fairy. I wish my enthusiasm for these games was as boundless as yours and I didn't feel compelled to go and attend to the washing up, or reply to a message on my phone, or even just gaze out the window at the leaves on the tree. I lose patience with imaginative play quite quickly. I start thinking about other things and dreaming up excuses for getting on with something I'd enjoy more. I get distracted chatting to Miss O about what she's doing, because she doesn't quite understand your games like you do, and I have to split my attention between the two of you. I'm sorry I'm not a more enthusiastic playmate.
I'm sorry I sulked when you "spoilt" the Hallowe'en treat I'd prepared the night before. I'd been so careful to choose interesting ingredients to mix up. I'd put little labels on the pots. I'd found find motor skill spoons and scoops. I'd prepared a little spell book with numbers and symbols you'd be able to read. I'd got this image in my head of us all brewing up spells with our stapled black paper witches' hats on. When I came back from hanging out the laundry, I was so disappointed that you'd mixed everything together. You're three. Of course you wanted to mix it all up. That was, after all, the point. I'm sorry I let you see my frustration and disappointment. Your little face was alight with joy at the spell you'd made. And you'd saved some sequins for me to add. You'd tried to wait. I asked too much of you. I'm sorry.
We did enjoy playing spells for the next couple of days though, didn't we? We even invented new recipes to make slugs (yours) and ice cream (mine). You chose the ingredients and counted them carefully. Then we wondered how to separate all the ingredients again. We tried sieving, and that helped a bit. Then we wondered what would happen if we added water. You thought the pasta would float and everything else would sink. You were astonished when it all sank. Then you loved exploring and learning with a ladle, a colander and a spoon. You noticed the water had gone "blurry". I loved watching the fascination on your face and talking to you about how the dried ingredients were changing.
We loved making your bat together. You cut the teeth yourself and stuck on two of them, then asked me to do the other two. You pass eyes to me and ask me to take off the back because it's so fiddly. You were proud to see yours and Miss O's hanging by our door. They're still there, actually, because I love how cheery and Hallowe'eny our house looks!
I love how outdoorsy you are. I love that you didn't want to bother with shoes, even though it was a nippy day. After such a long summer running round barefoot, you've found the transition to socks and shoes difficult. When you get home, you declare your socks "fweaty" and taken them off. I grumble about how many pairs of socks you get through. But when I check, your socks are actually a bit damp and unappealing. So fair doos. Mummy Rachel bought you some more, so we have enough to get through a really fweaty week.
I think you're feeling a bit insecure at the moment. I think you feel Miss O is taking too much of our attention, now that she can make her demands so eloquently. I think that on top of starting nursery school and having to follow instructions at gymnastics, and ballet, and swimming is a bit much. You've lost confidence at swimming and say you are "a bit scared" of anything that requires you to let go of me. As much as I try to be positive and cheerful, it's frustrating and annoying when you refuse to follow the instructions, especially since we know you can do everything asked of you and more. You're slowly regaining a bit of confidence, but it's slow and hard work. I'm really making an effort to connect with you and spend special time together playing and talking without any distractions. I think you need to feel my love more. We talk sometimes about how love is bigger than crossness and it's something you sometimes say when I'm getting grumpy. "Loveness is bigger than crossness, Mummy, isn't it?" And I melt a little and remember you're still so young.
I'm sorry that being three is such a challenge. I'm sorry I sometimes get so wrapped up in how difficult parenting you is that I forget that you're having a hard time too. I've been assured that being four is easier, and it's not far off. We'll muddle through, little man. More choices, fewer demands. Less crossness, more loveness.