Letters to Jack: 3 1/3 years

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Hey there, Jackers,

It’s funny what people will do to keep their sanity. On the 25-minute drive down to Ashleigh’s yesterday, you said “mom” 43 times. How do I know? Because keeping a tally in my head was the only way I wouldn’t drive off the road.

In the car, you want to ask and tell me everything. Sometimes you don’t even make sense. “Mom, why is that tree there?” “Mom, why are there no school buses?” “Mom, are we at Grandma Z’s yet?” “Mom, a construction site…did you see the digger? Did you see it? Mom, did you? Mom?,” “Mom, why is street?”

If I don’t acknowledge you right away, the “moms” get louder and more demanding. “Hey mom……..Maaaoomm……MoMoMoMoMoM………….MOMMY I’M TALKING TO YOUUUUUUUU.”

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I read somewhere that age three is the “magical year.” That author must not have a toddler because I feel like I’m in the “threenager” year. You have many opinions. Things have to be exactly so. We can’t move on to any next thing until you finish a task just the way you want. I had to restrain you in the car seat last week because you didn’t like the way you’d climbed in the car and wanted to do it over and over again. We had three minutes to get Charlie to school.

You’ve begun talking back. Popular phrases these days include: “But, mom…” “I’m just,” “You are MEAN at me,” and “No, I can do it myself!”

You and Charlie are still fighting. A lot. In fact, as I write this, Dad is putting you both in time out for something. I’ve wondered if I shouldn’t have waited 4.5 years before having a second child, that maybe the age divide is just too much to bridge. But then I see other siblings that far apart in age who get along, and I realize it’s just your personalities that clash. That could have happened at any age. With hope, you are re-reading this as an young man and Charlie is your bestest friend in the world.

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You’re entering your third month of preschool, and I’d say the transition is ongoing. You were — and still are — the youngest child in class, by at least six months. I didn’t realize how big a difference that was until I chaperoned your first field trip to the aquarium.

You were all over the place, both physically and emotionally. I attribute part of that to me being there with you, but it really was a full-time job trying to keep you from escaping into one of the tanks. You have another field trip to a busy museum coming up this week, and your teacher pretty much asked that we keep you home if neither Dad nor I could attend.

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I can only imagine how tough it would be going from a class of four students taught by your grandma to a class of 22 students with several teachers. Not to mention an entire elementary school! During the school’s Lunar New Year celebration, you melted down in front of several hundred students and visitors while your class performed a Chinese song about a turnip. You’d never seen that many people before!

Your teachers say you definitely require more attention than the other students at this point. This is especially true of the potty. When I last wrote you a letter, we had eight days to get you potty trained before school began (a requirement to enroll). That first day, we felt pretty confident about pee and crossed our fingers about poop.

Well, we’re still crossing our fingers. We’re two months in, and I think you’ve pooped in the potty at school maaaybe four times? We’re at a loss for what to do, and I know it’s increasingly frustrating for your teachers. I can’t tell if it’s fear of pooping in the potty,  not knowing that it’s coming, or just stubborness. Like a cat, you tend to poop at recess when you’re playing in the sandbox, so maybe you’re just feeling relaxed?

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It’s not much better at home. We started you on the “chip” system  in hopes that you’d be encouraged to poop in the potty. Achieve that and you earn six chips — that’s TWO “Umizoomis!” You’re not buying it — and I’m not getting far.

Me: Jack, I know you want to feel like a big boy. Big boys put their poop and pee in the potty. 

Jack: I’m not a big boy, Mommy.

Me: But I know that you want to be! And Daddy and I want you to be. Babies poop in their diapers, and you’re not a baby, Jack.

Jack: Mom, I’m NOT a big boy and I’m NOT a baby………I am Batman. 

I keep fearing the teachers will say you can’t stay in the classroom, but I think they like you too much. Especially your head teacher. She’s been so kind and gracious about your transition into her class. She’s always telling me how bright and articulate and energetic you are. She assures me that you’ll get there when it comes to the potty. At nap time, she sings to you while you rest your head on her lap.

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I may get frustrated as we navigate these developmental milestones, but, Jack, there’s no one who can make me laugh like you. You are so curious about the world and so full of life. Your facial expressions and giggles are often the best part of my day.

You spread joy wherever you go. Leaving class the other day, I reminded you to say goodbye to your teachers. You stood in the middle of the class, threw up your arms, and shouted, “GOODBYE, FRIENDS!” Everyone beamed.

When we bought breakfast at the bagel shop, you asked if I could carry you to the counter so you could say thank you to the cashier. At night, after I’ve given you a hug, a kiss, then another hug, then another kiss, you always ask if you can have an extra hug and kiss in the morning.

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One of my favorite things about having babies was when your hands were wider than they were long. I noticed the other day that this isn’t the case for you any longer. You’re growing so quickly. Potty trained or not, you are getting to be a big kid, and part of my heart aches for that.

Even though I need a break sometimes, I can’t be away from you or your brother for very long. Dad and I escaped for a night away last weekend, and while it was AMAZING to get that time alone, I started feeling a little antsy for you boys after about 30 hours.

There’s just something about being your mom that completes me. A colleague asked me recently about my 5- to 10-year goals, and what came to my mind was that I wanted to be a good mom.

So, please have patience with me as we travel down this road together. There are some days that are long and frustrating for me, as I’m sure they are for you. Know that I feel so damn lucky to be your mother, and I can’t wait for the adventures ahead — even if that means you say “mom” 3 trillion times on the way there.

“Hey, mom!”

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