Three Years Three Months is a lot like Three Years Two Months. Small changes all the time, but it's not like you've gone from crawling to walking or something enormous like that. I guess the next time we'll have a big shift to talk about will be the day I realize you have facial hair, or you get engaged. Not sure I'll still be writing these letters at that point, but I promise to start up again when either of those happens.
I've been working a lot on our relationship, trying to find ways to enforce the rules and raise you in the ways I think are important without our relationship becoming too adversarial. I'm softening up the edges, slipping jokes into the discipline, focusing more on involving you in cooking and cleaning (which you love), and anticipating the frustrating scenes so that I can handle them more calmly. I'm also planning more one-on-one time now that Jack is easy for Daddy to handle. Last weekend we ditched them and went on a hike at Huntley Meadows, then hit Chuck 'E Cheese for some playtime and pizza.
I can already see shifts - you're cuddling with me more and asking me to play Legos with you. I know in my heart that I've done a lot of things right with you along the way, but now I also know how hard I'm going to have to work to make sure to tailor my parenting to your personality. The last thing I ever want is a fracture between us. We both have hard heads, and I can see a lot of standoffs in the future if I'm not careful.
One thing that I'm working on for you is teaching / encouraging you to play independently. Other than watching TV, there really isn't much you do alone. I'd always imagined you playing with your trucks, reading books, building with your Legos...you do all of those things, but you never do them alone. Daddy and I are going to start setting aside "Nate time" when we're together but pursuing independent activities. I bought you a train set for your Chanukah present, and I think we'll start with that as your first independent project. Hopefully you grow into it. Please, please grow into it.
I'd always heard about the frustration of the "why?" stage, but I hadn't truly understand the massive irritation it brings. If you were asking me "why is the sky blue" or "why does my boo-boo hurt" I could totally thrive on teaching you and learning along with you. I hadn't anticipated that 95% of your "why?" questions would be absolutely inane. Example from yesterday: we're driving home from an outing and you ask me to point to which way is home. We're on the highway, so I point in the direction of our neighborhood. Your response: "Why?" Well, Nate, because that's where our house is. Seriously, I don't know what else to tell you. I could go on and on with example of NOT-WHY QUESTIONS, but I'd just drive myself crazy in my spare time and that's more than I can take.
I'd always wondered how I was supposed to know when to start working with you on new skills, but I've learned from you that you'll show me when you're ready. Overnight, you started asking about numbers and letters - asking me to identify them in books and signs. It took about five minutes for you to learn to identify numbers 1 through 5, and you've totally got them down. You like to find them everywhere we go, on signs and menus. You love to draw crazy designs in the air with your finger and then turn to me and ask, with all seriousness, "Was that a letter or a number?" Honey, that was nonsense. I have no idea what that was.
Daddy reads stories with you every night, and last night he called me into your room and you showed me that you can read the word Thomas. We both praised the heck out of you, and you were so terribly proud of yourself. I bought you a bunch of books for your Chanukah presents this year. I'm just dreaming of the day when we can read more grown-up books together: The Phantom Toolbooth, Light in the Attic, the Little House series.
What I'm really looking forward right now is when we're more like peers, when we can go places together and talk. When I'm not making sure you behave politely, use your manners, drink nicely from a cup, turn off the light in the bathroom...when I can just enjoy your company and stop being "Mom" all the time.
Last night Daddy had to work late, so I was alone with you and your brother. You woke up with a rare stomachache, so I lay in bed with you for a while to try to make you feel better. We lay face to face and cuddled and talked. You stroked my arm and said "I like your skin!" and did the same with my hair. You looked at my pajama pants and said "I love your butterflies and hearts!" You have a sweet, kind heart. I'm so proud of you, and I can't wait to see who you become.