A Painted House

Dear James: Three Years

Posted on: May 11, 2011

Dear James,

Can it be that you’re three years old?  Oh, how you’ve grown over the past year both physically (You outgrow pants in the amount of time it takes me to make dinner.  I start to brown the chicken and you’re appropriately dressed; I turn to put the casserole in the oven and you’re wearing capris.) and intellectually.  I started writing these letters to record the things about your childhood that you won’t remember, but I’m not sure there is anything you don’t remember.  Your mind is always churning, always processing, and you never.forget.anything.  We had not been to Grandma and Grandpa Pierce’s house for over six months, a pretty significant portion of your short life, and when we told you a few weeks ago that we were going to visit you immediately rattled off a paragraph about the ping pong table in their basement (which you had only seen once before), their ceiling fans, the DVD player you get to use in the car on long trips, and the toys Grandma has for you to play with.  Astounding. 

Speaking of ceiling fans, your obsession continues.  Three years in and you’re just as in love with ceiling fans as you ever were.  We were watching the movie Cars last week and during a pivotal scene you focused not on the dozen talking racecars on the screen, but on the animated ceiling fans whirring in the background.  And much to your Dad’s pleasure, your favorite store to visit is Menards because they have a gigantic ceiling fan display section.  You’ve even picked out a favorite fan…..which just happens to be the same fan that hung in our bedroom in our old house and under which I parked you every day so I could take a shower.  I don’t think you even know why it’s your favorite, but you gravitate to that fan every time.  It makes me wonder what else you’ve stored away in that brain of yours from these first three years of your life.  Do you also remember the hundreds of bowls of oatmeal you ate until you could tolerate solid food, the time you smashed your thumb in the door at the doctor’s office and had to get it x-rayed, or when I stepped out of the room for thirty seconds while you were coloring with markers and you turned your arms, legs, and neck purple?  How about the time you projectile vomited from the backseat of the van all the way to the dashboard, at seventy miles an hour?  Good times, sweet memories.

And it’s not just fans, you find anything that spins completely fascinating.  Pinwheels, the oscillating sprinkler, washing machines, my kitchen mixer….if you can turn it in a circle you’re enamored. Your tricycle spends more time upside down so you can spin the wheel, than it does upright.  You ask me every.single.day. if we can put the box fans up in the bedroom windows so the wind will spin the blades.  And every time we play with sidewalk chalk you ask me to draw you a fan.  We often wonder how this will translate into a career choice.  Will you be a washing machine repairman?  A helicopter pilot?  The person at Lowe’s responsible for turning off and on all the display fans?  Heaven help us if you become a professional ice skater; your long and lean form might not lend itself to triple toe loops but your spinning would be fantastic.

You also have a strong affinity for music, James.  This is one talent I can get behind. (Though not one on which you may try to base a career.  Unless of course you’re good enough to qualify for American Idol, in which case I’d get to live out every mother’s dream of having her son’s beautiful face flashed up on a TV screen, swooned over by preteen girls nationwide, and associated with a cutesy four digit phone number…To vote for James, text the word VOTE to….Really, it’s all a Mama can hope for).  Anyway. You have a large repertoire of songs stored away in your head and often break into song without warning.  And you’re pretty good too; you can hold a tune, recognize songs just by the notes even without words, and remember a seemingly endless stream of lyrics. You can also hum the tunes, in order, from every musical toy both at our house and your friends’.  You know everything from Old McDonald to Jesus Loves the Little Children, but nothing holds a candle to your favorite song: Jingle Bells.  It may be April but that doesn’t stop you from bursting into Christmas Carols while taking a bath.  You’re a boy after my own heart.  The most impressive aspect of your musical education comes straight from your favorite TV show: Little Einsteins.  You’ve learned the musical terminology for fast, slow, and everything in between.  And I love the look on peoples’ faces when we’re swinging and you ask me not to push you faster, but to push you Presto.  In fact you ask me to start you out Adagio, then Moderato, then Allegro, and finally Presto!  Or when you start humming classical music.  I just soak in the moment of motherly pride and don’t tell them that all the credit for your genius goes directly to Disney Junior.

In the year since I wrote your two year letter you’ve received a promotion, James.  You’re not only my firstborn son, you’re also now the oldest son.  You’re a big brother to Edison who was born just after you turned two and a half.  Kid, you are the best big brother.  You’re sweet to Edison, including him in conversations and asking him to play trucks with you.  You get concerned when he cries and are very upset if you don’t get to be the first person into his room in the morning to greet him.  A couple of weeks ago Edison was fussing after being laid down for a nap and then a minute later I heard your voice on his monitor, too.  I clicked on the video to see your head and hands peeking over the edge of his crib as you checked to make sure that he was ok.  And just last night as we were taking a family walk with the double stroller, you heard him start to whine a bit in the seat behind you and maneuvered yourself around to ask him, “What’s wrong, Edison?  Do you need your paci?”  And then you reached back and gave it to him.  Melt.my.heart.  Your little brother adores you, James; all it takes is a word or a glance and he wiggles and grins with all his might.  I’m a big sister myself so I know the responsibility that comes with having younger siblings who look up to you; everything you do, he will want to try and how you treat him can make or break his spirit.  It’s my hope that you continue to embrace your Big Brother role as he grows and becomes increasingly annoying in your eyes.  And then someday you two can work together to turn on every faucet we have in this house simultaneously and flood every level at once!  Hurrah for brotherly love!

If there’s one negative to your turning three, James, it’s that you’ve discovered your physical and mental independence.  It’s as if you realized that for three whole years you’ve been compliant and sweet and obedient and have decided to test the waters and see what else is out there for you.  The past couple of weeks have been challenging as you push the boundaries to see how much, if any, defiance will be tolerated.  (It would save both of us a LOT of headache and in your case, bum-ache, if you would just accept that that amount is NONE.)  It’s been hard for me to see my sweet child turn argumentative and to have to intervene with correction when you decide to tantrum rather than obey.  But I know that testing the rules and learning to submit your will to that of your parent is all part of growing up.  And I figure if God can be so gracious as to put up with me and my never ending string of defiant thoughts and disobedient actions, despite the known consequences, then I can do the same with you.  It seems that three is the age at which you begin to find out what it truly means to be an individual, a person, sin nature and all.  And nothing is more important to me, James, than that we work through that learning process together so that you come out with a strong sense of your self, a firm grasp on what choices God would have you to make, and a love for Him that helps you to make the right ones.

Happy third birthday, Sweet Pea.

Love, Mama

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