Lessons From My Three-Year-Old

As much as I love being a resource provider, I’ve been wanting to integrate more personal voice into Boston Mamas for a while. I'll soon share how that will work in terms of community submissions (yay!); meanwhile, I wanted to share a personal post today. It's Violet's third birthday and though it has been a challenging and surprising three years in many ways, I have also learned so much. I'm sharing my thoughts in the form of a letter:

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Dear Violet,

I know it sounds trite, but I truly can’t believe you’re three today. As I was thinking about your third birthday, I went back and read the posts (and incredible, supportive comments) about my feelings of failure around infertility, the pregnancy announcement, and your 58-hour labor and delivery. All of the emotions along this winding trajectory were so palpable that I can close my eyes and relive them immediately. Invariably, I find myself teary.

People often ask how you differ from Laurel. In a nutshell, you two are like night and day, but my typical adjectives are fiery, independent, and (sorry, Sheryl Sandberg) bossy. And while I’ve sometimes (OK, often) found myself overwhelmed by these characteristics -- they’re simply so different than what I have known with Laurel -- I’ve come to realize the positives too. I think I've been doing a disservice to you by emphasizing the challenges associated with your personality traits and I'm sorry about that. Here’s why:

You taught me not to be afraid of anger. I grew up in a household where angry outbursts were the norm; this made me run the other direction and never allow my anger to come to the surface. When faced with conflict with your Dad, I would shut down in fear. Subsequently, your fiery nature used to bewilder and scare me at times. But I have learned from you that anger has many dimensions. It can be short lived. It can be rooted in nonsense. There's still love on the other side of anger. I’m no longer afraid of it.

Your independence pays off. Sometimes it has been hard to support your independence when, say, I’m trying to get us out the door and you freak out unless I wait for you to put your shoes on a certain way. But the reality is, your independent nature translated to you potty training in a week. You can get dressed by yourself. You take pride in completing chores on your own. I would be crazy not to celebrate these things.

What I used to call bossy I now will refer to as your clear sense of purpose and process. You know what you want and how you want it. You move through the world with purpose. You are protective of your personal space. I respect these things. Let's face it: I am these things too.

You know the power of your voice. You are growing up as the littlest one in a family of talkers. I now know that your meltdowns about being the first to speak reflect frustration about not being heard and not being a part of the conversation. Your daycare progress report recently came back saying that at circle time, it’s typical of the kids to mimic one another when they report about what they did that weekend. Your teachers said that in contrast, you never do that; instead, you always reply with your own answer, clearly and with detail. It brought tears to my eyes to think that by age 2 you had already found your voice. In some ways, I feel as if I’m just finding mine.

Violet, you have taught me so much in these three years and I'm sure there are many lessons to come. And just as I often ask you to be patient, I'm reminding myself to be patient too. We're both perfectly imperfect and helping one another grow. I love you and will celebrate both your fiery independence and what lives on the other end of your emotional spectrum: a pure, bright, and infectious joy that lights up my days.

Love, Mom

Reviewing airline safety protocol. As two-year-olds do.

Image credits: Christine Koh