Ari turned 3 a week and a half after Sam was born. He’d been saying he wanted to invite all his friends from school to a birthday party, but I couldn’t handle hosting a big party at that time! Fortunately, when the time came he didn’t seem to mind.
Shortly before the big day, he started saying, “I don’t want to have a birthday!” and complaining that birthdays are “too noisy.” When he woke up in the morning on his birthday, and we said happy birthday to him, he repeated, “No! I don’t want to have a birthday!” and added, “I want to still be two!”
At his school, they did a birthday circle, singing about the earth going around the sun and looking at photos I’d brought of Ari as a baby and at one and two years old. They gave him a gift (a prism) that they passed around the circle for everyone to add their love or good wishes to before it went to Ari, then he refused to open it! He also refused to let them sing happy birthday and declined to blow out his birthday candle. But later in the day, they made “birthday bread” that he enjoyed.
After school, he fell asleep on the way home, so we saved his cake (carrot cake from the grocery store) and card and presents until the next day. Then he again refused the birthday song, but he did blow out his candles, eat cake, and open presents! And he seemed to accept that he is now three.
That evening, we went to the park and pretty much had the place to ourselves! It was a beautiful evening, too.
The next day, we got together with my family in Olympia and had a dinosaur-themed party. He loved the little dinosaur toys, masks, and plates and cups my aunt got him!
He also loved the rides my aunt gave him on this lawnmower, and he then climbed up on his own and told us to turn it on.
More photos from the day:
The birth-to-three period has been described as a crucial developmental period in a person’s life, when the foundation is set for future relationships and abilities, and many early intervention programs are focused on these ages. So I really wanted to do all the right things for Ari during these years (of course I didn’t!), and it feels like a milestone for me that they are over! Turns out he still needs me though. 🙂
I’d love to write at length about the research and various theories, along with my own thoughts, about early child development and what babies and toddlers need from their parents, and when and why it was easy or hard for me to meet those needs. But now I have a newborn, too, so I don’t have time! Someday, I will!
First, I’ll share a few stories from the couple of weeks around his birthday. I keep brief notes on my phone to help me remember things he does or says, but then sometimes I look back and can’t remember all the details.
One day, we were surprised when he seemed to grasp the basic concept of negotiation. A. offered the usual three books to read before nap time, and Ari said, “No, ten books!” I’m not sure who moved first, but Ari started decreasing the number that he wanted in small increments, and A. increased his offer to four, then they both agreed on five. We’d never before seen him adjust his request that way! But then, we also don’t usually budge on our side.
The next day, we were trying to get him to stop working on a puzzle and leave the house so we wouldn’t be too late for story time at the library, and he was saying, as he usually does, “I just want to do my puzzle ONE time!” Then he said in a growly voice, “I’m NOT nice! I’m BAD! I’m going to do my puzzle TWO times!” A. and I laughed for a while, making jokes about the “bad kids” who do their puzzles two times.
For a while, whenever we were doing something to him that he didn’t like, like picking him up and moving him from where he wanted to be, he would say, “Aaaaah! This is NOT GOOD!” It was so cute, with the words being so much milder than the emotion that he clearly felt.
One day shortly after his birthday, we had what may have been our first conversation in which he kept asking, “Why?” (I think he did that earlier when he was mimicking a scene on Peppa Pig, but this seemed more authentic.) Now I don’t remember what the conversation was about, and he hasn’t done it since. He still mostly likes to ask, “What is that?” and “What does that say?”
Kids develop in different areas at different rates, and Ari seems to be taking his time in some areas but really enjoying and working hard on language. We can pretty much have regular conversations with him and he’ll tell us stories, even though he gets a lot of his grammar and tenses and plural forms wrong. Being able to talk to him in such a grown-up way has been causing us to overestimate his abilities in other areas, I think, and to expect too much out of him sometimes, so I’ve been consciously reminding myself that he’s still little and needs a lot of supervision and comfort and attention.
He often asks us how to spell things (or he’ll ask “What does A start with?” when he means, “What starts with A?”), and he loves to play with our Bananagrams letter tiles and spell words, with our help. Sometimes he’ll string some letters together (into non-words) and ask us what they spell.
At the end of June, shortly after he turned three, he was looking at Andrew’s water bowl, which has “Good Dog” printed inside it, and he said, “D-O-G, that says dog.”
On July 3rd, at the zoo with A., he looked at A.’s membership card and read, “Z-O-O, zoo.” So I’ve been having him read that word whenever it comes up while we’re reading together.
Ari also loves doing puzzles right now, and can do a 48-piece jigsaw on his own (after he’s done it previously with our help), and he does most of a 100-piece puzzle if we work on it with him.
He also loves to make collections of things and to put things in some kind of order, making a stack of “favorite” books, lining up all the toys of a certain category, using cards from a memory game to “play matches” (putting matching cards together), and playing with his new reusable stickers with scene cards where he puts the water animals in the water, etc. so that everything is in the right place. Once he’s started a task like that, he really doesn’t want to do anything else until he’s finished!
Ari does not like to be alone, and will complain, “I’m all alone!” or “I miss my mommy!” if we try to leave the room, even while he’s working on a puzzle or something. He almost always asks us to do a puzzle with him. He’ll take my hand and say, “C’mon, come do this puzzle with me. It’s fun! You will like it!” He loves to be held and carried and cuddled, too, and asks for “Uppy!” far more often than “Down!”
He definitely has a sense of humor and likes to make funny faces and say things in silly voices, and he can be very giggly and playful.
At school, Ari’s teachers talk about his friendliness and smiles and how much he loves books, music, and animals. One teacher calls him, “Ari Safari.” Indeed, his favorite things to do right now are hearing stories and singing songs at library story times, and seeing animals – mostly farm animals, and he often says he wants to go to a farm.
(July 14th update: I forgot to talk about his interest in dinosaurs! Ari loves to watch “Dinosaur Train” and has learned a lot of dinosaur names. We were at a restaurant with toy dinosaurs and asked if he knew the name of one that had us stumped, and he said, “That’s a pachycephalosaurus” and we looked at the bottom of it where the name was printed, and sure enough, it was! He also corrects people’s pronunciation of some long, complicated dinosaur names. When I asked him once why he likes dinosaurs, he said “Because they ROAR!! And STOMP AROUND!!”)
And now, he’s a big brother, too! Sometimes he wants to sing songs to Sam or “touch his tiny toes,” or say, “Hi, Baby! Look at me, Baby!” and he hasn’t said anything negative about him at all, other than “Don’t feed Sam! Daddy feed Sam!” when I say that I have to leave him to go feed Sam.
He’s been very understanding when I’m tired and cranky, too. Not that he always makes things easier, because he definitely drives me crazy with dawdling, or repeatedly doing things I’m asking him not to do, or insisting on doing things HIS way (of course! he’s my kid! and A.’s kid!), but then he’ll do something so sweet that I can’t believe I was ever angry. One morning (when I was exhausted from being woken up by him during the night and early in the morning), I was driving him to school and he said, “I want to sing a duck song, can you think of a song about ducks?” I was feeling very grouchy, so I said no. He responded cheerfully, “Well, then… Let’s sing a song about frogs. I can think of a song about frogs.” And he sang about the speckled frogs sitting on a hollow log all the way to school. When we got there, he said, “Did that make you feel better, Mommy?” So of course I smiled and said yes, I felt much better, even though I felt worse because now I felt guilty about being mean to such a sweet kid! He also watched me rubbing my eyes one day and said very sweetly, “I’m sorry you’re tired, Mommy.” And when I complained once about having to feed Sam AGAIN, he said, “Mommy, sometimes babies eat a lot!”
So I’m sure he’s going to be a great big brother! I love this amazing kid I’ve got and feel so privileged to be his mother!