Little things that feed the flame

Living With – and Through – a Three-Year-Old

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What is this? – asks my intrigued daughter pointing at the drops of dark red liquid slowly seeping out of her scraped knee. Once again, I am reminded of how differently she sees this world – unfamiliar, unexplained, enchanting… Nothing ‘goes without saying’, everything is an exciting revelation waiting to be discovered. One of the great rewards of being a parent is taking this journey of discovery together and having your eyes reopen to the things you thought familiar, ordinary, common… Or, to be more truthful, to the things you did not even think about or notice anymore. Seeing the world through the eyes of a three-year-old makes you question and wonder.
As I stick colourful plasters on her wounds, my girl has another ‘what is this’ moment.zaizdos

Pawprints, – I say explaining the picture on the plaster, but this does not seem to answer her question. – Cats and dogs leave pawprints. When Matilda (our cat) gets her feet wet, she leaves pawprints on the floor and we can see where she went, – I try to explain. Her face gets serious. I see she is processing information, making logical connections.

When I grow up, I will be Matilda. I will get wet and I will leave phawprints, – she declares, pleased and excited. Why not, right? Turn into a cat and leave pawprints, then go to being a princess, a fighter, a dinosaur… (These are just a few of the many things she will supposedly be when she grows up.) In her head, at the moment, there is nothing impossible. I love being close to this limitless attitude.

I also love how fluid time is in her world. ‘I will go on that fun fair ride when I get bigger‘; ‘we can buy this pretty baby dress when I get smaller‘; ‘you are too big, mommy, I will carry you when you get little‘… As if we live in Lewis Carrol’s Wonderland with little vials of magic drinks for growing or shrinking on demand.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I came across this question a little while ago. There are less and less first times as our lives go by, isn’t there? Having a three-year-old in your life, however, lets you go back to the thrill of first experiences: her first pony ride, first time at the cinema, first fun fair, first time picking up and examining a snail… And no matter how many things we tick off, there still seems to be this bottomless well of experiences ahead of her. And for all the real-life ones, there seems to be an equal amount of imaginary scenarios. I can’t help but smile every time I catch her acting out stories, immersed in the worlds of her imagination, conversing with invented characters, introducing me to her phantom buddies. ‘Hello, mommy. This is my new friend Yellow Lion. We will go to the kitchen and make pancakes now…

And the dancing… Oh, the dancing! There are few things as endearing, as free and honest as a three-year-old’s dance. Whenever the music takes her, she gives it all of herself. There is no self-consciousness, no attempts to be cool, to get the moves right, nor any worry of what somebody might think. Only sheer joy and being in the moment, wherever it may strike – at home in the garden or amidst people rushing down the aisles of a busy supermarket.

I have not travelled long on this journey of parenthood yet, but I do believe 3 years to be an awesome age. She is getting smarter and more interesting every day, yet still maintaining that charming naivety and affection. It gives me great pleasure to see her falling in love with books and stories (I am always looking forward to our weekly trips to the library and try to allocate them as much time as possible so that there is no need to rush). My heart skips with joy every time this three-year-old points at the words in a book and requests to know whether this is the place I am reading, or asks what the new letter is, or when I see her face lit up with pride and satisfaction at recognizing a letter. As I watch her joy in learning letters, numbers, in discovering how this world works, I find myself wishing to press a ‘pause’ button and preserve this pleasure of learning. I so wish for it to never be replaced with the sense of chore and drudgery.

Yet, for all the growing of her mind and curiosity, at this age of three, my daughter is still a tiny little child. She needs mommy’s hugs and kisses as badly as she herself dispenses them freely and generously. She is not too self-conscious to shower you with them in public places if affection takes her. And there isn’t many things that could beat that feeling when, after reading the bed-time story, I switch off the light and plant one last kiss before my daughter drifts off to sleep only to suddenly be tightly wrapped in her arms and hear I-love-yous whispered in the dark. It is at moments like these – and many more others in our days – that I am torn between the desire to slow down time, to preserve that affectionate innocence and my deepest wishes for this little girl to grow into a beautiful human being, free and powerful, in love with this world.

I told you – three is an awesome age. 😉



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