I've had nearly a week to come to terms with having a three year old. It's definitely hard to believe. I still remember all too well those first few days and how crazy they were. So much confusion, so much discomfort, so much worry, yet so much awe and love at the same time. While it sometimes feels like Jacob has been around forever, it's amazing to think that such a significant experience was three whole years ago. The memories of holding that tiny baby are vivid, yet we have this amazing, active little boy now...such a far cry from the helpless, tiny baby hooked up to all those monitors. Sometimes it feels like it took forever to get to this point, but looking back, it's amazing how much he's grown and changed in such a short time. Each year we have a significantly different boy than we did at the last birthday, whether the changes are obvious (more hair, more talking) or subtle (better comprehension, more coordination).
He definitely looks like more of a big boy now, especially after he got his haircut last weekend. He's getting taller and heavier, runs and does stairs much more gracefully than before. We can have full conversations with him, and most of them make sense. Part of me looks at him and can't believe what a big boy he can be. But then we have moments where it's the same as it always has been...or so it seems. He cries about a lot, still needs a lot of wrangling, and still has moments where his behavior at bedtime or at the table isn't that far removed from a couple years ago.
There are times when I thought about what it would be like when he was three (presuming at the time that we'd be well on our way to baby #2), and part of me expected that we'd be living this normal, settled life. And I guess to some degree we are--in many ways, toddlers take a lot less planning (but not always)--but I'm still not sure I feel like we've got this thing down. We have, at times, an out-of-control child that tests us at every turn, thinks it's funny to hit and poke and provoke (no matter how many hundreds of times he's been told otherwise), and makes it very difficult to ever sit back and just enjoy. We have moments, for sure, where he is the most amazing, adorable, and enchanting child, and I can't believe we created him from a couple cells and God's miracle of life. But lately a lot of those moments have been tinged by fear and questions--when the next frustrating moment is going to happen, how he'll manage to ruin a good night, or what we can do to stop/change/improve his behavior. I try not to let that stuff rule, but inevitably it shows up all too quickly after a small victory, and it's discouraging. It definitely keeps us from ever feeling too comfortable.
I won't lie--Craig is probably far more comfortable with Jacob than I am. Jacob and I have our moments, and even at his worst I know he considers me a safe haven. Ten seconds after he inexplicably smacks me for no reason and I walk away angry and hurt, he's running after me crying like he's trying to regain my approval/attention. There's a disconnect there somewhere, that he's not grasping that what he does hurts people he loves. But even after I've yelled enough that he cries, he'll still come crying to me, looking for comfort. It's an odd dynamic. But Craig is more comfortable playing with him and dealing with his "moments" (many possible reasons why) and I often wonder what a second baby will add to the dynamic. Will a second baby be more easy going? If it's a girl will I have an easier time playing with her because I've done the doll thing before? Will it make Jacob even worse? Will it make him better in the long run because he'll deal with not being the center of attention?
I feel a little better about managing a second baby with a four year old instead of a three year old, because hopefully with all the changes we've seen in the last year, we'll see that much more maturity before we bring another baby into the picture. Again, not happening in the near future, but the potential for it is at least on the radar. I'm often not sure where we'll find the time or energy, but we'll have to.
Probably my biggest issue as we enter the three year old realm is that I'm missing too much. He's getting to be such a big boy and will never be this age again. We spend so much time working, and our time at home is often split between cooking, eating, cleaning, and getting ready for one thing or another. Judging by how little playtime he had this week with his new toys, it really made me feel bad for how little freedom he has. I don't see our work situation changing significantly anytime soon (Craig's employer aside--Amerks were bought by the Sabres this week and he'll be working for either the Amerks or the Knighthawks, not both), which makes me a little sad, because it's harder to bring another baby into that same situation and worry we'll miss our last shot at enjoying the baby stage. We could claim ignorance last time around, but we can't this time. We'll have to make it work in the short term for the long term benefit of having a family of four, but it's intimidating.
Jacob is three, and it's hard to believe. It tends to get lost in the craziness of the moment, but there's so much more to come, too...