A letter to Bean, who is three

Airplane and cloud cake

Dear Bean,

Last weekend you turned three. Three! Just yesterday you were two; last week you were tottering around speaking your own language; last month you were a wrinkly, squirmy, squishy bundle in a too-big sleeper. And now, while I’ve been sleeping I think, you’ve transformed from baby into boy. Your round cheeks have lost some of their chub. Your squeaky baby voice has matured into an even tone. Your wispy baby hair is coarser now, with a cowlick that sticks straight up in the back. You’re still so little, but you’re trying so hard to be big.

I’ll tell you a secret, my Bean. I sneak into your room most nights before I go to bed, just to see you sleeping. I carefully open the door, just enough so that a slice of light from the hallway spills into your room. I tiptoe in, avoiding the creaky spots on the floor. I listen to you breathe. Still in your crib, some nights you look so big, stretched out on your back with your hands up behind your head. And some nights I am reminded of the baby still in you as you sleep on your tummy, knees tucked up under you and your bum up in the air.

Some days I miss the baby you. Mostly though, I’m proud of the person you are becoming.

Bean, you are strong-willed. Once you have a plan, nothing can distract you from it, and you always have a reason. If I ask you to please put the spoon back on the counter where you found it, you are likely to inform me that it is actually a robot shark, and it has to rescue the elephant (a cookie cutter also pulled from the counter), who is stuck in a deep, deep pit. I have learned that, while it may be more time-consuming, it is best to go along with this initial gravely important task. Once I’ve gone along with the first bit, I’m better able to persuade you that the garbage truck on fire portion of today’s adventure is best completed with actual toys, not sticky kitchen implements. You are becoming a master negotiator.

You love stories. Reading stories, listening to my made-up stories, telling stories of your own. I love to listen to your stories, full of pirates and robots and trees and dogs and boys and fire trucks and garbage trucks. I hope with all my heart that this never changes; that this spark of imagination grows as you get older. That nothing and no one can ever stifle your creativity, or stifle you.

Our days together are filled with action. Complicated rescues with every truck in your possession are frequent. There is always a hero, and as a recent development, there is often a bad guy (you typically play both roles). The trucks all talk to each other, and you make a different voice for each one. It cracks me up.

When we go to the park or a playgroup, you usually pick another adult, often a stranger, to be your “person.” You take them by the hand, show off for them, tell them your stories. Usually you have good taste – it’s a grandmother who is delighted with the funny little boy at her feet, or a young man happy enough to play along. But on the odd occasion that you pick someone who isn’t as enthused to be your person, my heart breaks for you a little. You keep trying. You don’t understand rejection, not yet.

A couple of months ago, we went to drop-in kindergym at the local rec centre. As soon as you’d entered the room you started running. In a constant loop, you went from one ride-on toy to another, to the mini trampoline, the music toys, the slide, the pirate ship play structure, and then back again for another round. And another. And another. Always running, usually yelling, a wild man having the time of your life. I noticed other parents noticing you.

Maybe at times I envy these other parents their placid kids; maybe I would like a few minutes of calm once in a while. But, as wild as you are, you are also the boy who spontaneously decided to give hugs to each of the adults in the room. (We will have a conversation about hugging strangers another time.) When you knocked down another boy’s blocks and saw that he was sad, you ran up on your own and said sorry, and you meant it. Yes, you are wild, but you’re also sweet and kind.

I’ve learned so much from you, Bean. Patience, flexibility, presence, love. You are the boy who made me a mother. Before you came into this world, I suppose I had an idea of what parenting would be like, and what my kids would be like. I believed that you would conform to my expectations, simply because I had them. Because I willed it. But here is what I’ve learned. You have your own will. You are your own person. You are not particularly pliable. But you’re sweet, and underneath the stubbornness you are eager to please; with love and space and security, you come around on your own time. You’ve taught me that in shaping your behaviour and guiding your path, my love is a thousand times more powerful than my will could ever be.

Bean, I won’t lie; it can be challenging to be your mama. But it’s also thrilling. Belly laughs are a daily occurrence. My heart bursts with love and pride every day.

Happy third birthday, sweet Bean.

Love and hugs and ten thousand kisses,

Mummy

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