Photo: Heather Millen

It’s been nearly nine years since I first became a Mom. Five years after my first son was born, I truly didn’t know if I would have a second. Life got in the way, the timing never seemed right and my firstborn just kept getting older; we just weren’t sure if it made sense. Now that we were finally past the challenge of the infant and toddler years and experiencing some version of normalcy, did we really want to “hit the reset button” and start all over? With the larger age gap, would our children even experience the benefit of having a sibling around to play with and grow up together?

Now, as I look over at my toddler’s sweet, joyous face and think back on those early concerns, I know there was no reason for pause. And even with its challenges, there’s not a single thing I would change. Because right now, at this very moment, this is what it’s like to be the mom to a three-year-old:

Joyous: You’re such a happy little boy. Your smile is contagious, I watch you enter a room and spread that smile to everyone you encounter, strangers included. It fills my heart with such happiness.

Energetic: From the moment you get up (way too early) to the moment your head hits the pillow, you are going full-steam-ahead. There’s just too much to see, too much to do, and you want to experience it all.

Learning: There’s a lot for a three-year-old to learn. You’ve struggled with a speech delay and you’ve worked so very hard at it. You’ve made major strides and words I never even knew you understood are pouring from your mouth. Ironically, I can barely express how much I love hearing all the wonderful things you have to say.

Challenging: You are a toddler through and through, to a fault. And toddlers push the limits just to see how far they can go. Of all your new words “NO!” might be your favorite. And when you’re the one told “No,” watch out.

Awe-inspiring: You look at the world with such big beautiful awe. Just yesterday, when you woke up in the morning, you looked out the window and exclaimed “Wow! The sun is up, the moon is down!” I’m so lucky to be able to glimpse the world anew through your eyes.

Stubborn: It is borderline impossible to get you to do something you don’t want to do. Sadly, this includes eating 90% of the food I make, driving me insane nightly as I try to convince you otherwise. In your perfect world, you would live on a strict diet of yogurt, muffins, and crackers and hummus.

Independent: You have a big brother as a role model and you want to do everything yourself too. You think you’re bigger than you are, but that often also pushes you to do things other kids your age wouldn’t. This is a blessing and a curse as I run behind you just trying to keep up and prevent catastrophe.

Fearless: It is terrifying. After years with an older son who was more content to sit and play, and to this day, still assesses the risk factor in every challenge, you very much do not. Case in point, last week our “Sunday Funday” was spent in the ER getting five staples in your head after a rather reckless ride on your Thomas the Train toy. I’m still traumatized from it.

Smiles and Laughter: Even after a hard fall, you’re back to your sweet happy little self in no time. Your laugh is perhaps the greatest sound on earth and you spread it like confetti. Lately, you’ve taken to saying “I’m funny.” And yes, sweetie, you very much are.

Sibling Rivalry: After a rather blissful three years of you and your big bro getting along marvelously with him doting on you and affectionately calling you “Mr. Baby” (a nickname I’m so sad you’ve outgrown), you are now becoming your own person with your own interests. Unfortunately, those interests often include playing with his toys and taking his stuff. You’re no longer a harmless presence in his life and you very quickly are learning the tricks of the sibling rivalry trade yourself, pulling your own power moves on a brother almost three times your age. It’s almost impressive.

Snuggles and Big Hugs: You are a world-class snuggler and will lay on me for hours, or you’ll scoot over just an inch closer to be next to me. Your sweet chubby little arms wrapped around me, and those sweet smooches you give me when we snuggle, are the best feelings in the world. I hope it doesn’t change anytime soon.

Perfect: Ask any parent of a toddler and they will speak of the challenges and trust me when I say they are not wrong. It’s dealing with epic toddler tantrums and an unreasonable little human who has no idea what they’re doing. But three is also a rather fantastic age where the world is an amazing place and every day is an adventure. Where laughter flows openly and happiness is contagious. And I’m going to do everything in my power to soak up every minute. Because four and five and ten and twenty are right around the corner.