Last night before I went to bed I snuck into LP's room to check on him one last time (at least, one last time until I woke up in the middle of the night and checked on him again- I'm a bit obsessed). As I pulled the blankets up over his legs, straightened up all of the stuffed animals he'd gathered around him and gave him one final good night kiss I realized that it was his very last kiss as a two year old. That in the morning when we woke up he'd be three, no longer a toddler or a baby but a bona fide little boy. I was a little teary eyed when I went into our bedroom and told Paul that I was sad that he was growing so quickly and that he's not a baby any more. Paul reminded me that no matter what, LP will ALWAYS be our baby. And I know he's right, but still! Too fast! It's all going by too fast!!!
There's a Chinese proverb that says "To understand your parents' love you must raise children yourself." Having been a parent for 3 years now, I understand. There are moments when I wish that I had magic powers and could freeze time and keep LP just the way he is forever, but I know that my job as a parent is to help him learn and grow and become the best person he can be. It hurts my heart though to think that one day he'll be grown up, too big for cuddling, too big for bedtime stories, too big for booster seats and cups with lids and goldfish cracker snacks. One day he'll have a life of his own, with a job and a spouse and children maybe, and he'll be grown.
Having LP as a son has helped me to realize the love that my parents have for me, and the love my in-laws have for Paul. There were moments years ago when our mothers probably felt the same way, wishing they could pause time and keep us little. But they let us grow and taught us to be independent and now have to temper those maternal instincts at times to let us be adults and make our own choices. And for the first time I realize how hard that must be- your baby is ALWAYS your baby, no matter how old they are. All those times during my teenage years when I thought my parents were being too strict or they were embarassing or bugging me, I get it now. They always said, "someday, when you're a parent, you'll understand that we're doing this because we love you," and now I understand.
Most people know that parents are supposed to love, guide, teach and provide for their children. But we're also supposed to know when to let go, know when to hold our breath and our tongues, know when to help a child pick themselves up after a fall and when to let them do it on their own. I always feel like I'm walking a fine line between being good at parenting and being bad at parenting, but I know that as long as the good outweighs the bad we'll all be ok. Because parenting is not easy- there's a reason it's called the hardest job in the world.
Fortunately for us, Little Paul has been fairly easy to parent. Although he's been more defiant lately than he was previously, we know it's just a phase and as long as we hold our ground we'll get through it. Generally he's easy going, happy, considerate, and loving.
LP and our dog Gabby have always been the best of friends, mainly because Gabby knows that with Paul around there will never be a shortage of food dropped on the floor. Lately, though, Paul is doting on her more and more- sitting next to her petting her head and saying "Oh my little baby Gabby- you're such a good little doggy!" (when he's not putting her in time out for stealing his crackers anyway). As someone who grew up with dachshunds and who had my own special doggie Yocco, I'm thrilled that they're becoming even closer. Nothing warms my heart more than hearing 6 little feet scampering around the kitchen.
Our older dog, Socks, has become much more tolerant of LP in the past few months as well. Perhaps it's just that she's getting rather elderly, but we like to think that she's developed some affection towards him which wasn't there before. Last night he piled all of the throw pillows from the couch around her like a little wall and she just watched him and then licked his face.
Little Paul has been so curious about everything lately. "Mommy? What eats pinecones?" "Why are the leaves red?" "Why can't I have ice cream for dinner?" Fortunately he hasn't stumped us quite yet but I'm sure that the time will come when we have to admit to not knowing everything.
Paul remains a bottomless pit when it comes to food, just like his daddy. Almost daily, within 30 minutes of eating breakfast or lunch, he's asking for a snack. And because we always say, "no, not until snack time, but here's a glass of water," he now tries to manipulate us by saying, "Mommy! I can't grow any more unless I have more food!"
I remember in the Little House on the Prairie books that Ma was always saying to Pa, "Charles, little pitchers have big ears!" and it's definitely true around our house. Even when we think LP isn't paying attention, he is. He's constantly mimicking the things we say, things like, "I can't do two things at once! I'll be there in a minute!" and "chill out" and "calm it down" which he picked up at day care. Yesterday I took him shopping at the mall and we bought a leather coat for Paul for Christmas. When Paul asked LP at dinner what we did during the day he said, "we went to the store and we bought you a new coat for Christmas!!" So much for my big surprise gift!
When I kiss LP now, he almost always wipes the kiss away and says, "I told you no kisses Mama!!!" I always respond with, "I'm your mama and I'm going to kiss you all up all the time for the rest of your life." He then cracks up when I smother him with kisses so I know he doesn't really mind...
LP's mischievous side has shown up in full force as well these days. He'll say he wants a sip from my water glass and then dumps the water all over the floor. He'll snag his pajamas and hide them somewhere so that he doesn't have to go to bed. Toys that he doesn't want to clean up will be "disappeared," which usually means they've been shoved under the coffee table.
Some days are a huge test of our patience and will power- all three of us our stubborn so it sometimes becomes an issue of who can hold out the longest. But at the end of every day, those sweet good night kisses and "I love you Mommy and Daddy" make up for the naughty behavior.
With a child in the house, everything is happier, brighter, and funnier. Holidays are more enjoyable (Paul and I can't WAIT for Santa to come this year!) and every day gives us something new to look forward to.
Little Paul is the best little boy any one could ask for, so loveable and funny and smart. If it ends up that he's our one and only child, it's enough. He'll continue to fill our life with so much love that we hardly know what to do with it all anyway....
So happy third birthday Little Paul! Mommy and Daddy are so proud of all of the things you've learned to do this year and we're so happy that you're our son. You make us laugh and make us love every single day.... We love you!