Monday, December 22nd, 2014...9:08 pm

Public Display of Three

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We went bowling today.

“Lane 5,” the cashier said and pointed to the far end of the alley.

We headed towards the lane, away from the other families with young children assigned lanes 20 or 30 or 35. I walked with Miles tugging on me, Nora asking so many questions and hands full of rental shoes and a bright orange six pound ball.

I smiled at the four or five groups of senior citizen bowlers in lanes 7, 8, 9 and 10, wondering for a moment why we had been put at this end of the building, hoping that we wouldn’t be a distraction or disturbance to these very serious white haired bowlers who clearly came equipped with their own shoes and fancy colorful bowling balls.

It will be fine, I told myself. It will be fun.

I typed our names in, checked the box so both kids would bowl with bumpers, changed everyone into shoes, made a return trip to the counter to get a different size, situated snacks and explained the order to Miles.

He was first.

He picked up that big orange ball, walked with me down toward the lane and together we gave it a push. It moved slowly but steadily and he knocked over 6 pins. I smiled at him, extended my hand for a high five, but he was in no mood to celebrate.

He wanted to remind me that he is three.

“I’m done bowling!” he declared. ” I don’t like to bowl!”

Never mind that in the car on the way there he had declared his pure love for bowling, his uncontainable excitement to be going to play a game with the big kids.

Never mind that two minutes ago he had smiled at Nora and declared, “This will be so fun!”

No. Now he was done.

He was so done that he started loudly crying. Started demanding that I pick him up. Started flailing and hitting and throwing me into the depths of embarrassment as the senior bowlers in the next lanes watched it unfold.

I tried to keep my calm. I tried to distract him. Nora tried to talk him into a better attitude. But he was just being three and we were stuck in public while it happened. We had to ride it out and smile nicely at the people who couldn’t help but watch that cute kid lose it on lane 5.

I think we managed to have fun despite the tantrum at the start. Nora got extra turns. I still got to play with her. He eventually sat and played on my phone while Nora and I tried to salvage our big outing.

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But I’m tired of three.

I’m tired of him throwing fits every day when I leave him at daycare, the teacher who he loves having to peel him off of me.

I’m tired of him crying like the world is ending because I pushed him 3 times on the swing instead of just 2.

I’m tired of his shoes not being right every single time I put them on.

I’m tired of him refusing to go to sleep.

I’m tired of him eating one bite of his dinner.

I’m tired of him switching without a moment’s notice from the sweetest, cuddliest guy to the kid who just won’t. stop. whining.

I’m tired of him needing me and only me to do X Y and Z for him.

I’m tired.

I love him to death, don’t get me wrong. I love the sound of his laugh and the feel of his small hand in mine, the way he carries his blanket around and the way he lines his cars up to play with all of them at once. I love his quiet conversations with imaginary companions and the way he says certain words just perfectly wrong. I love the way he tells me he loves me so many times a day it would be impossible to count, the way he sings to himself as he plays, the questions he asks that let me know he’s just trying to figure this whole big world out.

I know it’s all a phase and I know that I should relish the  sweet moments, but it’s hard on days that begin with a public display of three.

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  • Oh, three. My oldest was three from the time he was 18 months until he was six. People kept telling me: “It will all get better when he’s six!” and I held on to that mantra with a death grip. And it was true, more or less! (Some people keep an ounce of three their whole lives, really.) So keep on truckin’, mama. And maybe write transcripts of some of it, so you and he can have a good laugh about it when he turns double-digits, and you can’t believe how far he’s come.

  • Oh, I can totally commiserate with you. My Nora is definitely three (though in reality two and a half). The socks that were fine a minute ago that suddenly are hurting her toes, the shirt that fits totally fine that is “too small!” and requires a major tantrum, wanting to buckle herself into her carseat and then having a meltdown because she can’t actually do it, needing to change her pants because there’s an invisible spot of water on them somewhere, and on and on and on. And then turning around and giving me a heart-melting smile, “I love you, Mommy, can I have a kiss?”

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