Three is an age of extremes. One minute, my son is screaming because he’s been told not to whack his brother in the head, and the next minute, he’s full of delightfully inquisitive questions about the world. Despite the tantrums, which make the terrible twos look like a walk in the park, I’m loving this stage. It’s funny, entertaining, challenging, and wonderfully rewarding.
I love being asked to explain the world, as hard as it is at times. Yesterday, he had a lot of questions after overhearing me talk to my friend Christine, whose grandfather just died. I told him about heaven. (For some reason, my skepticism about Christianity disappears when I have to explain the afterlife to my child. Heaven seems the only appropriate answer.) Apparently this made a big impression, because he had more questions for his daddy later on.
“What do people do in heaven?” he asked Jason.
“Well, it’s a place of eternal happiness, so I guess everyone just does whatever they want.”
“Are there toys in heaven?”
“Yes, there probably are toys.”
“Are the toys dead?” A. wondered.
That question totally floored me. Wow — it made realize that he probably thinks of his toys as being alive in some way. I know that feeling; my stuffed animals were more than just stuffed animals, even though I knew they were only made of fabric. Toys take on a life of their own for children who fill them with vitality through imagination… which leads me to something else I love about this age.
A.’s imagination is staggering. He’s just reached the point where he can sit on the floor, surrounded by cars or toy animals or action figures and create a storyline that he narrates while playing. What I love most of all is watching him play with his friend Emmanuel, who comes over for three hours once a week. Their favourite game is Ghost and the unsuspecting ghost is none other than fourteen-month-old L., who crawls after the two big boys with a desperate desire to be included. Instead, the big boys run screaming from the baby ghost and hide under a blanket with their flashlight, whispering words of encouragement to each other: “It’s gonna be okay. The ghost won’t get us.” When L. approaches, wailing and slobbering and whacking at the blanket, they escape and run away, much to the poor baby’s frustration.
I know my mother always said that the most wonderful stage in child-raising is the one you’re in, when it feels like it can’t get any better, and that’s definitely where I’m at right now. Part of me wants to freeze time and keep my little boy from growing up so he can stay like this forever.