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Beautiful Three-Year-Olds

18th November 2015

‘Camera Shy’, 1941, by Shorpy

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, November 2015

Are you currently sharing your house with a three year old? Don’t you sometimes wish you could freeze time, and just keep your little one at this age forever?

Three year olds are so hilarious.  My smallest child Pudding makes me laugh almost every time she opens her mouth.  She’s my third child, and my last, and I cherish all her wild flights of fancy. I know that one day soon, in the blink of an eye, she’ll be a little schoolgirl. She’ll be full of other kinds of kid-madness, but she’ll grow out of that special, nutty pre-schooler magic.

Pudding says ‘sticky steak’ instead of sticky tape. She like to play with ‘fridge magnicks’ and to eat her ‘vitamin seed tablets. ’ She says that there are people called the Ottomans who live under the ottoman in the lounge room. She talks to them. Actually, she says they can kill people.  (Visitors, be warned.)

The rich inner life of a three-year old is amazing. There are several imaginary friends in Pudding’s roster, but Annabel has the cheekiest vibe, and the most fully realised personality.  Pudding talks to Annabel a lot. I was inspecting chin hairs in the bathroom recently while Pudding was perched on the toilet next door.  ‘That is not true!’ I heard Pudding hiss under her breath.

‘What’s not true?’ I asked.

Pudding came in, pulling up her pants indignantly. ‘Annabel just said to me “you do poos in the bath every day”!’

‘Well, that’s patently untrue,’ I said. ‘You tell Annabel that you are not a baby and you do not do poos in the bath.’

‘I will certainly will tell her that,’ said Pudding. We both shook our heads at the outrageous accusation. It was so Annabel.

Pudding dresses herself in the garb of a tiny lunatic, ignoring all rules of fashion. She’s used to hand-me-downs, and puts them together in wildly inventive ways. ‘New thongs, Pudding?’ her Dad asked at the breakfast table. ‘Haviana’s, are they?’ Pudding looked at her feet. ‘Well, they’re mine now,’ she said.

Three year old’s are just adorable, suspended in that land somewhere between child and baby. They are still so little, still so sweet, but unlike your average frustrated and enraged two-year old, they  have the language skills to express the madness within.  For instance, where a toddler might throw their plate at dinnertime, Pudding can verbalise her displeasure.  ‘Trust me this, Mama’, she told me once, ‘Slokini is disgusting.’

This is not to say that parenting a three year old doesn’t take some bloody hard graft. It can be psychologically exhausting playing Mums and Dads for hours. Also, it gets messy. Yesterday, for instance, Pudding poured a cup of milk into the Tupperware drawer.  It happened as she tried to carry a brimming cup across the kitchen to the fridge because ‘Annabel told me to make a freeze-milk.’

Pudding is extremely busy, and not good at cleaning up her own mess. She wept bitter tears recently when I insisted she put her craft stuff away.  ‘But Mama, you don’t understand’, she wailed. ‘It’s so boring!’ Oh, bless. Believe me, Mummy understands.

More than the funny things they say and do, the best thing about three year olds is the intensity and purity of their affection. ‘You look beautiful Mama,’ three-year olds will tell you.   ‘Your hair is so pretty. Your shoes are so nice. You are so good at that. I love you so much Mama.’ Now, to invent that time-freezing device…

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