Declan’s about to turn three, which is just a number, sure, like 34 is a number, but it comes loaded with baggage.  Some of it fun.  Some of it terrifying.  Some of it baffling.

Like how is my kid three?  It was just yesterday we moved into this house and he was crawling along the floor (because he couldn’t walk yet), getting covered in the dirt the previous owners hadn’t bothered to mop up, and babbling nonsensically (because he didn’t have the words yet to demand we clean the house, for the love).  But the real yesterday–the one that’s not shorthand for talking about the passage of time–well, in the morning Declan put together a 70-piece puzzle meant for ages 6+ with minimal help; in the afternoon, he did Superman dives into the pool while imagining that I was an octopus he was trying to escape; afterward, he sat on the couch and ate a balanced meal of salmon, broccoli, and pineapple; and in between we read books and he navigated an app on Colleen’s phone like a pro and sang songs and helped sweep the floor and went to the potty on his own without prompting and, oh yeah, made plenty of demands and expressed his distinct displeasure at whatever wasn’t going his way.

Not to mention, he just looks like a little boy. Three is beyond baby.  Three is “we have to start thinking about public school districts or private school waiting lists.”  Three is “should we get him into a class so he can pursue _____ hobby?”  Three is (so help us God) “I guess we need to make a decision about a sibling.”  

So, yeah, it’s a little surprising to be here already, watching the kid I wasn’t sure would ever be able to hold his massive head up alone do somersaults in the bed that he’s almost outgrown.  It’s weird the kid I spent hours talking to about every little thing (so he could be exposed to language and know that he was a part of whatever I was doing) is saying things like, “I’m going to say it all by myself so you keep your voice in your throat.”  It’s fascinating that out of nothing came this vibrant soul so similar to me in so many ways, yet so distinct and sometimes infuriatingly so.

He gets so frustrated with things.  The other day (after a morning of meltdowns) he was in his carseat yelling “No, don’t do that!” to no one in particular, leading Colleen to remark, “Wow, he’s even pissed at his imaginary friends!”  I’ve always been more of a “go with the flow” person.  That’s not really Declan’s thing.  Witness:

Declan (after asking both of us if he could read a bedtime book and getting the same answer from both of us: no): “I’m going to ask my dog, Watson.”

Or, that time he was mad at Colleen for some unknown reason and wanted to let her know it: “Mama, go get your diaper changed!”

But most of the time, he’s a lot like me.

We were at the dinner table a few months ago and he was in one of his “carb only” moods.  So Colleen was trying to get him to eat something else on his plate by taking the incremental approach.  

“How does it feel?  Is it hard or soft?” He cautiously stuck a finger out to touch it.  “Hard.”

“And what do you think: is it smooth or rough?”

“Rough!” he said enthusiastically.  Got him.

“And is it sweet or sour?”  Eager look.  “Try just touching it with the tip of your tongue.”

He slowly moved his face toward this strange food.  Then, an abrupt stop.  “Sweet or sour, what do you think?”  Silence.  Furrowed brow.  “I’m not answering that.”

Just like me, suspicious he was being played.

Those are just a few stories.  A couple frames from three years of film.

Three is just a number like 34 was a number when I celebrated it a few months ago.  But we stop and mark it because otherwise we’d forget to appreciate change.  This isn’t better than that.  It’s just different.  No matter the age.  I hope I remember that as we blow out the candles and what exists right now floats away, never to return.