I’m just a Threenage Dirtbag, Baby
I am watching my 4 year old daughter trying on her first ever school uniform and having one of those bittersweet where-does-the-time-go moments. It must have been almost a year ago that I wrote this for The Motherload with her in mind…
A Letter to my Threenager
You’re sitting at the table, pen in hand, scribbling with a look of intense concentration on your face. I say your name and without even looking up, you reply firmly, “Mum, bear with me a minute, I’m busy”. I must say that phrase all the time but it makes me smile to hear it on your lips.
I can see this scene playing out in our kitchen in ten years’ time when you’re thirteen, a stroppy teenager who sighs when I dare to utter a word and flinches if I move in for a hug. I wonder whether an actual adolescent will be easier to negotiate with than a stubborn threenager. They warn you about the terrible twos but the year that follows is often far more fraught.
You became a big sister just after your third birthday and suddenly had to share everything from your toys to your parents to the limelight. Attention-seeking acts and downright defiance were inevitable. I remember in the early days feeling exhausted and exasperated, not with the newborn but with you; folding your arms, stamping your feet and refusing to back down.
I want both my girls to become strong, determined, independent women who know their own minds and stand up for themselves; I just never expected all that to click into place quite so soon. “I don’t need your help,” you say, pushing me away. “I’m a grown up now, I can do it all by my own self.”
Choosing your clothes went out the window as soon as you turned three. No more picking a pair of leggings and a grabbing a top to get ready quickly; it has to be a skirt or a dress and no, not that one. “I’ll choose, I’m the expert.” I blame Peppa Pig for that saying, another bossy little madam.
At least I still get to buy what goes into the wardrobe and we are a long way off any talk of piercings or tattoos which would quite frankly terrify me. I dread to think what weird fashion will be all the rage a decade from now but I have no doubt it will divide opinion and that you will find a way to get your own way. Now sit still if you want me to put sparkly pink polish on your toenails.
Some days I feel like the scolded child, told off and corrected by she who knows best. I take the pretend biscuits out of the pretend oven but don’t remember to put on the pretend oven gloves and then I stupidly try to take a bite without blowing on it. You roll your eyes. Fast forward ten years and I will get the names of bands wrong or not know how to work the latest technology and you will shake your head at your mother the dinosaur who doesn’t have a clue.
You will learn how to wound with words and I will be on the sharp end of that many a time. At least for now when you feel cross, the worst possible thing you can think of to shout in a rage is “You’re not my best friend anymore, EVER!” I have to act as if I’m hurt when actually it makes me melt to think I must sometimes be your best friend then. I can’t help but dread the fickle, fragile relationships of your teenage years when your heart will be broken and I won’t be able to fix it.
You want a butterfly cake for your birthday with four candles on it and lots of smarties, but not the brown ones. If you had been born just a fortnight earlier, we would be out shopping for school uniform now but instead you’ll be at nursery for another year and playing with your little sister at home. I thought I would be ready to pack you off through the gates and into the classroom but now I feel lucky that we get to have another year together.
“I’m a big girl now,” you tell me, “But I’m not big enough to go to big school yet because I’m still a little bit little.” You sum it up perfectly darling. Even when you’re a teenager, there will be days when you feel like that; torn between wanting to be treated like a grown-up and wanting to grab a teddy and curl up on my lap for a cuddle. There will always be a hug waiting for you, even when you have broken the rules and called me every name under the sun. Please don’t get a tattoo though.
At three years old, about to turn four, I know all you really want is my attention. All too soon, I will be the last person you want to hang out with so I should stop more often to savour the moment. Next time you tug at my sleeve, begging me to play, I must remember not to say, “Bear with a minute, I’m busy…”