Dear Owen: a letter at three years

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The other day, I was sorting clothes for the season when I came across these tiny elephant footie jammies, stuffed into a random bin. And there, surrounded by piles and piles of clothes, I stopped and looked. You had worn these jammies often as a newborn – from shoulders to feet, they were barely as long as my torso. It is crazy to me how much life and energy and personality has sprung out of that tiny body, now three.

Lately, we’ve been saying that you are such a little boy now. We see your feet, all stretched out, your long skinny limbs, your head full of bushy blonde hair, and we laugh as you say, “When I’m a daddy, I’ll have hair on my arms,” and then we show you the soft blonde hair of your own arms, and you smile broadly. Your body is growing into all the little boy things – your run from room to room in our house, and find creative ways to spider climb from one piece of furniture to the next. You are crushing wiffle balls “over the fence!” into the parking lot next door, and crouching in the dirt like all little boys have for all time over a worm or ant you’ve discovered.

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Owen, this year, you have shown us the true meaning of having a toddler. At times, you are amazingly fun to be with. You tell jokes, “Hey! I’ve got a good one: The duck went swimming!” or “City Kitty Mitty Litty!” You appreciate puns. You get excited about art projects and games and forts and books and basketball and movies.

And then, without notice, you are scrunching up your eyebrows and nose, lips pursed in what we call your “crabby face,” and you are saying NO! in a Goliath voice and kicking while we try to pull shorts on you and crying uncontrollably because it is time to come inside the house for lunch or, worse yet, put on your shoes. We ask you to say hello to someone, and you are stomping your foot and making weird mouth noises. You HATE being put on the spot to say anything. You have learned the true toddler art of working bathroom runs and extra drinks and snuggles and stories to extend your bedtime. You are at your worst when you’ve just woken up or are hungry or needing to poop, naturally. When asked to do something, almost 100% of the time, NO or the mysterious “Nosta!” is your intial response. Or better yet, I’ll say something like “Time to go potty,” and you’ll crabby-face up and yell, “No YOU go to the potty!” or you’ll come back with an angry, “Don’t be the Doc!” which is some mixed-up line we think has its origins in Winnie the Pooh. My favorite though, is when told no or turned down in someway, you go to another room of the house and console yourself by singing about the injustice, musical style (ala Frozen), usually to the tune (and including the lyrics of) “Why Can’t Little Guys Do Big Things Too?”

Most of the time, I turn away and hide my laughter. Sometimes I cry. Or hide in the kitchen and eat a cookie.

I feel sometimes like we are wandering in circles like the Israelites, stuck in the same patterns, having the same conversations about the same issues over and over again. But what I’m told is that this is three. Your dad and I find ourselves praying that God would harness all your passion for good and not evil. It’s tiring and exhausting and hilarious, and it’s three.

But, as mentioned, there is good. You LOVE the Bible – even beyond David and Goliath now. You are ever bringing up Abraham and Adam and Eve, Sampson, and Jesus’ dying on the cross. You memorize verses like a little computer, and you love to reenact the stories, over and over.

And it’s not just Bible stories. You are constantly pretending to be some character in Jack and the Beanstalk, or Jack ‘n Jill, or Frozen (aka “Anna and Elsa”), or Daniel Tiger, or the Gruffalo. One of your greatest joys is when your dad and I finally agree to join in on these stories and play an opposing character, though any “scene” we start is often met with a nonononononono by you as you try, again, to explain precisely what you want us to do (as in, nonononononono, Mom, we’re being NICE tigers). At night, lately, we’ve been letting you stay up and read books in bed, with your lamp on, and we hear you “reading,” sometimes telling these stories almost verbatim, sometimes jumping around in your bed, yelling “Fee Fi Fo Fum…” Often when I get after you to eat your food or hustle up in finding your shoes, I hear “But Mom, I’m being Jack right now.”

Fun facts: You’ll eat just about anything, but you prefer cake frosting, ice cream, fruit, and anything snacky. Your favorite stuffed animals, in order, are #1 Monkey, #2 Bear, and #3 Lambie. You love your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins; your besties are Archie, Milo, Estella, Eleanor, and Thea Belle. You love to wear sweatpants and go barefoot, and no, you still cannot go barefoot in the store.You and I planted a garden together, and I have loved watching you witness a seed sprout, and snitching lettuce from our little patch. You love to jump in puddles and wear your froggy boots and reading books. A favorite pasttime for you is to walk over to Ace Hardware, spend some time petting Bolt the Cat who lives there, and getting free popcorn. It’s gotten to the point that we do this so often that I no longer feel guilty about not buying anything. The store owners there love us. I think. More and more you want to do things yourself; you love wagon rides, riding your tricycle, the beach, and the pool, and building sandcastles.

owen-1-2182And baseball. Oh how you love baseball, and oh how you have already fulfilled some of your dad’s deepest fatherly dreams. You love watching baseball highlights. You know more players by name than I do. You still play pretend baseball in our house, congratulating yourself on home runs before you run the bases of our living and dining rooms. You have far too many baseball cards that you love to make into giant piles and find your favorites: The Toot Guy, The Cake in the Face Guy, and Mike Holt. You and your dad are ever playing in the backyard, and you are truly crushing the wiffle balls over the fences of our yard, yelling about how you are Brian Dozier, Mike Trout, Chris Bryant, or Torii Hunter who hit a “walk-off! home run! over the fence!” and then suddenly you are the acting outfielder robbing the home run and diving to the ground to catch the fly ball, and then you’re back to sliding into home. It’s all very exciting.

These last few months have also held some weird transitions through fear. You, out of nowhere, gained a sudden and debilitating fear of heights. You’d climb a ladder at the playground and then absolutely freeze once you saw how high you were. And going down stairs was impossible if you were not holding our hand. I think you’re slowly coming out of that…especially because in the last month, you have become a climbing fiend. I’m hoping the fear of heights was just a stage. You also hate the wind. Hate it. On the hottest of days, if you feel a slight breeze, you shout, in agony, “It’s wiiiindy! I’m coooold!” We had more than our fair share of meltdowns at the park on a breezy day. It’s like you have wind PTSD; we have no idea where this came from. You get really wigged out in large groups of people and can get kind of screamy or overly emotional. You hate transitions of any kind. And you’ve sort of developed an issue with dogs when they’re up close; you get really nervous. I’m so interested to see which of these things stick and which don’t.

You are slowly warming up to the idea of being a big brother. I think Elsa’s mobility have helped you to realize that she is more than just something like a pet turtle. You have grown so much in being able to tolerate her destructive Godzilla tendencies towards your towers and piles of baseball cards. You two have started wrestling, and you are surprisingly gentle. She absolutely lights up when you guys play hug tackle or when you jump on your bed or in the crib together. The other night, I even saw you grab an extra toy car after she tried to grab yours, and the two of you actually played together, without incident. She even makes you laugh sometimes – usually after she herself starts cracking up over her own burp or fart. You two are sharing a room at night, finally, after three failed previous attempts. It is so fun to see, and your dad and I say all the time that we think you’ll actually get along great once she can talk a little more.

You are mostly potty trained these days, though you still sleep and nap with a diaper on. There were several months this past spring that you’d wake up in the middle of the night, whine-yelling “Mushy Diaper!” Your diapers are soaked in the morning, so I think we’re still a ways off from being diaper free.

Owen, you are a talker. And I love that about you – most of the time – except when you ask me the same question 35 times in a row, even though you know the answer. I think you just do it to hear yourself talk. You are constantly giving commentary to our car rides, my bathroom breaks, our meals. You even watch movies by talking through them. You try out new words all the time, and what’s crazy, is that you really don’t make that many mistakes. Commericals are mershicoms, anything is anysing, “life is but a dream” is life’s a bloody dream, and you sometimes call a baseball fielder a glover (like bat is to batter as glove is to glover), but overall, you just don’t make that many vocabulary mistakes. And your inflection. It’s animated like a kindergarten teacher reading a book – your questions undoubtedly sound like questions. Your exclamations are exclamatory!

On the day you turned three, your dad and I greeted you with a Baker’s Wife sprinkle donut adorned with three candles. We gave you a tricycle and pushed you around the house. We did all your favorite things that morning: a puddle walk with Sarah and Thea Belle, capped off by a visit with Bolt the Cat, and a lunch of hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese. For your party, we finally celebrated at Hiawatha Park after two years of getting rained out. It was a sunny day, and a little cool, but we picnicked up with many of our close friends, plus a few from the Berget side. True to who you are at three, you had some fantastic moments at your party…running with Milo when he first came, watching ducks with your dad and Thea Belle down by the lake. But there were alos some pretty low lows: you fell backwards off a picnic bench and banged your head with an audible thump. You ran away when we asked you to say hi and thank you to your guests. And you cried really emotionally when your helium balloons were blowing in the wind, despite our repeated assurances that they were tied down. The party ended as you blew out your three candles on your Gruffalo cake (which had only narrowly won out over a David & Goliath cake), and that was it. You are three, and you are just so very Owen.

Owen, my first baby, my first child, I so often feel like we are guinea-pigging our way through each day. I so often find myself feeling unsure of a response, a next step with you, and one of my greatest fears is that one day you will be a know-it-all in your twenties and you will be telling a counselor that you think you are this way because your mom was a little crazy. But I know this. And I want you to know it too. I long for your good. I long for peace in your life, and wisdom, maturity, joy. I pray for these things, that God would guide your steps and use all of your strengths of imagination and energy and passionate emotions and stubborness and delight and playfulness for good – for your good, and for the good of those around you. I long for you to know Jesus and to trust that His love for you is unchanging and unimaginably more perfect than my own.

I love you and all that you’re becoming.

Your Mom

Things You Love: baseball, Daniel Tiger, the Gruffalo, reading (Llama Llama Books, Hit the Ball, Duck, Curious George, Berenstein Bears, Busy Town), Tarzan, Frozen, going on “adventure” walks, bugs, butterflies, dogs from a distance, Bolt the Cat, the hardware store, Home Depot, cookies, hot dogs, frosting, mac ‘n cheese, most fruit, hot chocolate, your loft bed, climbing anything, wrestling with dad, snuggle/wrestling with dad, jumping on our bed, baths, swimming, the beach, sand, gardening, juice, basketball, going to the Library, playgrounds

Things You Hate: going poop when you clearly need to, waking up, timeouts, coming inside, wearing shoes (most of the time), when Elsa ruins your projects or towers or games, when we won’t give you more milk, being told to say something on the spot, transitions of any kind (especially when people come to the house), the wind, being up high on playground equipment when you can see the ground below through gaps, getting your hair washed (the rinsing out part is grounds for spazzing), getting your booty wiped in the morning with a wet wipe