To my number-one-guy, who turned 3 on Tuesday

In this past year, we have watched you emerge as your own person, intent on making your statement in the world. You rode through tremendous changes as easily and naturally as you learned to walk, with flexible attitude and deliberate effort. We celebrated your 2nd birthday as “Uptown’s first post-Katrina party,” with people stopping on the street to enjoy the sight of balloons, supplied by a helium tank Granna and PapPap brought in from Mobile. (You spent the party in heaven, popping each balloon with borrowed keys.) You lived in Peru and were immersed in a second language just as you were gaining a mastery of your first. We are still convinced that with only those two months of immersion, you have a better comprehension of the language than the both of us. You attended two schools and endured countless daycare arrangements while we determined how to care for you in our post-Katrina world. You lived with us at Granna’s and PapPap’s while we waited for your sister, and then welcomed her into our family with a love that astounds us everyday.
The night before your third birthday, I stayed up much too late baking and decorating cupcakes for your class at school. It was a humbling experience. Half way through, I called Granna to thank her for all the nights she spent doing the same thing for me. Moments like these, when I am locked in a pattern of shock over my actions yet committed to following through with them, remind me that before all else, I am a mother. My commitment to you trumps everything. It just takes the thought of you to feel how lucky I am to not only be a mother, but to be your mother.We have a thousand nick-names for you. You’re our little man, our big boy, Mommy’s number-one guy. Sometimes, you decide what name fits best. The other day, when you were copying the cat haughtily licking his haunches, I asked if you were a cat. “No Mommy,” you said quite matter-of-factly, as you pretended to lick your paw-clenched hand, “I a Monkey Boy.” What can I say? Sometimes you are right on the money.
At 2 1/2 we gave you the most special present we could ever give you: Kate. Your gentleness with her, astounding from any child but especially from one with such explosive energy, touches us more than we are able to express. You speak to her with a laugh in your voice, helping her learn and cheering for her milestones. There are times when you protect her from hazards that neither Daddy or I have seen (“Don’t get too close to the couch, silly girl, or you’ll bonk-a your head! I don’t want you to bonk-a your head!”) When she cries, you run to her with a binky and a song. Now that Kate is crawling, you are starting to show signs of the sibling rivalry to come, claiming possession of items as she reaches to them. We realize that it is important to remember these sweet moments of touching tenderness before we descend into the world of endless squabble.We thought that your reaching the age of 3 would mean that we would get relief, putting the terrible twos behind us. Then our pediatrician, mother to four boys, let us in on a secret: “with boys, it tends to be less about the terrible twos, and more about the terrible 3s and 4s.” Conferring with other parents has not given us hope. Then we spoke to our friend Bryan, father of twin boys, who pounded in that final nail: “It is definitely terrible 3s and 4s — and every other parent of boys says the SAME THING.” That slumping sound you’re hearing is your Mom and Dad melting to a pile of mush.Following the prediction, we found that turning 3 did indeed bring about a Jekyll and Hyde quality in you. On the night of your 3rd birthday, we took you out for hamburgers, gifting you that dinner you have requested every night for the past 3 months. True to the fashion of our beloved city of New Orleans, we took you to a bar. You loved it; tearing into that 17-pound cheeseburger with a fork as if you were going to have no problem clearing your plate. On the way home, you sang songs in the car, stopping only to say, “Thank you, Mommy, for great dinner!” and “Thank you, Daddy, for taking us!” Your Dad and I were almost too vaclempt to answer “you’re welcome, sweet guy.” Later that night, those moments were all but shot from our memories when you, without warning, went ballistic at the thought of cleaning up your legos before bedtime. The antics that ensued ended up with you going directly-to-bed, do-not-pass-go, do-not-collect-$200, no story, no song, TO BED. You made it clear that we were seriously going to have to bring it on if we’re all going to survive to see you turn 4.
Not that stubbornness is new to you. You’ve had several stand-offs in the past year, some lasting several hours, until you finally broke down to say you were sorry. You seem very aware of your limits and test them with caution; when you’re caught, the embarrassment is almost too much. Admitting your mistake, especially to those outside of your smallest family circle (Daddy, Kate, and I) is almost too much for your blossoming ego. As your mother, and one who provided half of your DNA, I know exactly where you get this from. Which reminds me, I have to call your Grandparents to thank them, again, for letting me live to see adulthood. Whoa, little dude. You are totally 3!