I still remember a phone conversation I had with my sister, even though it was ten years ago. I asked her how Devin, my nephew was doing. Jenny sighed, paused, then said, "Eh, he's three. I'm waiting it out."
Today is the last day of Jack's third year, and he has definitely had moments that made me just want to wait it out, like Jenny did with Devin so long ago. The whining that he did when he was two years old has not disappeared so much as it has become more articulate. And there have been times in which he was so unreasonable that I literally had no idea how to respond to him. For example, when I cheerfully remarked that it would not be long before Santa came to our house, Jack fumed, "That was really mean, Mommy. Are you trying to say that I am not the real Santa?" Boggles the mind, doesn't it?
That aside, Year Three has really been pretty great. Jack has developed the most amazing imagination. He loves his costumes and will spend hours pretending to be Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Captain Jack Sparrow, Buzz Lightyear, Cinderella, Diego, Santa Claus, Mr. Incredible, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman... or a crazy hybrid of all of them. He assigns characters to Steve and me, then tells us what the situation is, like, "We're Star Wars guys, and this is our spaceship, and we are going to go buy a birthday present for Yoda." It got to the point where his teachers would greet him in the morning not with "How are you today?" but rather, "Who are you today?"
I am proud of how friendly and outgoing he is. When it was time to transition from the Turtle classroom at school to the Pre-K world of the Ladybugs, he wasn't scared to leave behind his friends or beloved teachers - he was excited, saying, "Ladybugs, here I come! Maybe I will make a new friend today." He will introduce himself to other kids at the park, looking for common ground by pointing out that he, too is wearing a Spider-Man shirt, for example, or opening with surefire conversation starters like, "Do you shop at Target?"When it was time to plan his birthday party, he insisted on inviting every single kid in his class because he wanted all of his friends to come to his house and eat cake. He is also really developing empathy. Yesterday, his friend Caeden was crying because his mom was leaving. Jack went over and gave him a hug.
Because he's so outgoing, he's not afraid to order his own food in restaurants. He will walk right up to the librarian and ask her if she can please help him find some books about Star Wars. He will get up and dance with Sully at a parade. And best of all, when he was selected for Jedi Training at Disney World, I had no doubt in my mind that even though he was the littlest kid on the stage, he would rise to the occasion. He did not disappoint. Jack immediately started posing, using The Force on the audience. And when Vader came out to battle-fight the kids, Jack was not afraid (Yoda: you will be. You will be). He unleashed 32 pounds of kid frenzy on Vader. The Sith Lord didn't know what hit him.
Jack is also growing up and becoming more independent. If he wants to, he can get dressed by himself, often coming up with sweet combinations of red shorts and red t-shirts. Diapers and binkies are now things of the past. He can get his own cup of water from the bathroom sink. And he even went on a trip without us, spending a week with his grandparents, and learning valuable things like that this is a good way to get someone to buy you that lightsaber that Mommy and Daddy keep saying no to. He is learning new things all the time - he is recognizing more and more letters, can help make a grilled cheese sandwich, correctly identifies (and rejects) Granny Smith apples, and knows the days of the week and months of the year. He asked me lots of very interesting questions about why we vote, and how I knew to vote for "Mr. Obama instead of Mr. McCain." He learns new songs all the time, too. Sometimes they're songs you'd expect to hear, like "Jingle Bells," but he surprised me recently by singing Europe's "The Final Countdown," which he learned from my cell phone ring.
I love the person that Jack is turning into, and I could not be more proud of him. I am looking forward to my fourth year of being his mom, starting tomorrow. Last night, as I tucked him into bed, we had this conversation.
Me: Jack, I love you so much. I feel really lucky to be your mommy.
Jack: I'm not Jack right now. I'm Anakin.
Happy birthday, Jack - or whoever you are right now.