Dear Connor: Three-and-a-Half

Dear Connor,

Posing for the Camera

The difference between three and three-and-a-half is more noticeable than I would have thought.

You speak in complete sentences now, and we can understand 90% of what you say the first time — 95% if we ask you to repeat yourself. You are practicing the art of negotiation (which is adorable and infuriating at the same time). You’re daytime potty-trained now (mostly thanks to daycare).

Once you were daytime potty-trained, that meant you were ready to leave Ms. Jill’s Toddler Two room in January and move up to Ms. Lindsey’s preschool classroom!

Connor by his preschool's door

Even in just the first week, being with the “big kids” made such a huge difference in how you interacted with us and how you spoke. The preschool teachers told me after that first week that they were still getting used to you — you’re so energetic and bombastic and spontaneous, running out in the hallway at random and talking back when you have your own opinion of what you want to do. (I wondered briefly if you had ADHD, but a little research assured me that you’re entirely too young at this point to be diagnosed as anything but a rambunctious preschooler.)

Obviously, we still have some work to do on politeness (even Mommy and Daddy had a hard time identifying what “talking back” was when we were kids), but your tantrums have definitely lessened and your communication has improved.

Just this past week, I got to talk with Ms. Lindsey about you. She told me that you act out when you’re bored or frustrated, hitting your classmates, so they don’t really like to play with you anymore. You’re becoming known as the class bully, which makes Mommy very sad, because you’re just not like that most of the time. Deep down, when your toddler brain isn’t freaking out, you’re very concerned about other people’s feelings.

Ms. Lindsey also said that you do best if you’re busy and engaged — which is a challenge, since she also told me that you’re academically much farther along than the rest of the class, so you get bored easily. She spent one day doing lots of one-on-one time with you, and making you her special helper for the day, and letting you have headphones on during naptime, and you did fantastic. So, Mommy and Daddy are now tasked with coming up with new things for Ms. Lindsey to teach you in your one-on-one time.

Reading a Tea Catalog

Connor, I want you to know that Mommy was like this, too. Not aggressive, but definitely ahead of my classmates academically, and easily bored. I remember being in elementary school and staring out the window when I was done with my worksheets, and getting in trouble for not paying attention. I also felt singled out a lot of the time. Sometimes it made me feel proud; other times it made me embarrassed. I’m trying to let my own experiences guide me and help me figure out how to help you get the most out of learning, without puffing up your ego too much. I want you to be proud of sticking with things until they’re done right, of figuring things out, of helping others — not necessarily proud just of being smart or getting good grades because it’s easy.

It’s definitely pretty awesome that you’re picking up on things so early, don’t get me wrong. Mommy and Daddy are so proud of you for that, and we’re glad that you love reading and learning. Now, let’s see if we can help you keep that love of learning, that love of school, as long as we can.

You’re still only three-and-a-half, though. Your brain isn’t done with itself yet. You have fine motor skills to develop, and social skills, and so many other things that have nothing to do with your letters and numbers.

Like holding your bladder at night. Or not wrecking your room during Quiet Time. Or staying in bed after lights-out.

One fateful day in mid-September, during a Sunday afternoon nap strike, you discovered that you could unscrew the tension knobs on the baby gate blocking your bedroom door such that the door would come open with just a little tug. You then proceeded to pull into your room everything that we had put in the hallway to keep out of your reach: the diaper pail, the changing pad, the baby wipes, the nightlight, and the baby monitor. You also opened the diaper pail and the wipes.

Quiet Time Destruction

Not long after, you realized that you were tall enough and strong enough to open the gate on your own, with no knob-fiddling required.

That was when we started zip-tying (and eventually child-proof locking) your gate shut during Quiet Time. Then, after you got stubborn about bedtime, we “fixed” the gate at night, too. Luckily, you weren’t quite ready to get up in the middle of the night to go potty (and you still aren’t), so “fixing” the gate was the best option. The sound of the zi-i-i-ip used to be enough to signal you that it’s time to stay in bed — lately, though, you’ve really been fighting any sleep at all, so we’re going to have to show some Tough Love and start ignoring you when you call for us. Which will make everybody sad, as you like to say.

Connor in his changing table

You’re still very into identifying emotions. When someone is angry, you say that “their eyebrows are down.” When you want to make sure we know you’re angry, you scrunch your eyebrows way down on your face, so there’s no question that Connor is angry.

Lately, to get you to wake up gradually and not be a big grump in the mornings, I’ve been turning on the flashlight on my phone and putting it on your bookshelf so it lights up the room just enough to nudge you out of sleep. Just the idea of my phone being in your room is enough to nudge you out of bed once you’re awake, so you can grab it and watch YouTube videos under your blanket. I’m OK with that — I’ve set the accessibility settings so you can’t accidentally delete any of my apps (again), and you watch YouTube so much more than I do that it gives you appropriate suggestions for what to watch next.

You love to be under a blanket, whether it’s with my phone or with your laptop or the phone you got for your birthday from Uncle Matt. You’ll also turn your LEGO/train table into a tent by putting a blanket over it. Sometimes you’ll tip the end cushion off of the big couch and say that the resulting divot in the couch is your “place,” and you’ll lean one of the throw pillows onto the almost-upright big cushion as a window.

Your imagination is really something else.

You never stop pretending, never stop singing, or humming, or making toys out of everything. Your sippy has been a book, a “friend,” a hook, and who knows what else in your little brain. A coaster becomes a telescope, or a wheel, or the sun, or the moon, or a quesadilla, or just a circle. The bubbles in your bath are a cake, or a campfire, or a volcano. It’s frustrating sometimes, when you’re in your own little world and totally ignoring everything else, but it’s also fun to watch you pretend when there’s nothing else you need to be focusing on.

Take a picture of me going ROAR!

I’ll be honest with you, Connor: right now, you’re kind of infuriating sometimes. You’ll ask for a thing, then deny that you ever wanted it. You’ll completely ignore the fact that someone is talking to you. You’ll refuse to let us cover you up before Quiet Time or bedtime by kicking your feet. You’ll start a demand with, “I said I wanted to…” when you never said any such thing. (Not out loud, anyway. Maybe in your head.) Daddy and I have been at the end of our ropes lately, trying to get you to behave.

But we know it’s just a phase. Someday, you’ll be our sweet, loving little boy all the time, instead of just sometimes. There’s the occasional glimmer of sweetness through the demanding toddler facade.

Even when we yell at you, Daddy and I love you bunches and bunches.

Connor

And we look forward to the day when you can wipe your own butt.

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