When I was a teenager I spent my summers working at the local JCC, first as a "CIT" (counselor-in-training, aka an unpaid babysitter) and then as a junior counselor.
Every spring we were given the choice of any age group to work with, and while most of my peers fought for the older kids, I happily signed up for Chaverim, the 3-5 year olds.
These kids were my absolute favorite. They were still little and cute, and I could fit three of them on my lap at a time during Friday Shabbos singing. They thought I lived in the classroom. Most of them still needed help getting dressed for swimming class. They colored themselves with crayons and called going to the bathroom "making," as in, "Meri, I have to make."
Once, I heard giggling - from several voices - coming from our bathroom. There was no lock on the door to keep the kids from locking themselves in, so I peeked inside. There sat about four or five of my campers, perched around the rim of the toilet, little naked toushies in a row. I asked them what they were doing.
They were having a making party, of course. DUH.
How could you not love that, and I don't mean in a weird way?
Most of the kids I babysat, too, were 3-5 years old. I got 3-5 years old. I am expert at 3-5 years old.
Kids that age still take everything at face value. They are absolutely unself-conscious. Their imaginations have kicked in, hard, and the crazier thoughts they have the more it all makes sense to them. If it enters their minds, it comes out their mouths.
The 3-5 year old age range is just fine by me. I know it. I love it. Everything before, and everything after...I just try not to let them accidentally die, and maybe don't grow up to hate my guts. When they're teenagers I'm pretty sure, based on my own parents, all I have to do is pick from ignoring them, laughing at them, and telling embarrassing stories to their friends.
As I sit here waiting to go through the chaos, roller coaster, and exercise in sleep deprivation torture that is infanthood again, I keep reminding myself that before I blink, the Duke of Juban will be 3. My older son, the Juban Princeling, is 3, and although at times it felt like several decades passed during those first agonizing six months, here we are - he's 3 years old. He sits on the couch in his shiny blue scooter helmet, and Darth Vader costume, holding his blankie in one hand and his sippy cup in the other, with his dress-up knight doll resting happily by his side. His fingernails are painted blue because that's his favorite color, and what else would you do when you have a favorite color but paint it on your nails? (Liberal disclosure: blue is not his favorite color because we pushed it on him in some attempt at obeying gender rules. Blue is his favorite color because that's the color of my mother's car, and he is obsessed with her car.) His favorite word is "poop," and sometimes out of nowhere he'll stick out his butt and make a fake farting noise and then crack up. He insists his toys be friends with each other, and doesn't understand why Darth Vader has to be a bad guy. He comes into our room, sometimes, during the night and wants our attention but knows he's supposed to be quiet when people are sleeping, which is how I woke up last weekend to a fully extended, lit up light saber inches from my face.
Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with love and adoration I want to squeeze him and kiss him and hug him and never let him get older.
|If this isn't the cutest, sweetest thing |
you've seen all day, you are DEAD INSIDE.
And it's this, when I see him doing his "foot dance" (hopping around the living room on one foot) or when he tells me that the unborn baby's favorite color is purple, that I know will get me through those first months I'm so dreading, the months when we do nothing but give, give, give to this little sack of neediness and dependence. But some day the Duke of Juban will turn 3 and do things like call me his best friend, and run into my arms when he gets scared, and have entire conversations with me about the importance of proper vitamin color selection.
Eventually the Princeling, and, later, the Duke, will each turn 6 and I'll once again be utterly clueless as to how to deal with them. I assume I just throw food in their direction, hose them down once in a while, and hope they don't kill me in my sleep.