Hank the Tank is the third of my 3.5 amazing kids. He’s rapidly approaching and achieving new milestones—terrible twos! Big brotherhood! First sentences!—and along with all of the challenges of having a toddler in the house come all the delights.
Right now, my absolute favorite thing about Hank is that I’m able to appreciate him in a way that I didn’t or couldn’t the first two. When Oliver was his age, I was eight months pregnant with Hazel, working some crazy hours, and had never gone through it before. And I feel like every stage of kids is a stage that you worry will Never. Ever. End. And you’re so worried that it will Never. Ever. End. that you really can’t appreciate all the joy it brings. When your baby isn’t sleeping, like, ever, you are fairly certain that you will never get a night’s sleep again and you curse yourself for all the mornings before kids that you decided to get out of bed at all.
Of course, strangers like to stop us (or maybe it’s just me; strangers generally really like to give me unsolicited advice) while we’re going through it and tell us that it doesn’t last, and to enjoy it, and to stop and smell the dirty diapers, because one day you’ll miss them. (Word to the wise: you will not miss diapers. I do not ever miss changing Oliver or Hazel’s diapers, or regularly needing to assist them in the post-bathroom clean-up after potty training.) And I knew when Oliver and Hazel were young that I’d miss those days—the chubby fingers stuck so far up their noses that you wonder if they’re trying to activate parts of their brain, the endless stream of “No!”, the fact that they don’t want to ride in the stroller, but will only walk just far enough to make it impractical to go back and get the stroller before they won’t walk anymore, and then think you should carry them. I knew I would miss them. But I was busy. And I was tired. And I was in a hurry.
With Hank, I’m still busy. I’m still tired. Heck, I’m still pregnant! I still get frustrated and overwhelmed and I still get irritated when he throws all his food on the floor again or hands most of his peanut butter sandwich to the dog to eat. I still appreciate naptime.
But, what’s happened with my third kid, something I wasn’t expecting, but am so appreciative of, is that I know that we’re in a stage. I can laugh at the epic tantrums (eh, I probably laughed at them before too). There is nowhere in the world that you get to see such pure, unfiltered emotion besides a toddler who has decided that your way is the wrong way.
I don’t worry as much about the fact that Hank will not touch a vegetable (unless it’s in pizza—I make a really good, healthy pizza). I know he’ll grow out of it. While Hank is a bit slow to talk (I call him my caveman), it means that I get to really try to understand what each word is. Now that the older two kids have started school, since I stay home with Hank, I try not to schedule anything right away in the morning, so we can take our time walking home from school drop off. We pick up sticks, we look at fences, we play on sewer grates. When we go to the grocery store, there is a lobster tank. Hank and I will watch the lobsters for much longer than I am interested in them. We stop to smell the flowers, literally. (Or, in Hank’s case, stick his face into a bouquet, pull it out and say, “mmmm”.) I am able to experience the world with him in a way that I don’t remember taking the time to do, often enough, with the others.
His personality is starting to emerge in new ways too, and he’s beginning to have preferences for books and toys and games. He stopped breastfeeding a couple of weeks ago, but before he takes naps and goes to bed, he chooses a couple of books, and he and I sit together and read the books. (Note: this usually involves me reading as fast as I can because Hank is turning the pages as quickly as he can.)
And I wanted to take a few minutes to announce how awesome the third kid is, defiance, tantrums, and constant need to take all the food out of the pantry notwithstanding. My recommendation? Get a third kid. They’re totally worth it.