December 9, 2007

On Turning Three

On Thursday a day shy of his 3rd birthday, my son and I turned a corner onto Prince street when we encountered a man who had just been hit by a car. His face was badly bloodied and his leg was twisted at a grotesque angle. We arrived just as he slumped over to the ground. The man driving of the car was also in distress, also bleeding. He was sitting in the driver's seat trying to adjust his broken glasses, stunned, and surrounded by smoke, presumably from the airbag. The car had jumped the curb and was pressed into a lamp pole. Although we arrived just seconds after the accident people on the street had already sprung into action. Two passersby were comforting the man on the ground. Another man sacrificed an overcoat to keep him warm. A husband and wife team in matching full length fur coats were attending to the driver. My son was still, outwardly impassive. Although my instinct had been to hurry him down the street he was transfixed. Hearing the ambulance siren he said, "The ambulance will take the man to the hospital and give him a big band aid and then he'll be better."
"Yes," I said, "We should go so the ambulance men can do their work."
"Ok," he said.
A few minutes later we were at a restaurant. "I want french fries and cauliflower", he announced and then went on to talk about robots, his mom, a girl he likes in school, his little brother, his upcoming birthday party, robots again, and trains.

In his second year of his life, our son's world has opened up to include all the things he reads in books. He has a sense that the world is round. He knows we live in Brooklyn and that winter follows fall. When it we got a dusting of snow the other day he first wanted to taste it, then build a snowman, then build an igloo. He calls his mom "my cutie pie" and loves to sing Amazing Grace and Clementine. And yet for all that knows and all that he can do at 3, there are still many traces lingering babydom. His parents are still his touchstones and too much time apart from us leave him somewhat undone. A blank face is often presented to strangers, a mask for a vague distrust. He falls asleep alone, but ends up in our bed every night. The upset over an apparently small thing can easily turn into tears.

Raul Andres' world has been turned upside down several times this year, most dramatically by the addition of a brother, later by the loss of a house.

I knew he would be a good big brother when he began asking me to include Gabriel in his bedtime stories just a few days after Gabriel was born. "One day a little boy, Raul Andres, went out for a walk..." I would start.
"And you too?"
"Me too."
"And mommy?"
"And mommy."
"And Gabriel?"
"And Gabriel.... So Raul Andres, mommy, daddy, and Gabriel all went out on a walk..."

The old house, he still misses. We moved four blocks away so it's still painfully close for him. Last week we walked by the old place on the way home from school.
"This was our house," he declared, "we lived here for a long time. Can we go inside."
"No," I replied. "Someone else lives there now."
"I'm sad," he said.
"Me too," I said.
"Can we sit down?" he asked pointing to the stoop.
We had spent countless hours on the stoop during his first two years. Sitting there and watching people pass by was one of his favorite things to do."
"Of course. Let's sit."
We sat for a while in silence and then continued walking home. "I miss that house too much," he declared.

And so it was for much of the year—a wonderful economy in his words.

His terrible twos were miraculously short. We can count the number of limp-noodle-fall-on-the-ground-sobbing incidents on one hand. And that period seems to be long over.

Unlike a 2 year old whose his life is all about the here and now, the 3 year old anticipates events big and small Halloween, Christmas, or maybe just the next time we sit outside and eat peppermint. And after experiencing things he thinks about them. "Last Halloween I was a wolf, next Halloween I want to be a robot and a fireman."

The 3 year old is contemplative. Last night, or 'last night ago' as he would say, my son brought up the man who had been hit by the car. "Do you think that man will be ok?" he asked.
"I think so." I replied.
"We must be careful when we cross the street," he declared.
"Yes." I said, "We must be careful when we cross the street."
"Today is my birthday, tomorrow is my birthday party, just like in my book."
"Yes," I answered."
"Then I will be 3?"
"Yes," I said."
"And then 4?"
"And then 4," I replied.

related: On Turning Two

posted at 02:40 AM by raul

Filed under: on kids

TAGS: birthday (4) childhood (5) growing up (4) three (1)


12/09/07 09:59 AM

Thank-you for writing this, it was touching, personal and made me smile. Who knows what the future will hold?

12/09/07 10:15 AM

Amazing the vast amount of knowledge acquired in just 3 years. Beautiful story.

12/09/07 10:37 AM

Well, it's no surprise that Raul Andres has a facility with words, his dad certainly does. You have a knack for capturing shifting emotional times both in words and in pictures. Thanks.

12/09/07 09:55 PM

wonderful post.. my son is going through his 2s.. with his vocabulary building daily, i'm anticipating what is to come.. am happy to hear he bonded well with the baby brother. we are expecting a baby girl and little worried about how he would react.

12/10/07 04:30 AM

I started reading this blog because of the photography, but it's your posts on fatherhood/childhood that keeps me coming back. Our boy will be 2 at the end of February.

12/10/07 07:42 AM

what a great photo...
happy birthday to raul!

12/10/07 10:52 AM

Another wonderful story...
I always enjoy your site in so many ways...a fine blend of the personal.

12/10/07 09:44 PM

Thanks for this little bit of life. I needed it.

12/11/07 12:56 AM

Thank you for flying through your one block blackhole of telecommunication to deliver this. It was worth the wait.

12/11/07 02:05 AM

That cake looks totally homemade which makes me believe it was delicious.

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