Hudson at 3 1/2 Years Old



We celebrated Hudson’s half-birthday on the 17th of last month, so—technically—he is still exactly 3-1/2 today and I’m totally on time with this bi-yearly update. (In typical fashion, I’ve tried to capture everything, so it’s quite long.) …

This half-birthday was at first heralded with angst, so it only feels natural to start there: Our typically sweet and agreeable three year old seemed to be turning into a threenager. Mood swings, battles of opinion, and crying over whether or not a particularly food was whole or broken had me losing my cool more than I’d like to admit.

One day, after a particularly long morning (which is really a mild euphemism for what seemed awful at the time) where there were a series of proverbial straws (that broke my proverbial back)—grabbing toys from Skyler, chasing the dog, hiding under the coffee table when it was time to get dressed, and then being a real curmudgeon when it came to my singing along to the radio—I found myself tearing up while desperately asking advice of a teacher at his preschool. “What is going on?” “Should we be doing more time outs?” “Our pediatrician has suggested counting, what do you think?” (One of the benefits, I’ve found, to sending Hudson to preschool is the sage advice of teachers who each have 20+ years of experience with two-to-five year olds). After assuring me that this too will pass and agreeing that the negative discipline often just makes you end up feeling crummy, she recommended a couple of books. One had the telling title, Your Three Year Old: Friend or Enemy? Then, later that day she texted me: “I just realized he’s exactly 3-1/2. That explains a lot.”

I read the book that night. It’s written in a different era, but it’s the kind of thing from which you find yourself stopping to read aloud to your partner, because the descriptions are just so dead-on. (I plan on ordering every book from the series.)

The gyst? ‘This is all completely age-appropriate behavior. Don’t hold the line and engage in power struggles if not totally necessary. Be sympathetic if they’re insecure. Just get through this phase as peacefully as possible.’ And then, something seemed to change within that very week! I’ll never know whether my trying to go with the flow a bit more made the difference (probably) or whether time just passed (probably that, too), but something changed. It reminded me of that first year with him as an infant—you’d just be losing your mind about some crying bout or sleep phase, googling frantically “why does my four month old get up at 4am every day?” and it was always just when you were at the point where you would have tried anything—No ice cream! More yogurt! Hypnotherapy!—that everything would change again.


So while, yes, he is still a very opinionated little three-year-old (who gets completely, irrationally upset if you cut his food without asking or you break the banana when peeling it), everything has changed… again!

What of course hasn’t changed, and never did, was how much crazy love we feel for this kid.


And what’s been interesting lately is how much he seems to ask for confirmation of that. He tells us often and gives such sweet hugs and kisses. And most of the time we end the day exhausted but comparing stories about how incredibly sweet and friendly he is. He loves playing “how much do you love me?” games and he asks if we still love him when (fill in the blank), and if we still love him when we die.

He brings that up a fair amount, actually. “When will I die?” he asks. We don’t lie and say never, but we answer that he’ll be so old and it’s so far away that we can’t even count that high. “When will you die?” gets the same answer. I hope it’s the right one. He’ll even say things like, I’m keeping my water glass full in case I don’t die. I’ve read that kids his age often thing of dying as separation, but not one of permanence, so that’s the concern to address.

Hudson loves to read. He would have you read story after story for hours if you’d agree to it. His favorites right now are “long stories.” He loves the compnediums, in their big, heavy hardcovers. He often asks for Babar (which, have you read much Babar? Those stories are crazy and epic!) He enjoys various versions of Peter Rabbit (including the new Emma Thompson additions), and there was a time when he recited all of the original. I love hearing him say “But don’t go into Mr. Macgregor’s garden.” We read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and he’s very interested in the idea of Alexander’s wanting to go to Australia.

Sometimes he talks about his going to Australia. But more likely we’ll all pretend fly to Mexico or Hawaii… or to Italy “to see the mouth of truth.”

He found my old Roald Dahl compendium and especially liked the excerpt from The Witches. It’s the bit where the grandmother teaches the little boy how to tell who’s really a witch (they wear gloves and their head itch from their wigs, they wear pointy shoes and they have blue spit). He was pretending to be a witch, while wearing his mittens of course, so I asked him to show me his spit. Before I even heard the question come out and had time to realize my mistake, he promptly spit in my face. I had asked for it. Next I tried to explain the difference between a noun and a verb.

He’s definitely a little bit scared of things like witches and giants and dragons, and so he wants to pretend to be those very things—things that breathe fire and have big claws and eat children (but not babies). He’s doing heaps of imaginative play lately. He runs up and down the hall in his towel, being “super monkey” and has stories to match. We were climbing into his dragon cave (i.e. under the table) and he explained to me how he was folding his wings very carefully so as to enter under the legs of the chair.

He asks you to pretend with him: “We’re bad dragons! Right mommy?!” And then we’ll do bad things, like “Tell a lie, mommy.” Last time I told him “we’re not going to the park” (when we were). He repeated it, but quickly follows “but we are, right?”

He loves being a team. And the best way to get him to join in on housework is to sell it as teamwork. (That said, I could do a better job of asking him to pitch in.) He can be so wonderful in the ways he seeks accord: “this is so beautiful, right mommy?”

When he isn’t asking you to play hide-and-seek or to read a book, he’s often playing trains or doing puzzles. He’s quite good at puzzles, but seems to need to talk or sing throughout the process in order to do it. Why is that? It’s really funny. There’s just a running monologue while he does any sort of puzzle.

Hudson has an hour-long quiet time every day but no longer naps. We all think he still needs about one a week, and so sometimes his babysitter or I will tell him it’s a sleep day (which occasionally works). But usually he quietly flips through books or talks to himself until a green light comes on and lets him know the hour is up. Usually he’ll come out once or twice to go to the bathroom (and ask “what time will my green light come on?”) But he still likes to follow rules.

He goes to bed between 7:30 and 8pm (depending on how long he can stretch out the bedtime routine with Aron). After teeth-brushing, he picks out pajamas (lately he requests stripes), a book (for which he sits in Aron’s “cave,” aka against Aron’s stomach), and then they practice saying good night without crying and do rhyming words (“What rhymes with helicopter?” had dad stumped.)


He’s a very picky eater right now. He’ll turn his nose up at the silliest things. Just last week he totally lost it at a restaurant where he was given a peanut butter, banana, and jelly crepe for dinner. Basically someone took all of his favorite things and wrapped them up in a pancake! How could we go wrong? But there was a decorate line of jelly on the outside, and he didn’t want it cut, and when we rolled it up he couldn’t tell where the peanut butter was, and… Oh for goodness sake!

Our best dinners are the ones at home right now, with Disney Pandora or the Frozen soundtrack playing in the background. (He’ll even let me sing along.)

He loves Skyler (as long as she’s not messing with his train tracks or puzzles), and loves to make her laugh. Her smiles come pretty easily, but that’s especially true for him. She adores him, too. It was really sweet when we went in for her one-year shots: after the first one (of seven) she had started screaming and crying. While I held her arms and crossed my legs tightly over hers, I was watching Hudson to be sure he wasn’t too upset. He looked horrified. But then, as soon as the nurse stepped aside, he jumped in front of Skyler and started dancing and clowning around to try and distract her and make her laugh.

(He had also gone first and gotten his 2nd MMR shot that same visit. He volunteered and was very proud of how brave he was.)

He likes to be brave and strong and wants to push himself physically. “Can I jump from here?” he’ll ask repeatedly, climbing higher and higher. I do my best to avoid the temptation to say “Be careful,” even as I’m cringing inside.

But he can also be a bit of a perfectionist, and sometimes we worry he’s too hesitant to take on challenges when failure is likely. We’re trying to remember to point out our own mistakes, and to praise effort.


I recently enrolled him in soccer and he was shockingly shy about trying it for the first time. It wasn’t until half-way our second session that he would try kicking the ball (and only then because the other kids had left the field for a water break). Once he tried it, he loved it—and has been racing up and down the field since.

I’ve also enrolled him in “Tumbling Tutus,” and while I fear he’s more interested in the tumbling than he is the tutus part of the class, he assured me he was having fun by giving me a thumbs-up sign. These outings are just the two of us right now and I can tell we both think that’s really special.

At school he has a few favorite friends that he’s eager to see. I asked him what they play. (This sort of question often gets the response “I don’t know,” and then if I guess correctly he’ll say “you heard that?”) On one occasion I wagered some guesses: “do you play firetrucks? pirate ship? bad guys?” “No, we play wood chips.”

Hudson asks 10 billion (and one) questions. It will seem like he doesn’t really “get it” …and then a week will pass and he’ll say something so insightful that shows he’s been thinking on whatever it was, ever since.

Just as when he was a baby, his smiles are more hard-won. A good tickle is a safe bet, as is the instruction “don’t smile.” (He’s a true contrarian.) But the real ones, like last week when he stopped running down the soccer field to yell “I love you, Mommy!” could—in an expression he’d recognize—melt a frozen heart.


P.S. Hudson at age three. And his monthly photos from year one.

[Last photo: Hudson’s first half-birthday cake, on January 17 in Lake Tahoe.]

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