The Bittersweet Transition From 2 to 3 Years Old

My eldest is three. Not three weeks or three months: 3 full years old. It’s creeping up on me, and I’m not sure I’m ready. That old saying about being a thief of time? This has never felt more true than during this strong and clear transition from 2 to 3 years old. Call me emotional, but I’ll even say that this one is the epitome of bittersweet.

Although I’m only a few years into my motherhood journey, I can easily see how quickly time flies when you’re a parent of a child — or children — of any age. Watching your little guy grow from 2 to 3, though? It almost felt like we were catapulted straight from the youngest years into full-fledged childhood. Maybe you can relate if you’re both moms of a 2-turning-3.

It seems like just yesterday the beginning of 2

It’s like I’m just planning my son’s second birthday. Although we didn’t have a family and friends party like we did for her the first time, we did everything in our own special way. We decorated our playroom with climbing toys as he began to show interest, filled the house with helium balloons, and had multiple rounds of cake and ice cream. We planned a weekend getaway full of firsts for our girl — like feeding lorikeets up close and personal at a bird sanctuary. We brought his favorite stuffy and beloved paci along for the adventure.

Since then, climbing toys have become second nature. We’ve moved from blinking at the sight of floating balloons to asking for specifically named, well-tied balloon animals. We moved from messy cake frosting and ice cream licks to helping crack and pour eggs into homemade brownie batter. We went from feeding the sanctuary birds up close and personal the first time to the second and third times — and riding the horses without fear or hesitation. We’ve moved on from favorite stuffies in the hand to a favorite puppy and unicorn purse full. And the beloved paci? We have moved on. That’s it. I never thought I would say it, but sometimes I really miss it. Or, at least, the representation of the fleeting and precious childhood that, in retrospect, came with it.

This Stage Wasn’t Terrible — It Was Magical

People talk about the two as if they were “terrible.” As if 2 is a year for armor up and power. But in my honest opinion, there are more than 2. There is an explosion of every little spark of magic that I don’t want to fight. An explosion of vocabulary. A burst of personality. An explosion of autonomy. An explosion of love, laughter, moments full of awe, and, for me, the essence of happily ever after. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at my soon to be 3 year old in awe and tell him that he is my dream come true. Because he is. It’s 2. And it’s incredible.

At the beginning of 2 years old, my baby girl was my baby. Of course, he still is – and always will be, in a sense – but it’s not the same. As we get closer and closer to 3, my heart feels like things are changing. My arms feel things change because they are. Not in a bad way, but in a truly unbelievable way. At the beginning of 2, most every day (and night) was defined by the whole arm: me. Sleep sleep. Carrying. Holding. Today, there is still a lot to carry and hold. But my soon-to-be-3’s arms are full. Full of baby dolls to care for, picture books to read by herself, and pick-out-all-by-herself outfits, accessories, and sparkly red shoes to dress up in. Again, alone. Because this is the essence of the transition from 2 to 3.

Transitioning From 2 to 3 is Too Fast

Every moment of witnessing my daughter come into her own ever-evolving identity is a beautiful gift. But sometimes (it’s okay, most of the time), things seem to happen too fast. At the beginning of 2, we repeat sentences and sing simple songs. Today, we’re in the age of questioning everything (literally, everything) and ushering in self-directed, completely independent storytelling. At the beginning of 2, we were on the younger end of our mommy-and-me baby gymnastics group. Since then, we’ve moved on to twirls, plies, first recitals, and all things tutus and ballet.

At the beginning of 2, we tested the limits with Crayola-sponsored artwork in every inch of every room. Today, we painted perfectly arched rainbows and drew red and green apples (with stems, however). Suddenly we start coloring inside the lines — but keep stepping outside the box all the time. Evocative, sweet, and as hard to fathom as it can be, 2 to 3 is a wonderful but very close masterpiece.

Life has never felt as fleeting and short as it has since becoming a mother. This is especially true as I cling to what’s left of my oldest’s childhood and prepare for him to continue blossoming into the unique, extraordinary person he is. With each passing day, it seems to be getting faster and faster. The transition from 2 to 3 is one that I wish we touched on a bit more. . . or stick around, somehow, forever.

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