Not so, this year.
"Max! Your birthday is coming up! You're going to be THREE!" I began a few weeks ago, "Have you thought about your party?"
Max, with arms crossed across his chest and the poutiest lip you've ever seen in your life, EVER: "I'm not having a party."
[....?....] "Uh, why not?"
"I'm not having a party and nobody is coming to my party and nobody is singing to me at my party."
"Oh. Okay, well, can we have just a little Just Family birthday party for you at our house?"
"Can we go out for a special Birthday Dinner?"
"Oh....so no birthday? No cake? No presents?"
"Ack-uh-gee....yes, cake. And yes presents. But still no party and still no singing."
Apparently, I was a little fuzzy on the No Birthday Concept, though, because I scheduled not one, not two, but THREE birthday parties for this kid. Oops.
But only because our big family is quite busy this time of the year and finding a day that worked for everyone was just too hard....so, we divided and conquered: the first birthday party was for the Keenan bunch, the second for our Nuclear Five, and the third for the Harrises. This way, my Wild Thing got THREE cakes, THREE days of presents, and...yup, people singing to him at his not-a-party THREE times.
But three was an appropriate number of parties....after all, my Wild Thing is Three. THREE! Three?!
Evan was three, like, yesterday (and it was hell). And Max was just my chunky monkey baby boy. But all of a sudden, Evan is a cool and funny Five, Molly is my roly poly on-the-cusp-of-crawling baby girl, and Max? Oh, boy is he three.
But he's three with flair.
When Max is deliberately not listening to me, he's not sulking with a pouty face like his brother did, he's twirling with his arms outstretched and his eyes closed.
When Max is deliberately not cleaning up his toys, he's not stomping his feet as he runs away screaming, he's prancing around with the box from our new vacuum cleaner on his head.
When Max is mad, he's not yelling and screaming....oh, wait, yes he is...but he's SO dramatic and exaggerated that I can't help but smile at his efforts. He's mastered the art of the pout....the crossed arms, the jutted bottom lip....his posture alone is so demonstrative, you can guess his mood from behind...
Three is easier when you've already seen your way out of three once before...when you know your kid isn't broken (like I tried to convince my pediatrician when Evan was three) but is just figuring out how to stretch those Wings of Independence a little bit further.
And Independence IS what Max is seeking....
He's insisting on dressing and undressing himself....even picking out his own clothes...and accessories (and no, the socks never match these days...intentionally)
He is jockeying with Evan for control of the pretend play scene-setting.
He, my once Wonder Eater, is becoming picky and choosy at mealtimes....refusing previous favorites and insisting, "No. I don't prefer to eat broccoli anymore. I only USED to like it when I was a tiny baby like Molly."
He is curious, inquisitive, playful, and stubborn as hell.
And, this second time through three, I can see it better for what it really is....He's ALREADY three....but really, he's ONLY three....still little enough to curl up on my lap and reach up to hold my ear when he needs a snuggle. Still little enough to work so hard assembling and piling his books on the couch, only to knock them all down as he maneuvers his too-big body into the too-little space he's allowed himself. Still little enough to play hard, and crash hard (even while insisting that he's Just Not Tired)...
Still little enough to laugh hysterically (to the detriment of our Bedtime Wind-Down Routine) at the same silly tuck-in game we play Every. Single. Night:
Me: I love you.
Max: I love YOU.
Me: I love you more.
Max: I love YOU more.
Me: I love you, Max.
Max (already cracking himself up): I love you, MAX!
At which point I close my eyes and start snoring, because I, "Max," am now asleep in "my" bed. Oh, the simple joys....
Still little enough to wonder....
"What do pink and lavender together make?"
"Why do the clouds move?"
"Why is a car called a car and not a truck or a van or a jeep?"
"Why are the mountains so beautiful?"
"Why do girls only have bums and not penises?"
"Why do we have two Uncle Mikes?"
"Why is purple all purpley?"
"Why is Pop your Daddy and also a Pop?"
"Why does Halloween give you candy?"
"How do you spell 'candy'?"
"How do you spell 'yummy candy'?"
"How do you spell 'I want some yummy candy'?"
"Why is candy so yummy?"
Still little enough to cry at preschool drop-off, but then tell me how proud he was to have a Happy Day at school when I pick him up at lunchtime.
Still little enough to wear diapers and use his binky at bedtimes...even though he says that when he turns three he'll be big enough to give them both up....I'm not holding my breath.
Just little enough.
Oh, I love him so.
The world is a more colorful place because of him...
Happy Happy Birthday to my to-the-max Maxwell. Three-year old Love.