You’re sitting at the table, pen in hand, scribbling furiously with a look of intense concentration on your face. I say your name and without even looking up, you reply firmly, “Mum, bear with me a minute, I’m busy”. I must say that phrase all the time but it makes me smile to hear it on your lips.
I can see this scene playing out in our kitchen in ten years’ time when you’re thirteen, a stroppy teenager who sighs when I dare to utter a word and flinches if I move in for a hug. I wonder whether an actual adolescent will be easier to negotiate with than a stubborn threenager. They warn you about the terrible twos but the year that follows is often far more fraught.
Three Going On Thirteen
You became a big sister just after your third birthday and suddenly had to share everything from your toys to your parents to the limelight. Attention-seeking acts and downright defiance were inevitable. I remember in the early days feeling exhausted and exasperated, not with the newborn but with you; folding your arms, stamping your feet and refusing to back down.
I want both my girls to become strong, determined, independent women who know their own minds and stand up for themselves; I just never expected all that to click into place quite so soon. “I don’t need your help,” you say, pushing me away. “I’m a grown up now, I can do it all by my own self.”
What to Wear
Choosing your clothes went out the window as soon as you turned three. No more picking a pair of leggings and a grabbing a top to get ready quickly; it has to be a skirt or a dress and no, not that one. “I’ll choose, I’m the expert.” I blame Peppa Pig for that saying, another bossy little madam.
At least I still get to buy what goes into the wardrobe and we are a long way off any talk of piercings or tattoos which would quite frankly terrify me. I dread to think what weird fashion will be all the rage a decade from now but I have no doubt it will divide opinion and that you will find a way to get your own way. Now sit still if you want me to put sparkly pink polish on your toenails.
What to Say
Some days I feel like the scolded child, told off and corrected by she who knows best. I take the pretend biscuits out of the pretend oven but don’t remember to put on the pretend oven gloves and then I stupidly try to take a bite without blowing on it. You roll your eyes. Fast forward ten years and I will get the names of bands wrong or not know how to work the latest technology and you will shake your head at your mother the dinosaur who doesn’t have a clue.
You will learn how to wound with words and I will be on the sharp end of that many a time. At least for now when you feel cross, the worst possible thing you can think of to shout in a rage is “You’re not my best friend anymore, EVER!” I have to act as if I’m hurt when actually it makes me melt to think I must sometimes be your best friend then. I can’t help but dread the fickle, fragile relationships of your teenage years when your heart will be broken and I won’t be able to fix it.
You want a butterfly cake for your birthday with four candles on it and lots of smarties, but not the brown ones. If you had been born just a fortnight earlier, we would be out shopping for school uniform now but instead you’ll be at nursery for another year and playing with your little sister at home. I thought I would be ready to pack you off through the gates and into the classroom but now I feel lucky that we get to have another year together.
“I’m a big girl now,” you tell me, “But I’m not big enough to go to big school yet because I’m still a little bit little.” You sum it up perfectly darling. Even when you’re a teenager, there will be days when you feel like that; torn between wanting to be treated like a grown-up and wanting to grab a teddy and curl up on my lap for a cuddle. There will always be a hug waiting for you, even when you have broken the rules and called me every name under the sun. Please don’t get a tattoo though.
At three years old, about to turn four, I know all you really want is my attention. All too soon, I will be the last person you want to hang out with so I should stop more often to savour the moment. Next time you tug at my sleeve, begging me to play, I must remember not to say, “Bear with a minute, I’m busy…”
About Jill Misson
Mum of two girls who fortunately likes the colour pink. Jill works in radio, producing and presenting programmes which basically means she gets paid to talk. Loves baking and eating cakes but no longer gets to lick the spoon now she has little helpers.