What. A. Year.
Our awesome little boy Sonny has just turned three, and even after 36 months as a parent I’m still not sure how to start summing up what that means. What I do know for sure, though, is that it’s a never-ending bunch of contradictions and confusion.
Sonny’s both my best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one. He energises and exhausts me in equal measure. He makes me happy and angry, excited and exhausted, immensely proud and ashamedly embarrassed. He can be great fun and occasionally tediously boring, caring and selfish, boisterous and lethargic, incredibly confident and sometimes inexplicably timid. But most of all he’s just a relentless whirlwind of out-of-control toddler. And I bloody love it.
Being a dad is both easier than I expected it be, and harder than anything I’ve ever imagined. I’ve had the happiest times of my life in the past three years, and also the most soul-destroying lows, mostly as a result of those many many sleepless nights. But for all the moans and grumbles, I wouldn’t swap my life right now for anything. And I could never have dreamed of having a better relationship with my son.
Maybe it’s just good luck, or maybe it’s because I’m a more pushy parent than Judy Murray, but Sonny seems to love all the same things I do. Football, tennis, exploring, building dens, climbing trees, riding bikes, paddling canoes, jumping off things, crawling under things, digging up things, walking the dog, winding up his mum, and even cutting the grass and pottering about in the garden shed. We’re both basically daft boys who don’t ever want to grow up.
Don’t get me wrong, Sonny has his moments. Everyone warned us about the Terrible Twos, but we never really expected them to hit us with the force they did. For a couple of months last year, we considered moving abroad and not inviting him. He threw tantrums every 30 seconds, triggered by something as daft as me taking off my coat before he did, and generally seemed unhappy and angry at life for weeks on end. We’d run out of ideas and blamed everything on ourselves, then as quickly as it all started, it was over. Back to that same happy kid we’d always known.
In the past 12 months we’ve done more things together than I can remember, but there are highlights I’ll never forget. Wild swimming in the river on those never-ending summer evenings, sleeping in tents on camping trips with friends, dancing at music festivals, and somehow becoming Britain’s youngest ever outdoor brand ambassador. He learned how to swim without armbands, head a football, ride a scooter, paddle a canoe, skim stones, fly a kite, ride a bike off-road, ice skate, build rockets, jump in at the deep end, cook outdoors, climb on climbing frames… you name it, this guy’s ready to give it a go.
I think this has definitely been the most challenging of our three years as parents, but it isn’t a cliche to say every new stage is more enjoyable than the last. I love this age. I love the fact we can talk together for hours, play games together, do proper activities together, and make proper plans together for the future. What a little dude.
Hopefully this frightening new Threenager word I’ve just learned is a cheesy cliche rather than a genuine stage of child development, but in a lot of ways it makes no difference. The coming year will be another big bundle of excitement and enjoyable madness, just like the previous three, but with the added complication of a new baby joining the party in the middle of the summer.