During Charleston’s first year of life, I used this space to share updates/letters to him each month. I’ve continued to write these monthly letters (there are now 36 of them!), but no longer post them here. For now, I’m the only one who has read them, though I hope one day Charleston will be interested in reading all the mushy stuff his mama wrote to him when he was just a babe. (And if not, I’ll still be glad that I kept those monthly records for myself.) But birthdays are special days that call for special circumstances, so on my little buddy’s birthday, I go public with my love notes.
I realize that all this sentimentality isn’t for everyone, and while I am clearly enamored with my child (as every mom should be), I know that the rest of the world isn’t waiting with bated breath to read about the intricacies of his personality. So if you’re into this sort of thing, great! Thanks for indulging me as I brag on my kid a bit today. If you’re my mother-in-law (hi Grace!), I know you’re just here for the pictures—we got some good ones for you; and how HUGE does he look next to those stuffed animals that dwarfed him in his newborn photos?! And if you aren’t into reading about other people’s kids, I totally get it, and you have my full blessing to skip reading today. I’ll be back on Friday with a fun book review for you!
DEAR CHARLESTON MICHAEL,
Well, Little Buddy, it actually happened. As of yesterday, you have been THREE years old for an entire week! I genuinely don’t know how that is possible. All the clichés hold true: the days are long but the years—years!—have been entirely too short . . . it feels like just yesterday that I held you in my arms for the first time . . . and yet I hardly remember what life was like before you were born . . . these phrases sound trite because every mother has uttered them, probably too many times to count. But there is a reason these sentiments have become part of our vernacular. Motherhood is so momentous that it leaves us speechless, grasping for words to define our experience. So we resort to trite colloquialisms that have practically been wrung dry of their significance. Because how else will we begin to articulate our thoughts and feelings about you, our precious little ones who refuse to stay babies, but continue to capture our hearts?
Becoming a mom was something I longed for, from the time I was old enough to understand what being a mom really was. And then it happened, and it continues to happen. Each day with you is a miracle, a gift. Every night I fall asleep with you snuggled in my arms (because Daddy and I haven’t had the heart to kick you out of our bed just yet), and I worry that I will wake up and it will all have been a dream. Because I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the amazing, beautiful blessing that is YOU. And sometimes it just seems too good to be true. But here you are, and here you have been, for three years. Three!
I look back at those updates I wrote about you when you were a newborn, and laugh at how I was able to capture your tiny life within a couple of paragraphs. In just three short years, you have blossomed into your own person with your own preferences, behaviors, and personality. It would be impossible for me to encapsulate all that is you within a single blog post, or even an entire novel, but I will do my best to at least provide a snapshot.
So who is Charleston Michael Jernejcic at three years old? Well, you are a small little guy, but your limitless energy more than makes up for it. You move faster and more than almost any kid I know; you are constantly on the go, whether you’re bouncing around in your chair, climbing our furniture, or doing spin jumps off the stairs. You can play on a playground for hours, and are obsessed with your new scooter; you would ride it all day if I’d let you, and you are really good at it! You love dancing and have the cutest little wiggle, and every once in a while you still bust out your trademark happy dance that you mastered as a 1-year-old. We started you in gymnastics a couple of weeks ago and it has been a great fit. You especially love climbing the ladders and jumping on the trampoline. You are mostly fearless (except when it comes to loud noises) and very tough, eager to try daring new things and quick to recover when you fall.
You have the most amazing personality. When you are tired or haven’t gotten your way, you can be defiant and whiney, but you are mostly a very happy and fun-loving kid, eager to please and immediately jumping to apologize. You are polite and kind, concerned about others’ feelings and quick to show empathy, to help, or to share. You are incredibly affectionate; you like to snuggle, and many times each day, you will stop what you are doing to give me a hug and a kiss and say, “I just love you, Mom.” It definitely makes me feel special, although you also do this with other adults and friends, as well as with your toys and stuffed animals—so I’m not exactly the soul object of your abundant love! But I’ll take it! (Speaking of stuffed animals, you don’t have one particular favorite, but are almost always toting one or more of your friends around. We have at least three of them in bed with us each night.)
You LOVE to be silly and have a great sense of humor. You like to tease us and make up funny words and make silly faces, and you have the most infectious laugh. You like to wrestle and be tickled, and once you start laughing you just don’t stop. Lately you think that fake burps and tooting noises are just the funniest thing (you are SUCH a boy); we try to keep you from making inappropriate noises at the table or in public, but I won’t pretend that I secretly think you look pretty hilarious as you make your bodily noises while trying to stifle a laugh.
I love seeing the world through your eyes, and sharing the joy you discover within every moment. Christmas with you this year was simply magical; you could hardly contain your enthusiasm for Santa, Christmas lights, and packages under the tree. Even the day-to-day events are amazing to you. This month we started to have Friday night movie nights, with dinner picnics in front of the TV. You think this is the coolest thing; during our first movie night, you told us to pause the movie and said, “I gotta tell you something! This is SO MUCH FUN!” I hope you never lose your sense of excitement and wonder.
It’s funny to think I ever worried about your speech development, because these days we can’t get you to STOP talking. You have a broad vocabulary and I’m continually surprised by the complexity of your sentence structure. I had no idea a three-year-old could be so articulate, and it’s hilarious to hear you respond to things I say with such formal and complete sentences. You still have trouble with your r’s and l’s (which means when you say Charleston it comes out at Chosten) and the th sound (which comes out as a k, f, or v sound), and you frequently draw out your short a’s (bath becomes bay-aff). But we almost always understand you; in fact, you are so accustomed to our understanding you that you get very upset when we can’t figure out what you say.
We have fairly deep conversations, but even when we aren’t talking to each other, you are talking at me: you make requests, comment on what you see, or ask questions. It’s not uncommon for you to interrupt Daddy and me during conversations to say, “stop talking!” because you want to join in. One of my favorite aspects of your personality is your curiosity, and it amazes me to hear the things you think to ask about. One of your most repeated phrases is, “I’m wondering if….” You have also been developing quite the imagination, and will say “will you imagine with me?” and then go on to describe a scenario that is “happening” in front of you. You have long chats with your your grandparents or friends on your pretend phone, and you ask me not to listen in. (“Mama, could you please go away? I’m having a conversation with my coworkers and I need some privacy.”) You are a shrewd negotiator and love to bargain; needless to say, you have landed a few sweet deals.
You have a remarkable memory and a keen sense of observation. I’m amazed by the things you notice and pick up on; nothing gets past you (which can be a little frightening at times, you keep me on my toes!). Like all kids, you absorb new knowledge like a sponge. We haven’t done a lot of explicit teaching, but you recognize almost all of your numbers and quite a few letters, can recite your alphabet and count to twenty, and are really good with sorting and pattern recognition.
You are much more social than either of your parents. You can play independently, but you prefer when we play with you, even if “playing” means helping Mama and Daddy do our work. You constantly talk about your friends and your family members, and want to go and see them. You can be shy when you first meet someone, but quickly warm up. You are great in new situations, never shedding any tears when I drop you off in a new childcare situation, and while you aren’t great at interacting with your friends, you love playing alongside them (and then coming over to tell me all about it).
It’s been awesome to see your spirituality developing. We talk about God and Jesus a lot, and Heaven is one of your favorite topics of conversation. You love going to church and are able to tell me about the lessons you have learned there, and we practice your monthly Bible verses at home. You have a strong sense of right and wrong, and get very concerned and sometimes confused by bad behavior from other kids or villains in books and movies. Whenever there is a character who isn’t kind, you insist that they need to “become nice at the end.”
You definitely didn’t bypass the Terrible Two’s; we’ve had our share of tantrums in the last year, and we’re constantly working on new ways to motivate and communicate with you. But none of your behavior has been out of the ordinary, and I am thankful that you are mostly an “easy” kid, especially in public. I love having you as my little sidekick when we run errands, work around the house, or go on Mama/Charlie dates. I can honestly say that I enjoy spending time with you more now than when you were younger . . . and I LOVED the baby/early toddler years, so that is really saying something! I truly delight in being around you, and miss you desperately when we are away from each other (which explains why I haven’t spent a night apart from you yet).
As much as I love the little person you are becoming, I’m having a hard time with the fact that you are bound and determined to grow up. I think you’re having a hard time with it, too. When we were at the store buying candles for your birthday cake, you insisted that I should by a 1 candle instead of a 3. When I asked why, you said, “I want to be 1 so that you will carry me and I can still have milkies.” So yeah, this growing up thing isn’t easy. But on your birthday evening, I looked at you and said “Charleston, are you sure you want to grow up and leave me?” A somber look came across your face, you enveloped me in your little arms, and said, “I will love you forever and ever, Mama.” And I will love you forever, too, my Sweet Pea. You are the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. Thank you for the incredible gift that you are. Happy birthday, my wonderful little man!
Love Always and Forever,
A FEW DETAILS:
Favorite Activities: jumping/flipping/racing; playing with trains and cars and your Dusty push-along airplane; outdoor activities (the playground, your trampoline, riding your scooter); reading books; imaginary play with your stuffed animals; music activities (playing the drums, your harmonica, Daddy’s guitar, or Grandma’s piano); flying airplanes (drones) with Daddy
Favorite Music: Wee-Sing Bible songs, Frozen soundtrack, Sing soundtrack
Favorite Books: Dragons Love Tacos, Llama Llama books, I’ll Love You Forever, Where’s Spot
Favorite Movies/Shows: You don’t watch much television but you talk about your favorite movies and shows ALL the time. Your most-requested television show is Daniel Tiger; you have memorized all the little jingles and frequently discuss lessons you’ve learned from the show and apply them to your life. As for movies, you are a big fan of Pixar: The Good Dinosaur and all the Cars and Nemo movies are big hits. You also love Frozen and Moana. At Christmas, your favorite movie this year was Elf.
Favorite Foods: You aren’t a picky eater in that you will try almost anything and tend to like most foods, even unusual ones (like raw onions, minced garlic by the spoonful, spicy salsa, black coffee); however, you are finicky and your tastes are unpredictable. You will love a food one day and refuse to touch it the next. Some foods that you almost always enjoy are fruit snacks, donuts, bell peppers, canned corn, watermelon, ice cream, McDonald’s hashbrowns, goldfish crackers, shredded cheese, rice, nuts, tortilla chips, and soy hotdogs.
Dislikes: Loud noises (you get very scared around fireworks, motorcycles, and even the vacuum), The Grinch (I terrified you when we read the book at Christmas, and you constantly talk about how you think he is in our house or trying to get you), your rear-facing care seat.
Miscellaneous: You are potty-trained at home (except at night), but we’ve still been doing mostly diapers in public since you continue to have accidents. We’re still breastfeeding, but just at naptime and bedtime. Your bedtime is around 8:30, you wake up between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning, and you nap (in your crib) from around noon until 2:00 each day. You sleep better now than you ever have!
Weight: 25.5 pounds (4th percentile) // Height: 35.5 inches (5th percentile!)
Clothing Size: 2T // Shoe Size: 7