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And Then She Turned Three

Updated: Apr 29

by Mommy On, a blog by Jill S. Litwin

The number three conjures many things. It’s my nieces and nephew – the triplets. The start of short countdowns, the definition of a crowd, the bear family and the little pigs. It’s half the title of my favorite John Ritter show from the 70s and my birth order among my siblings. And now, today, it takes on a new meaning.

Three is the age of my daughter.

It was exactly three years ago at 4:21 pm on 4/21 that my ex-boyfriend-forever-best-friend became the second person – only preceded by the doctor – to hold my little girl – making me the third. And three years ago he laughed when, within her first several minutes, her tiny fist jabbed my face.

“She just smacked you,” he said with delight. Of course, it didn’t hurt, and she didn’t mean it, but thinking back, I can’t help but indulge in the metaphor of my daughter slapping me into reality.

I wondered for so many years:

Will I marry, and if so, who?

Will I become a mom, and if so, when?

Will I buy a house, and if so, where?

And while it’s impossible to expect answers for everything, Autumn popped my jumbled thought bubbles and condensed the forked roads, narrowed my focus and expanded my calm. She steered me onto the path of Motherhood.

It was three years ago when the world was freshly awash in COVID, and after giving birth, the hospital ordered me away from my newborn.

“Running a low fever is normal after having a baby,” I said.

“But we have to take precautions,” they said.

I’ll never forget the hazmat suits who escorted us to the quarantine floor – time traveling extras from the movie E.T. – and Autumn’s first night spent holed up in an incubator. The whole affair was nearly as surreal as the fact that it all took place exactly three years – not just months – ago. It was no laughing matter when others warned of the warped speed at which childhood travels. I blinked and she’s now the age permitted, without hazard, to play with small plastic toys. The age requiring entry fees and, most importantly, the starting point of long-term memories.

When my mom told me that people’s earliest remembrances of childhood begin around three, I was both relieved and devastated. Thank goodness she’d forget about the times I gave my phone more attention than her, and also when I let her go on – and then fall off – the big swing. But gone from memory, too, are the pumpkin patches and carousel rides, Papa waffles and Nana stories. I know life changes quickly, but I often hoped it’d hold out. Just long enough, I thought, to let her recollect eating muffins on my dad’s lap and blessing candles with my mom, throwing toys for Toddy and playing the ukulele with Uncle Jeff.

And so while all passages carry with them mixed emotions, three is especially bitter and at the same time, particularly sweet. The bottles and bibs, bassinet and boppy were gone long ago, but just recently, she has become a regular potty goer. And while a bit melancholy at babyhood’s final crumb being tossed out with the diapers, I love that this milestone will leave landfills slightly hungrier, my wallet a bit fatter.

I love, too, that if Autumn is the statistical norm, she’ll start forming solid memories of Papa opening that enormous white cabinet, reaching high, and revealing gummies. She’ll remember that her Nana had a direct line to the Book Fairy, and Toddy was a lovable pest – the fur sibling who made her life harder, but also richer. And most of all, when she’s old and gray, she’ll think of her mom, singing and dancing, taking her for her first spa treatment on her 3rd birthday, and each night, never forgetting to say these words as she tucked her in:

"I love you infinity forever everywhere. Sweet dreams, sweet girl."

Mommy On.

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