Age three. Not exactly my jam, historically speaking. And just over a month in to Age Three, Round Three, I am hereby declaring Ike the undisputed champion of Being Three.
Everywhere, it's destruction. Innocent, well-meaning, utter destruction. An entire spice container of mustard seeds, rolling across the kitchen floor. A roll of plastic wrap, unspooled. An important piece of mail, snipped up with the safety scissors. Crayon scribbles on his bedroom door, an uncapped marker in his bed, eyeliner masterpieces on my good pillow shams.
And every time, an wide-eyed, innocent face. "What?" he asks.
In between the destruction, there are little piles of discarded clothing all around the house and a naked child streaking past. It started because I used to insist on putting his underwear on the right way, with the design on his butt, and he'd get so furious at not being about to see the Hulk or Iron Man or whatever that he'd strip as soon as I got distracted to turn it around. (Dear Toddler Underpants Makers: STOP PUTTING THE PICTURES ON THE BUTTS.) I finally gave up and let him wear his underwear backwards, but the habit stuck, I guess.
"I'm not naked," he says, right before running away. "YOU'RE NAKED."
(I'm totally not, BTW.)
And in between the destruction and the nonsensical nudity, there is no no no no no no no no no no no. Whatever it is, it is NO. It's time to go. Please put that down. Would you like a snack? The default response to any question, request or simple declarative sentence. The sky is blue. Your name is Ike.
"No!" he'll wail, frustration oozing out of every pore, "I'm NOT Ike. I'm IKE!"
("DON'T TAKE MY PICTURE.")
He asks for milk and then changes his mind and sobs for juice, then freaks out if you put the milk back in the fridge. He doesn't want a banana until someone else gets a banana. The cup is the wrong cup, oh God, it's still aways the wrong goddamn cup. He holds out his arms at the top of the stairs and begs "TAKE ME, TAKE MEEEEE" whenever my hands are full, then pouts and refuses to come down on his own. But if I try to hold his hand on the cement steps outside (steps he has tripped and fallen on more than once), he'll yank it away in annoyance.
"I do it myself!" he announces about everything that he technically can't do by himself yet. Buckling the carseat, for example, and yet when I intervene (because, you know, we are most likely in a giant hurry and late to drive somewhere whenever he decides to attempt it), I am trampling his rights and crushing his spirit.
But then, ask him to do something he's able to do independently, like put his underwear back on for God's sake we have company coming, he points his finger at me. "You do it," he says, before collapsing to the floor like a helpless lasagna noodle.
He's heavy (there's only a seven-pound difference between him and Ezra) and solid and wriggly and comes in for cuddles like a swinging bag of bricks. A well-meaning hug and kiss routinely end with a headbutt and me protectively clutching my chest. He wakes me up in the morning by forcing my eyelids open with his fingers before crawling on top of me and begging for a pillow fight.
"STOP IT!" he says a million times a day, usually after someone has done the precise form of roughhousing/tickling he was begging them for, "That's ENOUGH."
("ARE YOU STILL TAKING MY PICTURE?")
And in between the destruction and the nonsensical nudity and the NO NO NO and the contradictions and the chaos, there is calm. He curls up in my lap and snuggles and strokes my face.
"I'm the baby?" he asks, as if looking for reassurance. Being three seems kind of hard, after all.
"Yes, you're still my baby," I tell him, every time. "You'll always be my Baby Ike."
("OKAY TAKE MY PICTURE.")