The Bittersweet Transition From 2 to 3 Years Old - Baby Chick
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The Bittersweet Transition From 2 to 3 Years Old

Are you ready for your child's transition from 2 to 3 years old? Read one mama's take on how time flies when you're a parent.

Updated May 29, 2024 Opinion

My firstborn is going to be three soon. Not three weeks or three months: 3 whole years old. It’s creeping up on me, and I’m not quite sure I’m ready. That age-old saying about time being a thief? It’s never felt more real than during this loud and clear transition from 2 to 3 years old. Call me emotional, but I’d even go as far as to say that this one is the epitome of bittersweet.

Although I’m only a few years into my motherhood journey, I can easily see how time flies when you’re a parent of a child — or children — of any age. Watching your tiny human grow from 2 to 3, though? It almost feels like we’re catapulting straight from the tiniest years into full-on kidhood. Maybe you can relate if you’re a fellow mama of a 2-turning-3.

The Start of 2 Feels Like Just Yesterday

It seems like I was just planning for my daughter’s second birthday. While we didn’t do a family and friends party like we did for her first, we did go all out in our special way. We decked out our playroom with climbing toys she was starting to show interest in, filled the house with helium balloons, and had multiple rounds of cake and ice cream. We planned a weekend getaway full of firsts for our girl — like feeding lorikeets up close and personal at a bird sanctuary. We brought her favorite stuffy and beloved paci along for the adventure.

Since then, those climbing toys have become second nature. We’ve moved from beaming at the sight of floating balloons to requesting specifically-named, masterfully-tied balloon animals. We’ve moved from messy cake frosting and ice cream licks to helping crack and pour eggs into homemade brownie batter. We’ve moved on from feeding sanctuary birds up close and personal for the first time to the second and third times — and riding ponies without fear or hesitation. We’ve moved on from favorite stuffies in hand to favorite puppy and unicorn purses filled to the brim. And the beloved paci? We’ve moved on. That’s it. I never thought I’d say it, but sometimes I actually miss it. Or, at the very least, the representation of that fleeting and precious babyhood that, in hindsight, came with it.

This Stage Hasn’t Been Terrible — It’s Been Magical

People talk about the twos as if they’re “terrible.” As if 2 is a year to armor up for and power through. But in my honest opinion, there’s so much more to 2. There’s an explosion of every little spark of magic that I’d never want to fight off. An explosion of vocabulary. An explosion of personality. An explosion of autonomy. A burst of love, laughter, awe-filled moments, and, for me, the essence of happily ever after. Not a day passes that I don’t look at my soon-to-be-3-year-old in complete awe and tell her she’s my dream come true. Because she is. This is 2. And it’s incredible.

At the start of 2 years old, my baby girl was my baby. Of course, she still is — and always will be, in a sense — but it’s not quite the same. As we move closer and closer to 3, my heart can feel things changing. My arms can feel things changing because they are. Not in a bad way, but in a genuinely hard-to-believe way. At the start of 2, much of each day (and night) was defined by full arms: mine. Rocking to sleep. Carrying. Holding. Now, there’s still a lot of carrying and holding. But my soon-to-be-3’s arms are the full ones. Full with baby dolls to take care of, picture books to read independently, and picked-out-all-by-herself outfits, accessories, and sparkly red shoes to dress up in. Again, all by herself. Because such is the essence of transitioning from 2 to 3.

Transitioning From 2 to 3 is Happening Too Fast

Every moment of witnessing my daughter come into her own ever-evolving identity is a wonderful gift. But sometimes (okay, most of the time), it feels like it’s happening way too fast. At the start of 2, we were honing sentences and singing simple songs on repeat. Now, we’re in the age of questioning everything (literally, everything) and self-initiated, fully independent storytelling. At the start of 2, we were still on the younger end of our mommy-and-me baby gymnastics group. Since then, we’ve moved on to twirls, plies, first recitals, and all things tutus and ballet.

At the start of 2, we were testing the limits with Crayola-sponsored artwork on every inch of every room. Now, we’re painting perfectly arched rainbows and drawing red and green apples (with stems, nonetheless). We’re suddenly beginning to color inside the lines — yet stepping further and further outside of the box all the while. Stirring, sweet, and painstakingly difficult to grasp as it may be, 2 to 3 is a magnificent yet way-too-soon masterpiece.

Life has never felt as fleeting and short as it has since becoming a mom. This is especially true as I cling to what remains of my firstborn’s toddlerhood and prepare for her to continue blossoming into the unique, extraordinary human being she is. With each passing day, it seems to go faster and faster. The transition from 2 to 3 is one I wish we could hold onto just a bit longer . . . or keep around, somehow, forever.

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Katie is a proud mom of two young children with an extensive background in childhood education and social-emotional development. She holds her Master's in Education from University at Buffalo and… Read more

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