I’m very conscious of how differently we see our second kid at any given age. With Claudia, we were super aware of every development; and at the same time we expected quite a lot of her. Max just seems more like a baby at every stage, not because he really is more babyish, but because we’re in less of a hurry for him to grow up. I think.
Three-year-old Max is a joy, a delight, and a monster. He’s impossibly sweet – except when he’s just impossible. I imagine this describes most three-year-olds. He’s certainly a more typical toddler than Claudia was, just as he was a more regular baby. Which is to say: he was an easier infant (almost anyone would be), and is a more difficult toddler (almost anyone would be). Wonderful! Charming! Incredibly lovable! But very bloody hard work. He can tantrum like nobody’s business. He has a strong and powerful will, as does big sister – but whereas she has always tended to exercise her will through sheer stubbornness and argumentation, he favours Sturm und Drang. Quite a lot of Drang and hideously noisy Sturm. He puts his whole body and soul into it, very energetically and convincingly. Succeed in distracting him for a second, however, or convince him that whatever he want really is off the cards, and the instantaneous reversion to sunniness makes clear just how artificial that storm was.
(By way of illustration: great tears, much distress because I switched off the TV. Wails! Misery!
“Max, I said no. The TV is off now.”
“But I’m still TRYING!”
“You’re trying to convince me? Sorry, it won’t work. No more TV today.”
[Perfect calm] “Okay.”
Yes, this actually happened.)
As tiresome as that is, it’s more than made up for by his addiction to cuddles. I am 100% here for cuddles. Even when they’re not really appropriate and frankly inconvenient, as when he’s pressing his head against me during a meal (from his own chair, next to me, you understand), I can’t resist. Especially since I’m very much aware that the day will come when he won’t be so thrilled to snuggle up to mommy; when he won’t pull my face down to him for kisses, or sigh happily as he climbs into my lap, “I’m closer to Mama. Which is nice.”
Delicious Maxicuddles are also a lure in getting Daddy to put him to bed in the afternoon – at this point, something only Armin can do. He won’t go to sleep for me, no way, no how; but Daddy can do it in five minutes flat. Again, it’s hard for Armin to resent the work of turning a restless Maximonkey into a sleeping one, when it comes with such delicious snuggles.
Claudia gets snuggles too, of course. My happiest moments are still when I see them curled up together, be it in front of the TV, in bed, or simply playing. (Max is generally pretty keen on games that involve rolling around hugging. Is good.) I think they snuggle a little bit less than they used to; but it’s made up for by a great improvement in how well Max can engage with Claudia’s imaginative play.
On a good day, they’ll spend absolutely ages together, running around being explorers or playing school or racing cars around a track. Of course, on a bad day, there will be shrieks of rage every five minutes, and, well… tiresome. (They seem to have each separately reached a moderately Difficult Phase, just lately, and the combination is not so good. But it will pass. Probably.)
He’s still a boy boy – obsessed with cars and planes and motorbikes – while also being happily In Touch With His Feminine Side, relishing dress-up in Claudia’s princess frocks and cooing over babies (dolls or real, there’s a new cousin on the scene) and begging me to wear nailpolish and lipgloss. I enjoy this very much, while being intrigued that, for instance, he’ll ask me to put him in a dress – “but don’t say ‘that’s pretty’.” It’s delightful that the two kids can still enjoy exactly the same games and films; he’s as keen on Frozen as she is, while she loves to race cars with him. Handy!
Spielgruppe is a big hit (especially Bauernspielgruppe – on the farm – where he goes just once a week). Christmas was all very well but both kids were delighted to be back in their usual routine. As I was, of course. It’s wonderful how well he’s taken to it, with no anxiety or clinginess – and his social skills are improving noticeably. He’s slightly less given to expressing affection through violence. (“I love you to death”: not just an expression, apparently.) He’s also doing toddler gym, which tends to be a pretty good workout for me as well.
And he’s finally big enough to go out and play with Claudia, unsupervised. (If this sounds horrifying, understand that they stay where I can see them from a window, that the neighbourhood is more or less pedestrianised – and that this is completely normal here. It would be odd if I didn’t send them out without me.)
He’s learning German, and Swiss German; he’s learning to count (up to 12 so far, but I’ve been warned not to teach him too much or school start will be difficult! How different to London and all the early years pressure); he’s gone from a kid who seemingly struggled to put words together to a very chatty, articulate little guy. He still tends to issue each word in a sentence very deliberately, though, which makes for a surprisingly emphatic conversational style.)
His favourite book right now is Wolves in the Walls (which was too scary for Claudia only a year ago, but he just can’t get enough), closely followed by The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child and I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go To Bed (Charlie and Lola). His favourite films are – still, always, untiringly – Cars and Planes. And Frozen.
One of his most endearing qualities is his cheerfulness combined with a very un-toddler-like ability to reflect on his own happiness. Claudia is also a very sunny little thing, and always has been; but where she fizzes, Max basks. Typical Max sentences include: “I love this!” “It’s very nice here,” or “We are having such a lovely time.” He also shows me how much he’s enjoying his food by rubbing his tummy and giving me the thumbs-up. (He was weaned half a year ago, but before that, num-nums was a common trigger for that tummy-rubbing beam. It was wonderful having him show me how much he enjoyed it.)
As for me, I think I’ve finally reached a point where I can honestly enjoy his remaining baby time, without impatiently wishing for him to grow up. With, maybe, two exceptions. I really want him to get over nappies. (He just won’t.) And I really, really want him to get over his objection to my singing and dancing along to the radio. At least in time for me to have a few years to enjoy music before Claudia’s teenage mortification sets in…