There is a special, sacred kind of joy inside of three-year-olds. Their minds and hearts are so much more connected to their bodies than ours are. They haven't learned to filter or control the great big human emotions that they feel. Did you know that three-year-olds feel great, big, grown-up emotions? If you've ever been around one you do. Three-year-olds get angry. Their anger is not in proportion to the size of their bodies or the number of their years - their anger is in proportion to their human-ness. It is full.
I sometimes wish that it were socially acceptable for me to show anger in the way Madeline shows anger. Because in truth, there are days on which I think it would be so therapeutic to throw myself on the ground and moan. And if no one came to rescue me right away, I would like to start wailing with hurt and frustration. And if still no one came to pick me up and hold me and kiss me, I would like to pound my fists on the ground in anger at this cruel, cruel world. Madeline gets to experience the bigness of her hurt and anger - and then you know what? She gets over it; she's not bitter or cynical. I think I might be less bitter and cynical if I got to throw a tantrum every now and then.
The same fullness is true of three-year-old joy. And three-year-old love.
Did you know that sometimes, when three-year-olds are really happy, or when music comes on, it is physically impossible for them NOT to move?
This morning I turned on some music halfway through breakfast. Madeline was sitting on her knees eating Cheerios when suddenly her tiny hips started rocking back and forth - almost violently. Then she started bouncing. Then shaking her head back and forth. Then she started lifting one arm up and down to the beat (actually she tried lifting both arms, but one was bent, holding the spoon in her mouth, so it looked like her left arm was raising the roof and her right arm was doing the funky chicken).
"Madeline, don't dance while you eat your Cheerios. You're going to gag yourself on that spoon."
The flapping and head banging stopped, but the hip-swaying persisted.
"Madeline, honey, please be still."
She stopped to think for a moment. "I AM being still!" (Hips swaying violently, bouncing resumed.)
"Madeline, you are bouncing up and down."
"I'm being still!" she insisted. (While in fact, the head-shaking had also resumed.) At this point she began to look confused - like she realized, "Oh yes, I am bouncing. Why am I still bouncing? WHY CAN'T I STOP BOUNCING?"
Then she said desperately, honestly, "But Mommy, I HAVE to stand up! I have to dance!"
Well, far be it from me to take that from her. So we danced, Cheerios sogging up in the bowl.
Some days you just have to dance. I learned that from my three-year-old.