Three Years of Leo

On milestones, memories and motherhood

Three years.

My mom loves to tell me the story of her water breaking on the bleachers at my dad’s softball game every year on my birthday. Her friends helped her to the hospital – while Dad naturally finished his game – and I finally made my entrance around noon the next day.

The story I’ll tell Leo for the rest of his life will have to be separated into small novellas, because each of the 11 days past his due date contains its own story. In fact, all of December 2020 seems prominent enough to be part of the story as well. I can already see his older self rolling his eyes at me.

What will always be part of the story is that we lost Kyle’s dad 5 days before Leo was born. The night before John passed, Kyle and I watched the Disney movie Soul. If you haven’t seen it, please pause your reading and go watch it now. It cuts straight to the heart. But the gist is that it involves these two souls who interact with each other between life and death.

It was a highly emotional (and hormonal) time, saying goodbye to John from 3,000 miles away and anxiously wondering when our baby boy would join us. As we were FaceTiming Kyle’s family at John’s bedside, one of our family friends said, “Maybe they’re meeting along the way.”

I hold onto that notion every year, when Kyle says he wishes his dad got to meet Leo. That he’d love to see them interact. John would’ve loved Leo’s quirky 3-year-old personality.

But I find comfort in the hope that they did meet along the way, and that on some level Leo John feels like he knows his Papi, and that he’s protected by him.

Other prominent details in Leo’s birth story include Covid, a sweet potato, and hiking Piestewa Peak at 41 weeks pregnant. I’m sure Kyle will add that his hair looked flawless the day of the birth, because lucky him got to fit in a shower while I writhed in contractions on the couch. He truly shone while I looked my worst, and he has some glamorous photos to prove that. Since this is my blog and not his, those won’t be shown here.

This is 3.

These young years hold so much change, and it seems like Leo really grew up from age 2 to 3.

He started potty training in March, and by July he had the hang of it. It still blows my mind today when he stops what he’s doing, says he has to go potty, goes to the bathroom, scoots his stool over to turn the light on, does his business AND pulls his pants back up instead of coming back out naked. We’re still working on the hand-washing….

His language has been the most fun thing to watch evolve this year. He has gone from pointing things out with a single word to telling full-fleshed stories in stammering sentences. My favorite has been hearing, “I just love you, Mama.”

Little Leo has also become a bit of a trash-talker! He’s obsessed with racing and winning, and be prepared to be put down when he beats you.

I couldn’t wait for Leo to start talking and showing his personality in this way. When he was a baby and so chatty with his sounds, I wondered what it would be like to have him talk to me. It is the best.

Sure, with all the adorable stories comes screaming and yelling and many demands, but I’ll take them for all the funny one-liners he delivers.

Another miraculous change Leo has made this year is regularly sleeping through the night. Never would I have imagined it would be 2 years and 10 months before we hit this glorious milestone. But it’s here, and I am relieved. Of course, we’re going to start sleepless nights all over again in a few months, but at least now I can see there is hope no matter how bad it gets.

I also feel so right about Leo being the perfect age to have a new sibling – for my sake more than his. I applaud people who can do this back to back, but I knew that wasn’t me. We’ve gotten to a sweet spot with Leo – the sleep, the potty, even the independence – where I feel I won’t be so worried about keeping my eye on him when I’ve got my hands full with the baby. Age 1 to 2.5 involved so much running around, chasing and stopping him from potential danger, I would’ve lost my mind with a baby on board, too.

Or maybe Leo would’ve become more independent sooner. Is that your secret, back-to-back parents?

Finally, I feel I’ve had the most growth as a mother this year. Shortly after Leo turned 2, we had an entire day of screaming at each other. That day still haunts me. I’ve read one parenting book after another this year, each one encouraging me to meet tantrums with a calm demeanor. As the year went on, I got better and better at this. I still have my moments of course, but I feel more chill as a parent than I did a year ago.

Leo has a unique birthday present coming today – he’ll find out if he’s getting a brother or sister. He has mostly said that he wants a sister, though I’m not confident he understands what either term means.

He is also getting a big ol’ birthday party – his first one! – with cupcakes, because this is his last birthday as an only child. I want him to feel special, like a king for a day. He’ll be sharing my attention soon, but he’ll always be my little King Leo with his special 11-day birth story.

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