If you ask me, any phase that involves sleeping through the night is far superior to any that doesn’t. Add uninterrupted REM to the fact that most three-year-olds are beginning to learn how to dress themselves, go to the bathroom in an actual toilet, and tell you what they want for dinner (granted, it’s usually chicken nuggets). A parent may get to this phase and think . . . Whew. Those first three years were nuts. Now maybe I can relax a little.

Right?

No, parents. Not right. Because just about the time you sit down on your sofa for the first time in three years, your child’s brain starts to rev its engine. And the questions begin.

“How does a computer work?”
“Why does your hair look so fuzzy?”
“Why do you have to go to work again today?”
“Why do jaguars live in the Amazon Rain Forest and not in the woods behind our house?” (Thanks, Dora the Explorer.)

And, one of my personal favorites asked by my own daughter:

“If you’re not pregnant, why does it look like you have a baby in your belly?”

This is the age of wonder. This is the age of curiosity. This is the age where anything and everything is possible. And it’s the best age of them all because through your child’s inquisitions, you experience the world in a new way. You see the sky differently. You see technology differently. You see yourself differently.

I remember a conversation I had with my daughter when she was three years old. She was asking me questions about God. “Mom, where does God live? Mom, does God have a bedtime? Mom, does God cheer for the University of Tennessee?” I was driving in my car—my thoughts scattered a hundred different directions—and I was absently answering with half-hearted responses. “God lives in heaven. God doesn’t require sleep. Of course, He does.”

And then, she asked a question that made me think. Really think.

“Mom, does God cry?”

As I thought about how I would respond, my throat grew tight. My child—my three-year-old—was looking at God in a way I hadn’t in a long time. She was looking at Him as more than a faceless entity in this sky. As more than a vending machine for my needs and requests. As more than an angry disciplinarian waiting to make me pay. She was looking at God as capable of emotion, thought, life, and complexity.

She was looking at God as God.

Tears blurred my vision. I had needed the perspective of my three-year-old child. I had needed to be reminded that God is personal. That He is real. My daughter’s insatiable thirst for knowledge helped me view my world differently. That’s the beauty of a mind that isn’t afraid to ask, “Why?”

In this new, curious stage, you are the architect of your child’s perception. You get the opportunity to shape and mold a mind that is maturing and growing at an incredible rate of speed. You are teaching your child lessons they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. And in turn, maybe they’re teaching you some things, too.

– Sue Miller
Executive Director of Volunteer Strategy for Orange, Author, International Speaker, & Grandmother

Parenting Your Three-Year-Old

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