Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenting a 3 Year Old

My sweet son turned 3 on Saturday. It’s been one heck of a ride, this past 3 years. A lot has changed, he’s grown, he’s developed such a silly personality, but a lot has stayed the same.

In the era of the Pinterest Supermoms, where every small celebration from a first tooth being lost to the first flush on the big boy potty becomes a celebration worthy of a giant theme party complete with theme food and drinks and decorations and more, I knew that his third birthday would be a big deal. I even tentatively put a post on my long-term blog idea list to tell you all about the thrilling birthday and exactly how to copy it, complete with drool-worthy photos you’d be anxious to share on Pinterest.

And then my 3 year old hit me with a doozy.

No party. No special event with themed goody bags or themed food and drinks or a planned-out color scheme. My son wanted exactly three things for his birthday:

1. Balloons.
2. Chocolate cake.
3. To blow out candles.

I offered up the idea that he could do all of those while having a big party– a big party with balloons and chocolate cake and candles and also themed cupcakes and cookies and gift bags. And he declined. I offered to take him to the dinosaur restaurant we went to last year (in hopes of coming home to a dinosaur-themed party). I tried to talk him into a train-themed or drum-themed party, playing on his two favorite things.

Time and time again he declined, asking for balloons, chocolate cake, and candles. So I obliged. We started the day with plenty of balloons– a room full of them. We continued by spreading his gifts from me, the grandparents and great grandparents, and uncle throughout the day, with plenty of time to play with each gift in between. We had a small dinner as a family with some close friends and immediate loved ones present. And then we finished the day with chocolate cake, complete with candles that re-lit.

My son challenged my idea of what a birthday celebration should have been like. He challenged the concept that Pinterest Supermoms all feel like they have to not only live up to, but top. And he has challenged most of my thoughts and ideas since day one, molding me not into the mom I dreamed I would be when I was younger, but into the mom I should be.

Over the past three years, I’ve learned that a dog bowl and some buckets make a perfect outdoor drum, that sand can stand in for imaginary cake in a pinch, and that the TV stand can be used as an oven for wooden pizza. It’s the little things that I don’t see, but that he can see with his imagination, that really wow me.

I have learned that it’s probably best to have him pour the eggs after I crack them, and that I should probably just keep the eggs with shells away from him entirely unless I want him to squeeze their guts out.

I’ve learned that there are learning opportunities everywhere, from counting in the grocery store checkout to finding colors in the produce section, and I’ve learned that any experience or chore can be fun if you have the right mindset about it.

I’ve learned that peanut butter sandwiches and couches don’t mix well.

I have learned that I make an excellent road for toy buses and tractors to drive on.

I have learned that Grandma’s legs make an excellent slide, and also that my legs clearly do not.

I’ve learned that jumping on the trampoline means just standing still until you’re told to jump. Actually, I’ve learned that a lot of things mean just staying right there until you’re told you are welcome to do something.

I’ve learned that parenting is about experience more than it is about getting specific tasks accomplished, and that quality time is important, but so is quantity of time. 5 minutes of the best time ever playing doesn’t mean that 2 hours of quiet cuddling on the couch isn’t equally important.

I have learned that sleep talking must run in families.

I’ve learned that my side of the bed is only about 6 inches wide. The rest of the bed is for Peg (our stuffed pegasus, of course), Puppy (the stuffed one AND the live one), Turtle (luckily, a stuffed one), Lion (also stuffed, clearly), and occasionally, Zach.

I have learned that music taste is both learned and…. well, not learned. Zach has a much more diverse taste in music than I do, but he’s also into the same kinds I like, so we have fun there.

I’ve learned there is a sweet spot between “I’ve watched this movie enough times that I can catch the subtle jokes I missed the first time,” and “Please don’t make me watch it again. Please. Seriously.” and “That DVD? I don’t know. I think it’s lost or broken or definitely not in the DVD cabinet because if we watch it again I’m going to scream.” But usually, it’s best to say “This DVD is good, but going to the park is even better.”

I have learned that kids are washable.

But really, thank goodness they’re washable…

I’ve learned I can’t resist his laugh, and I will never stop trying to make him smile or giggle.

I’ve learned that you should always take time to stop and smell the pancakes… and that a trip out for breakfast makes a day full of errands a lot more bearable.

I’ve learned that I’m an incredibly lucky mom who has been blessed with an amazing son who is always growing, always changing, always a ham, and always so loving an empathetic. I’ve learned that I couldn’t imagine life without him, that he makes my days complete, and that he gives the absolute best hugs in the world.


This kid is my whole world. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.


If you want to hear more about life lessons I’ve learned from my son, like the fact that sometimes you just have to let your kids learn their own lessons, check out the Family section of my blog or follow me on Instagram to see our everyday life!



  1. Such a cute and happy kid! So glad he got the things he truly wanted for his birthday. Looking forward to seeing what this next year brings to him (and you)!

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