10 Things To Do Before Your Child Turns 3


If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a million To Do Lists.

On my 2.5-year-old’s one To Do List:

  • Get Mama to buy all the things wherever we go.
  • Open and close doors. All of them.
  • Count all fingers (“One…two…three…six…ten… yep, all there!”)
  • Exercise all possible levels of auditory volume.
  • Make a mess, pretend to clean it up, and wait for praise.

I don’t mean to minimize the daily accomplishments and radical personal changes experienced by a turning-three child. He’s been even busier than his Mama, actually. The three-year-old himself has gotten a lot done by now.

He’s a nimble walker, leading the pack whenever opportune, usually in the opposite direction of his caregiver’s liking. He has probably experienced a language burst by now — once he starts talking, he won’t stop (hardly an exaggeration). He knows the difference between a sheep and a goat (you’d be shocked how many adults don’t know this). He has made definite conclusions about the physics of ceramic plates shattering upon contact with the kitchen floor, specifically from a toddler”s height and pitching speed.

You see, he’s learned and managed to do quite a few things for themselves in a short three years. But don’t forget, Mom (and Dad) helped a bit…

By the time a child turns three, his primary caregiver has attempted plenty of fun play dates (and ran half an hour late to all of them), cooked many a favorite breakfast (and lunch, and dinner, and second dinner), and celebrated more than a few milestones with raucous, unapologetic pride (and too many pictures… way too many). By this time she’s a master at juggling the overlapping To Do Lists dedicated to her child’s security, well-being, and constant stream of happy-inducing entertainment.

So I want to remind you, primary caregiver, of a few things you may have forgotten about. Here are 10 things that deserve a spot on any one of your To Do Lists before your baby turns into a big kid and then perhaps… perchance…  probably… the best of opportunities may pass you by.

Before Your Child Turns 3…

1. Watch a movie by yourself. Or watch a movie you picked out with no one else in mind but yourself. This will psychologically reset those areas of your brain that seemed to shut off sometime during pregnancy: the self-identity section, the personal priorities section, oh and the section that didn’t burst into tears at the sight of a background character wearing a baby.

2. Dine out (by yourself… notice a pattern here?). Eating by yourself as an empty nester may be a pretty lonely experience. Do it now while the peace and quiet is sometimes rather welcome.

3. Recreate the typical weekend activity you had before pregnancy. Maybe you and your partner were regulars at a favorite karaoke bar or trained for half-marathons every Saturday morning. Why not try it on again for size? Like your pre-pregnancy sandals, it’ll take some muscle and maneuvering to walk in those shoes again. Yeah, you already know you’ll be heading home from the bar at the same hour you used to arrive, and your half-marathons will feel more like half-assed. Now’s your chance to let go of old expectations and set new ones while you’re older, wiser — but not too much older and not too wise for your own good yet. 🙂

4. Disappear into nature. Bring your child. After all, he is the ultimate proof of your most primal nature. Exploring Mother Nature together will help you reclaim and own that wild side of you that tossed, turned, contracted, hooted and hollered your baby into the world not too long ago. This is a great age to introduce your child to different scenes in nature because he’s old enough to understand and remember. Not only will you never forget the look on his face touching beach sand for the first time, or petting a real deer, but he’s old enough to offer verbal commentary upon these experiences too.

4. Enjoy a postpartum photo session. Stay with me here! This one’s important, especially if you regret avoiding pictures throughout pregnancy. How about a breastfeeding mini-shoot? Family portraits? Holiday theme? Boudoir perhaps?

5. Document your birth story. Decades from now, you won’t remember it exactly as it truly happened, no matter how many times you’ve recanted the tale over the years. So write it down! Not just the main plot points either — include how you felt, what you saw, what was said, what you expected and feared and loved, the smells and the feels… The details of your life-changing and life-giving experience deserve a second home outside your own head- and heart-space.

6. Back up ALL the baby pictures to an external hard drive. Technology is great until the moment it turns its back on you with a fatal crash notice or the “black screen of death.” Invest in a Passport device or other drive and keep it in your file cabinet or a safety deposit box.

7. Realize a personal goal that has nothing to do with your family. I’m sure you can list on at least two hands the number of things you pushed aside to take care of your family in the past three years. It’s time to make concrete plans that move you at least one measurable step closer toward a goal of your own. Vision Board it, if you like. By the time your child no longer depends upon you for basic survival, you’ll feel an itch to begin making headway on your personal goal. But if you get some of the foundation set early on, you won’t need to scramble to “start” taking on your big dream.

8. Update your will. Your child needs to be on this. Pretty major kind of update, you know?

9. Decide how you’ll approach your child’s education. A lot of kids attend a public or private preschool by age three. Thus some research into your family’s options (and a subsequent thoughtful conversation) needs to happen before every other kid on your street is riding the bus to school, or spending more of their time in homeschooling co-ops or self-guided unschooling adventures. Know what you want to do and get practical: make a blueprint that encourages the realization of your intentions. Include a suitable Plan B in the event that your vision doesn’t match that of your child’s as he ages, gains independence, and discovers what learning style works best for him.

10. Family planning. Ugh, so much planning! But really, this one’s important — and quite relevant. By two to three years postpartum, many women have recovered from child birth and resumed their menstrual cycles and fertility. You may need to convince your body to get on the same page as you, but do make sure you’ve decided whether you’re open to the idea of more children or need to budget for birth control.

LEAVE ME A COMMENT: What would you add to this list? Anything you wish you had put on your To Do list before your baby turned into a big kid?