Today was an amazing day. A glorious day. An extraordinary day.

It was 70 degrees and sunny on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We spent the day mostly outside with our kids, raking, blowing, and playing in the million leaves in our yard (I don’t think I’m exaggerating–there’s gotta be at least a million leaves out there). The kids played together most of the day with very little intervention from us, only the occasional scratch or smack from one to the other, followed by a mostly sincere apology and check-in (“Are you OK? Do you need comfort or space?” Thanks, Conscious Discipline preschool!).

But best of all, out of nowhere over the last few days, my reasonable four-year-old has reappeared out of the blue. Three was really, really hard with him. Way harder than two ever was. It was full of unreasonableness, stubbornness, willfulness, purposeful hurting with both words and hands, a seemingly constant refusal to do even the simplest of tasks. And then he turned four, and it was like he magically turned a corner. He was responsive to simple requests. He nodded and said “OK” when I explained why he should or shouldn’t do something. He was generally agreeable and much less prone to mini-tantrums.

And then he changed preschools. He went from a tiny school where he was the oldest of 12 kids aged one through four to a huge school where he was in a classroom full of 21 four-year-olds, some of whom turned five this fall. And it was like he regressed back to being a threenager all over again. I don’t know if it was the change itself or the fact that he was now with age-group peers, many of whom are more worldly than he is in a lot of ways, but he became unreasonable, stubborn, willful, and hurtful all over again. (At one point, only a few weeks ago, in utter frustration, I muttered under my breath, “Why do you have to be such an ASSHOLE?!” Unfortunately, it was apparently loud enough to hear, but I was saved by his still-limited vocabulary. He cracked up laughing and said, “I”m not an APPLE!” Whew.) I never heard the word “OK” come out of his mouth, even in moments when I knew he agreed with me or understood perfectly why he wasn’t supposed to be doing what he was doing. All it seemed I ever heard was “No!” and “I won’t!” and “I don’t like you, Mommy!” Even though I know that all of these behaviors are totally age-appropriate and that my job is to keep my cool and connect with him regardless of how much he acts up, I was still really missing the reasonable little guy I got the pleasure of hanging out with over the summer.

So when that guy reappeared out of nowhere over the last few days, I was both skeptical and thrilled. Will it last? What caused the change? Was it something I did that I can keep doing? Is there any way to keep him here?

All day long today, every time I heard him say a jovial “OK!” whenever he was asked to do (or not do) something, I breathed a silent “thank you” to whatever spirit or force or presence has seen fit to visit us again. When he loved all over his little sister and kindly (but forcefully) explained to her why we can’t open the doors on the advent calendar yet, I breathed a “thank you.”  When he cheerfully accepted the half of his sandwich that didn’t get burned in the toaster oven instead of dramatically refusing the entire thing, I breathed a “thank you.” When he kissed me under our fresh mistletoe and said, “I love you, Mommy,” I breathed a “thank you.”

I love my son, always always, with a furiousness that I can barely contain. But when I get to like him as much as I love him? That’s the stuff of magic.

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