The moment I realised my toddler had grown up

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I watch as she methodically takes each bottle of paint out of the box and arranges them in a line, leaving only the green bottle left.

“You can have the green one because it’s your favourite colour”, she says.

“Oh thanks,” I reply.

She then proceeds to unscrew the cap off the first bottle and squeeze out a blob of paint at the bottom right hand corner of the paper. I’m not exactly sure what she’s doing but I don’t ask any questions. She screws back on the cap and replaces the bottle in the line, moving down to the next bottle and doing the exact same thing until she has gone through all the bottles, There is now a very neat vertical line of blobs on the side of the paper and I start wondering if she’s doing some kind of blob art.

“And now to paint!” she declares and picks up her paintbrush. Only now do I realise she was making her own palette of paints on the side to use in her picture…and I stand back and marvel in silence.

Where has my little girl gone? The one who got her hands and even her feet in paint and smeared it all over the paper, floor and cupboards in the kitchen. The one I had to bathe after each art session. The one who drew people as mere lines. The one who would cry hysterically when she realised it was daycare day. The one who asked to be carried all the time. The one I had to rock and nurse to sleep for 2.5 years. The one who declared she would never get out of Mummy and Daddy’s bed.

A painting

Over just the last month or so, she has suddenly turned into a big girl. She is now in the 3-year kindergarten room (where most of the kids are turning 4 this year so are a bit older than her) and loves it. Instead of crying when we drop her off, she now can’t say goodbye any faster because she can’t wait to run off and play with her friends. She is sleeping in her own room on a single bed mattress. She climbs into bed and puts herself to sleep, even for naps. She sleeps through the night without disturbing us. She is fully toilet trained, even for nights and school. She can use the potty entirely on her own and wash her hands without needing me to help. She is more respectful towards us and doesn’t kick a tantrum about every little thing.

The way she plays has changed. She doesn’t need me to actively participate anymore. She plays on her own and makes up her own stories. She gamely tries new playground equipment without needing my help. She draws recognisable people now instead of just sticks and scribbles. Today she drew herself with long hair and five fingers on each hand.

Part of the catalyst for the change has obviously been the arrival of her little sister. Thankfully, she does not have any resentment or jealousy issues and has been very gracious about having to adapt.

Toddlers are defined as kids aged 1-3 and preschoolers 3-5 so she is in the middle at the age of 3. Lately though I’ve been feeling she is acting much less like a toddler and more like a preschooler. The term ‘toddler’ conjures up images of little kids stumbling about on their feet, babbling nonsensical sentences, and throwing tantrums on the floor. It doesn’t exactly describe these girls before me who are animatedly comparing the patterns on their dresses, talking about a new book their school got in, and declaring they don’t play with the boys because they “keep hitting us”.

Thank God we planned a 3-year age gap. I can’t imagine doing this two-kid thing with an older one who was still clinging to my legs. Miss A is now so grown up and independent it amazes me every day. It also helps to be able to look at her on bad days with my 10-week-old and be reminded that at the end of the day no matter how much rocking, shushing and feeding you are doing now, they all eventually become independent and are running off without you.

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