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3 going on 13, sometimes

When giving their kids’ ages, parents should take a lesson from pollsters and include the margin of error. It’s really more of a range.

“He’s 3,” I should respond the next time I’m asked about my son, “plus or minus 10 years.”

Snarky math whizzes will jump to point out it’s impossible to be -7 years old. Well, on certain days I’m convinced he’s the first.

At other times, I’m sure he’s skipped straight to puberty. Those are the instances when he demands to do everything himself.

Like any true teenager, he digs in to resist parental help. That form of surrender would forever mark him a weenie.

“No!” the stern little voice warns. “I wanna do it.”

Doesn’t matter if it’s a task he can sort of handle, like brushing his teeth, or one that’s well beyond his abilities, like carrying a vacuum cleaner. Mommy and Daddy are expected to dock somewhere else until the wave of stubbornness rolls back out to sea.

He’s 3, going on 13.

Everything changes when a siren blares. Tornado sirens, police sirens, rescue sirens, neighborhood car alarms that are constantly set off by klutzy squirrels or the teensiest gust of wind – all of them send the boy squealing for help.

“Mommy, will you please hold me?” the pitiful little voice whines, a perfect translation of what a newborn baby might say after hearing the same noise.

What follows is a continuous stream of devotion to his mother, the same woman he had disobeyed minutes earlier or tried to physically drag where he wanted to play.

The lovefest surfaces again when he’s sick. Then the independent streak takes a lengthy sabbatical as he clings to his parents like Krazy Glue.

He asks to be picked up constantly, which was a much easier task 30 pounds ago. I keep expecting him to ask for a bottle.

He’s 3, going on 3 months.

Although the fear extends to all kinds of machines, that vanishes the instant they’re shut off. Then he suddenly wants the express shuttle to adulthood.

He rolls his pretend vacuum cleaner across the rugs, followed by a rug that poses as a hardwood floor cleaner. At department stores, he can spot the difference between a Hoover and a Bissell.

Outdoors, he bounces between the toy mower, leaf blower and edger like a veteran lawn service guy. Rather than visit some magical world, his bath toys prefer to do yardwork.

He’s 3, going on 30.

Right about the time carnival workers would give up trying to guess his real age, he turns on the toddler charm.

He tries out phrases that don’t quite fit, sounding like Yogi Berra, joining in his parents’ giggles even though he can’t identify why it’s so funny.

He’s 3, going on 4. But not too quickly.

• Reporter Mike Moore writes Daddy Talk. Mommy Talk is written by reporter Marci Laehr Tenuta. Their columns run on alternate weeks and can be found online at Laehr Tenuta has three children, two boys and a girl. Moore has one son.


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