The Three-Year-Old Race by Diana Kane

The Three-Year-Old Race by Diana Kane

boy running

We showed up to the “raising a three-year-old” race merely as spectators. I held tight to my son’s hand as my infant quietly rested in a ring sling across my chest. These cantankerous three-year-old kids and their frightened parents were being called to the starting line as we neared the crowd.

This so-called-race had been graciously called a fun run, but we all knew the truth…

These poor parents were lining up for the exhausting marathon of raising a three-year-old moments after barreling through the terrible twos. Our child was nearing this treacherous birthday so we were solely there to peer into the world that would soon be ours.

“Kane— to the starting line!  Would Kane please report to the starting line?”

Sheer terror invaded my body as I noticed an official approaching with a bib number. My stomach churned as the number three was pinned to my shirt, and I was ushered to the starting line. I panicked. There’s been a mistake?! I didn’t register! We just came to watch. He’s not three yet? I forgot to put deodorant on. In fact I’m out of deodorant! I ate doughnuts for breakfast! I drank two glasses of wine last night…I’m dehydrated!

I lost feeling in my hands as I fought off the urge to puke.

On Your Mark! Get Set…

My son took off running as I screamed behind him, “Stop! I can’t sprint in flip-flops.  There’s an infant strapped to my chest! I’M NOT WEARING A SPORTS BRA!” No one could hear me. The crowd had exploded with encouragement as everyone raced after their little ones setting the pace.

Please No! Make this STOP!

I scrambled. This was survival of the fittest and I was clearly not in shape. He tore through grocery stores and raced dangerously close to roads pausing only for the occasional tantrum and meal refusal. He taunted me from the top of the playground as I struggled up the steps behind him, and then wept as he barreled down the slide. I can do this I repeated to myself…I have to do this! I brushed myself off channeling my best “Little Engine That Could,” and drudged on.

I fought my way through the obstacle course of parenting a three-year-old as the days turned into months and the months rolled into a year. Then one glorious day the clouds started to clear and I caught a glimpse of the finish line. It was the most magnificent sight full of please and thank you’s, empty dinner plates, and a quiet shopping companion.

The crowd roared as I rounded the corner and closed in on the finish line. I stumbled across into the arms of my sweet tolerable boy. “That took heart,” they said. “It wasn’t pretty…but she finished!” Yes, onlookers…YES I DID!

My feet were blistered, I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in months, and my clothes were going on a third day of wear…but we had successfully made it to the other side of three. That was the only thing that mattered.


I slowly make my way to the bleachers as I grab the hand of my now 3 1/2 year-old. I look down to admire the child still strapped in the ring sling across my chest. Shock fills my body as she looks back at me with a mouth full of teeth and shoulder-length hair.

I catch a glimpse of an official approaching again with a bib number. This can’t be happening?! My aching bones clench to the icy bleacher as he informs me the next race is in ten minutes.

There may not be anyone left in the stands to slow clap when we cross over into more bearable four-year-old years, but I’m confident we will survive it.

***A version of this post originally appeared on***


Diana Kane is a wife, mom, and frequent companion to coffee and chaos. She is a proud supporter of ice cream cake for breakfast and perpetually struggles with being on time. Diana blogs at Mama Needs a Cupcake, where she writes about the less than perfect version of motherhood and recently published her first book, “Mama Needs A Cupcake.”


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