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Is three the end of infant years? There's something about your youngest child's birthday that's different to the other kids' celebrations. Something that makes you a little more wistful, a little more reflective. Today, my baby turns three. It's a milestone in her life and a milestone in mine. For the last few months, I've noticed how she's been growing up, becoming more like a little girl and less like a baby. Three somehow signals the end of the infant years and the start of official childhood. For us, as parents, it's the end of an era dominated by nappies, highchairs, beakers and bibs. For the first time in seven years we've no need for any of the paraphernalia that I've been hauling around in a cavernous changing bag. I've grown to hate both of mine, with all their pockets, pouches and zips. It's not that long ago that I'd find myself fishing out two-day-old sour milk bottles or forgotten polythene bags tied up to transport a soiled pair of leggings or juice-covered T-shirt.

WARDROBE

Suddenly, after seven years, I can dig out my long lost handbags from the back of the wardrobe and look a little more stylish and a little less frumpy. Colourful changing bags – especially tweely patterned ones – might seem like a good idea in the first flushes of motherhood, but they loose all appeal when you've to team them up with every outfit in your wardrobe. Seven years on I'd be happy never to see mine again.

My boys are four and seven, and suddenly life seems to be getting a little easier. Getting out the door is quicker, thanks to three kids who can now all put on their shoes and coats. The birthday girl still needs supervision (it's amazing how traumatised a child can get when her sleeves get rolled up inside her coat) but, for the most part, I see three independent little spirits.

I love having the kids so close in age – seven, four and three – although I wouldn't have had such a big gap between the first two. I'd have preferred it to be less than 24 months, if I'd had a choice. Saying that, there's just 15 between my youngest two, which was hard work at the time, but is great now.

HANDSOME

My mum also had three kids but she had us all in within three years and three months. As the middle child, I grew up close to my brothers. When I discovered boys, around the age of 15, I suddenly saw the advantage of having a 17-year-old brother. Likewise, he was pretty happy with the procession of teenage girls calling for me.

Just like my mum and me, my daughter also has two brothers and no sisters. Time will fly by and in a blink I'm certain I'll be looking at a love-struck teenager, obsessing over one of her brother's handsome friends.

It's hard not to be nostalgic on your only daughter's birthday. I can only dream her life turns out as happy as mine, but, in the interim, I hope she'll give me a lot less trouble as a teenager than I gave my poor mum.


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