07/08/2014 11:07 am ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

Mama, Will You Hold My Hand?

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I spent the weekend away from my daughter and I'll be honest, part of it was nice. I love the inquisitiveness of her 3-year-old mind, but not having the girls at the bachelorette party ask me "why" I went pee, "why" I ate the blue M&M first or "why" birds can't talk in a language we understand was a welcome break.

Other parents warned me about the "threes" and they've been right -- it might just be harder than the "twos." However, there are a handful of reasons I love age 3. My rapidly-maturing little girl doesn't only appreciate my humor, she mimics it. As a colon cancer-surviving mom, I happen to think poop, farts and butts are hilarious, much like she does. More than once I've found myself laughing at her "immaturity," feeling like this little human just "gets me."

Three is the age of extreme emotion. One minute I've got a sweet-as-pie charming little girl who can squeeze not one cookie, but two out of me with a smile and big bear hug. She gives the best hugs. But then just minutes later, she spits in my face with remnants of slime hitting everything around me. She stomps off to time out when she can't seem to understand why spitting is bad and I deserve an apology. Some type of apocalyptic screech echoes in the hallway near her time out spot as she pounds on the wall and cries. But five minutes later, once she's conceded and allowed back into the living room, she's reaffirming her love with a random "I love you, Mama," and back to normal. Whatever that means.

Despite the ups and downs of my toddler's unpredictable behavior, I really did miss her over the weekend. Her mischievous smile and the way she recaps a series of events made me eager to see her. She always gives me the high points of her weekends at Grandma's house -- Pop Tarts, pudding and some type of new toy. I always prepare for a meltdown when it's time to leave.

But this weekend, she surprised me. After meeting her daddy and me at the door, excited to show off a new purple-skinned doll wearing go-go boots, she quickly complied as we buckled her in the car and headed home. Her quietness surprised me. She didn't say much.

As we pulled out of the driveway, I heard her small, quiet voice, "Mama, will you hold my hand?"

I reached back and she gripped her fingers around mine -- a reflex similar to that of years prior, when we'd sit and rock in her nursery, when age 3 seemed so far away. We held hands the entire 20-minute car ride home. If my hand started to droop she moved her leg to make sure we maintained contact.

We didn't let go until we made it home and I tucked her into bed. She surprised me again when nap time didn't come with a fight. I knew that once she woke up it could go one of two ways. She was still a toddler, after all. But no matter what side of 3 was about to come out, I had insight into my little one's heart and a new level of peace as a mom. Not only had I missed my little girl; I knew that she had missed me, too.