A few nights ago you and I had a party. Now I’m no stranger to parties, and I’ve been known to sport a 4 a.m. bedtime and then wake up ready to rock at 7:30 on more than one occasion, but I’m older now, and you just can’t keep doing this to me. You started the whining at midnight, and I pretended for a while that I didn’t hear anything, until the shrill sound of your theatrics threatened to sound the bomb alarm down at the volunteer fire department.
I must have been feeling particularly maternal that night. My voice was measured; my words were gentle. I stood beside your bed for a looong time, patting your back and singing. Eventually I retrieved a blanket and pillow from the bedroom and lay down beside your bed for a while. That really got you going, since you and your dad play a similar game, which ends with suckies launched out of the bed and onto his head while you giggle maniacally. Eventually I ended up inside your bed with you, spooning and singing until my legs threatened to fall off. Finally, we settled (HA!) into the guest bed. And you sang, and you kicked me, and you played with my hair, and you patted me in the face. Until 4 in the morning. Baby-it was a fun party. But let’s save the 4 a.m. bedtimes for when you’re a teenager, Mkay?
The morning after our guest room rave, your dad snuck up on me in the bathroom.
“you were my hero last night”, he said.
“I thought I would kill her, at one point”
“yes, but you didn’t let it show. Your voice was so sweet, and you were so patient. It made me love you just a tiny bit more.”
So I have to say thank you for that, because I can always use extra points in the love bank, especially since I’ve been on housework strike because of my new job.
This month’s new phrase is “bye guys!” You might be saying “bye grandpa!” or something else, but I’m going with Bye guys since it’s universal. This morning you added “poo poo!” to the list. You’re not actually ready to deposit the “poo poo!” into a toilet, but when you see a diaper on the floor, you point and proclaim it “poo poo!” Every time we change your diaper, you point at the wipe solution in the spray bottle and squeal, “cold!” I guess if I were a better mother, I’d have some kind of heated contraption to warm up the stuff before we spray your sensitive little baby skin with it. Suck it up, kid. You’re lucky to wear clean clothes.
Often we sit back and watch you orating to the yard, and it really seems like you’re speaking a language you know perfectly well. You stand on a stool on the porch, gesticulating like Mussolini, squawking and rattling on in your complicated baby language. I’m beginning to think that if you do ever speak English to us, it will only be because you’ve grown tired of waiting for your housemates to learn your language.
One word we do totally understand is GO. You use “GO” (I am capitalizing it because that word never flutters gently from your mouth. “GO” is a yelling word, a word used in urgency or in anger) quite often, sometimes while pointing meaningfully toward the door, sometimes while pushing your sister away from my vicinity, and other times when you are angry with someone and you want them to get out of your sight. Such was the case last week when, probably for the first time ever, YOUR GRANDDAD scolded you. I know! I never thought it would happen either, and had I not been there I’m not sure I would have believed it. There you were, happily being pushed in your swing, and you put a dirty plastic dolphin in your mouth. Who knows where that dolphin had been! Don’t you know how dirty the ocean is? Fish POOP in there! Your grandpa stopped the swing mid-arc, and said in his soft yet I-really-mean-business voice, “Don’t you put that in your mouth…” Oh, you tried to hold it together, I could tell. I’ve been there, and I could feel your pain. First you glared at him, and then glared at me, but I could see in your eyes that hurt was bubbling below the surface. Your mouth settled into a grim line of pissed-off. And then there was quivering. A little softening around the eyes, and you looked at me for support. “Are you going to let him talk to me like that?” your eyes asked me. Finally, a tiny wail escaped your lips, and even though your granddad was trying hard to make it up to you, was swinging you and talking softly in sweet tones to lull you back over to his camp, you reached out to me, done with the swing, a tear falling from your eye, and when he tried to unbuckle you to let you out, you pushed him away with a whole palm to the chest and shouted, “GOOOOO!”
I felt a little sorry for my dad in that moment. I know what it feels like to be the One to Piss Off the Cutest Baby Ever, and that’s not a fun promotion. There might have been a tiny bit of triumph, and then an teensy bit of guilt when I retrieved you from the swing and your little arms circled tight around my neck, safe from the mean man and his silly rules about germs.
Because you are you, and because your grandfather is who he is, our moment of mother-daughter bonding was short lived. Within 2 minutes, you were screaming, running after him on the sidewalk as he left the yard. We had no choice but to hand you over the fence to the Mean Man who feeds you tea and cookies and lets you play all you want to with the goats’ water trough.
It’s probably too early to say you’re a tomboy. But I will say this: we bought you a little Baby Jack, complete with little baby genitals, in preparation for the new addition which will someday steal your food and break your toys. You throw him out of the bed when he’s in there, and give him zero attention most of the time. I don’t know if that means anything, and I don’t know if the fact that you love playing with caterpillars and bugs means anything, either, except that you’re a lot like your sister. And when she was 4, she had a My Size Barbie. So we’ll see. Last week you brought me a dead gnat, crushed in your tiny palm. “awwww, awwww!” you exclaimed while shoving the poor executed bug in my face. I think you knew it was dead, and you were hoping I’d do some kind of Lazarus thing with it. I wonder if that’s what you think whenever you see one of the 10 million caterpillars at Melanie’s place. It’s hard to miss the dead ones, especially the ones you squish accidentally with your hands and shoes. When you then see a live one crawling around, do you think that’s the same unfortunate little furry thing, risen from the grave?
Last week I did something I never considered when envisioning my future with you. I started working outside the house, at a job where I have to show up ALONE. I have to say that I do enjoy having conversations with adults for a few hours each night, but I have been rushing to get out early so that I can see you before your dad sends you to bed.
If I weren’t so scared of another Late Night Avery Rave, I would peek into your room every night to fix your covers and touch your delicious velvet baby cheek. I’m so excited to wake up with you and begin our day each morning (okay, excited might not be the most accurate term, but after a little caffeine I could definitely be called enthusiastic), and I’m a little sad when you go down for a nap. I know, I know. I’ve said that before; but especially now that I’m gone most evenings, I really have begun to feel the lightning fast passage of time. It seems as if you are morphing into this little person by measurable events from day to day; I half expect to come home one night and hear “Oh yeah. Avery can count to 10 now, and she says please stop spraying the diaper wipe solution directly on her-it’s too cold!”
Some days I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop-that life cannot possibly be this amazing with this kind of consistency. When I see you walking hand in hand with your sister across the yard; when we find ourselves lounging on the porch after school, playing on the swing, petting cats, eating snacks, and just enjoying the day, I am sometimes filled with such contentment that I wonder if this is all real. Am I not the same person who spent part of last year in bed, rarely changing clothes, hardly eating?
The answer is that I’m not. I’m not the same person even a little bit. The other shoe may never drop, and I have you and your sister and your wonderful father to thank for this gift. My life is better because you’re in it, and I am a better person because I know you. Seeing the word through your eyes has brought colors alive- has made food interesting again, and has most of all created in me hopefulness for the future that I have not known in a long time. Thank you for reminding me what I came here to do.
I know that as you grow into your own independent little dictator like your sister, you will need me less and those feelings of “what the hell am I even doing here anyway” may surface again, and so I write these letters to you each month to capture what I was too naïve to think would ever go away when your sister was little, and to give you a written record when you’re a teenager and you think I have never loved you, that once I did love you just a little bit.
You’re a perfect piece to an almost-complete puzzle, Tiny. I can’t imagine my life without you.