You say a lot of things. Most of them are hilarious; some are a bit shocking; and almost all of them bring a smile to my face (even if I have to hide that smile because I’m in the middle of explaining why you shouldn’t say some of them…)
But a few weeks ago you said something that turned my head in a different way. It stayed with me long after I had given you your goodnight kiss, and it was still there the next morning as I sipped my coffee and watched you excitedly hunting for plastic Easter eggs in the living room.
It’s been bouncing around in my head every time you smile at me.
It’s been driving me crazy, to be honest.
So let’s start from the beginning. It was the night before Easter, and your grandparents had stopped by to visit. In the whir of cleaning dinner off the table and setting up our egg-dying extravaganza, my mother suggested running out for coffee and munchkins. While I poured vinegar into egg cups, I absently said, “Sure- Vince can go with you if he wants.”
“What about me?”
I stopped plopping color tablets into plastic cups and turned to see you staring up at me.
All 3 feet, 30 pounds of you, staring up at me resolutely with your huge hazel eyes.
“Um…sure, you can go, Gracie. Go get your shoes.”
Your face lit up as you scrambled to your bedroom, running past my mother and declaring, “Grandma I’m getting my shoesies, I’m coming for munchkins!!!”
To anyone else in the room, that was it. You went. You came back. You ate munchkins. You dyed eggs.
I’m still not over it.
The question has plagued me from the moment you pushed your feet into your pink Converse sneakers, slipped your hand into my mother’s, and bounced out the front door on your way to the “munchkin store.”
What about you?
I automatically thought of your older brother. I automatically ask him if he wants to come along to run errands, to grab coffee, to go on “adventures.”
Not that I haven’t tried, believe me. We tried the zoo- you attempted to run into one of the animal cages and stomped all over a flower garden. We tried going out to dinner. You tossed your meal across the table, put your coat on backwards and started running around to other tables. I’ve tried taking you when I run errands. It usually results in me leaving the store with nothing besides a screaming, wriggling 2 year-old girl after about 20 minutes. You’re a bit of a firecracker- you’re beautiful, bright, and (whenever something doesn’t go your way), you let out a boom that shakes the house.
So it’s not that I haven’t tried. But what bothered me the most about that moment, and your eyes boring into mine, was that at some point, I gave up. I stopped trying.
I fell into the trap of what was easy. Your brother clings to me like a barnacle to a boat- he has since the moment he was born. He wants to be cuddled, read to, sung to, soothed. He wants to be helpful, included, a part of everything I do.
You want none of that.
You want to put yourself to sleep, brush your own teeth, and “read” your books alone in your bedroom. You want me to be there, not too far away, but not too close. You don’t want to be smothered in kisses or cuddles. You want to be seen, heard, and understood. But under no circumstances do you want to cling. You want your space. And so, reluctantly, I’ve learned to give you that space.
But in that moment, looking at your expectant little face, I realized that it was time to try again.
So I have.
We had our first girls’ night last week. We went shopping. We rode one of those over-sized mechanical stuffed animals through the mall. We went to dinner. We stopped at Whole Foods, picked out a few cookies, and shared them while we played with your new Elsa and Moana dolls.
It was our first “adventure.”
When we got home you ran to your dad and brother, told them all about our “date,” and asked me, “Mommy, can we go again soon?” When I said, “Of course, my little best friend,” you replied, “You’re my best friend, too, Mommy.”
I thought my heart might fly out of my chest.
Since then, I’m happy to report that we’ve successfully navigated ShopRite, Target, a diner, and a coffee shop. I have my sights set pretty high now- I’m thinking lunch and a movie- on the same day! Our new friendship knows no limits.
I hear a lot of “Oh my gosh, she’s sassy,” and “She’s going to give you a run for your money!” from people when they see your goofy, spunky personality firsthand. And they’re right. You’re a fiery little spirit with wild hair and strong opinions. You are sassy. You do give me a run for my money (and my sanity).
But do you know what else you do? You balance me.
Your ferocity and lack of inhibition inspire me. Your independence leaves me in awe. I often wonder how you came out of me- meek, nervous, uncertain, clingy little me. I made a warrior. I somehow grew a future boss of a woman. Me. I can’t even send back coffee when the barista forgets to make it decaf.
I will continue to give you all the space and independence I can (within reason- let’s not forget that you’re still in diapers and harbor a very real fear of “draining down” with the bath water). But I promise to pay attention to this new side of you that wants, every now and then, to buy a pair of shoes, help me shop for granola bars and dish detergent, or grab a burger and tater tots after school. I promise to keep trying until we can get through the entire zoo.
What about you?
Well, you can just focus on giving me a run for my money. I’ll survive it- I happen to have this fiery little woman in my life who’s setting a good example for me.