Somewhere, at some imprecise unnoted time in the recent past, Nora took up the challenge to live the life of a two year old. She throws herself to the floor, screams “No No No NO NO NO,” cries, wails, lunges for her sister with her teeth bared and ready to bite. I look around in confusion, as if I’ve misplaced something that was just in my hand. “Didn’t I just lay it down here on the table? When did this happen?” I wonder. Remember when I would call her my easy baby?
When it’s a bad day, I worry “how did this happen? How did we get to this place?” When the girls run away from me as I’m trying to dress them. And I feel sick when I follow and they pick up the pace. With Nora, I can still turn this into a game, squeak playfully “I’m going to get you!” and admire her chubby hustling thighs. With Mia, whose face is frightened, I’m disturbed. Wait, four-year-olds dress themselves, don’t they? “What have we done!?” I call to the heavens. That’s on a bad drama-prone day.
While watching a cartoon:
Mia: What does big-hearted mean?
Me: You think about other people’s feelings.
Mia: I think about my feelings.
On a bad day, after a comment like that, I ignore the jewel of her heartfelt honesty and whisper to myself, “She’s spoiled.” On a good day, like today, we have hours in the sunshine at the park with the rounded hills and a pond and Nora's insistence of finding a dog in the clouds that makes us laugh and the color in their cheeks from running. Today spring is softness and ease and promise. I’m delighted there are only a few flowers out – austere witch hazel is the most enthusiastic bloom today, its muted chartreuse puffballs as showy as a Mormon pompom team. The pleasures are small and fleeting today – the sun itself and the blurred edges of the clouds and the smell of the air and the way my trowel can dig down deep into the earth without resistance. And the way Mia and I sit down in the shade of some pine trees and build a lean-to out of sticks and cones. On a good day I know there is time for her empathy to grow. She has no frame of reference to know what want is yet. And right now this is as it should be.