Time Out for Baby Dolly

My three year old strolls into the kitchen, one arm swinging, gaze forward, saying in a nonchalant tone, “My baby dolly is in time out”. She walks toward her play kitchen, looking every bit like a mother set on cooking dinner, time outs be damned.

“Why is she in time out?” I ask, dicing carrots next to her. And with a shake of her head, disappointment clear in her voice and movements, “Because she said shit”. She looked up. I laughed. And because I didn’t believe it (baby dolly has always been so well behaved), I ask again, “What did she say?” With a twinge of annoyance, body still facing forward toward her pretend sink, she looks up very casually, “Shit, Mama. Baby dolly said shit.”

I am half-grinning as I try to explain exactly how naughty of a word that is. I am not at all articulate and finally ask, “Well, where did baby dolly learn that word?” Her response? “Daddy. When he’s driving.”

So, now we have a plastic baby who has a swearing problem, a comedian of a girl who tells this story often because it gets a chuckle every time, and a dada who–with a smile–denies ever having said such a word.

Being Big

We sat in the car while Ben ran into the bakery. I turned around to face my daughter, and as I did, the conversation began with her counting. Starting slowly: Onnnnnnne, Twwwo…and then ending with a blur of gusto: Threefourfivesixseven… and into eventual gibberish. I reminded her that she was two despite all the counting she would do. Besides, I explained, I like her being two.

Linnea: But, I want to be big, Mama

Me: Why, L.E.?

Linnea: So, I can drink beer, and eat wine.

Me: Eat wine?

Linnea: No, mama. DRINK wine. (said so confidently that I think she convinced herself I made the mistake.)

 

Clearly, my daughter equalizes drinking with adulthood. Good, right? I wasn’t so sure.The only time we told her no to something simply because of her age (that I could think of at the time) was to drinking wine or beer. That, we explained at meals, was for grown-ups. And because of our conversation, I began wondering just what her impression of us grown-ups was anyway. And this is what i came up with:

1. We are not quite too old or too boring or too lazy or ___________, to not want to get bundled up and make a snowman. Grown-ups like to play too. (But they sometimes make kids go in sooner than they would like…so they can’t be fully trusted.)

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2. Grown-ups, however, are not quite as much fun as best buddy toddler friends…who know that protocol is to make a funny face every time a grown-up says, “Smile”….

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and continue to do so…despite the grown-ups best efforts… 

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3. Grown-ups cannot have as much as fun at the zoo because they are not allowed to ride on the carousel; they have to stand. (I picture all these toddlers thinking, “Suckers”, as they go round and round.)

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4. Grown-ups don’t get to wear costumes for halloween or play dress up for fun.

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5. Ok, some do…

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6. Grown-ups don’t dig in the dirt as much as kids…whether it is just for fun or to find hidden treasures, whichever comes first.

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7. Grown-ups could learn a thing or two from toddlers about how to take photos…like how to master this blurry effect to an artistic level.

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8. Grown-ups like to read a lot. Especially children’s books…do they even have grown-up books?

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9. Lastly, grown-ups like to run and feel the wind in their face just as much as toddlers do…they just need to remember to do it more often.
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I hope the next time I ask Linnea what it means to be big, her answer will include more than eating wine. Through the memories of her childhood, I hope she can understand that “being big” means growing up, but never growing outside of yourself.

Growing up too fast

I remember the onslaught of advice as clearly as I remember the feeling of labor pains. Well-wishers encouraged me to “take lots of pictures”, “savor every moment”, and of course, “watch out; they grow up too fast”. And now, I have found myself thinking and, sometimes even saying, these cliched comments as I hold my neighbor’s beautiful, blue-eyed baby or talk to my sister about the ups and downs of her pregnancy. Because what I did not fully realize back then in the blur of newborn days is that, whether I want to accept it or not, those statements are painstakingly true.

As we were walking up our steep 1939-built basement stairs, I reached for Linnea’s hand, “No Mama, Nea do it by herself. By herself, Mama”. Her repeated comment stung the most, as if she had to clarify her self-reliance. She might as well have declared she just got a tattoo or a boyfriend because in that instance, I was sure my surprise and sadness would have been the same. The baby I birthed, nursed and wore in a backpack was fully merging into an independent little girl, and I was not sure I liked it…

Linnea’s age is exerting its influence in ways other than her confidence to take on tasks. A few months ago she declared dinosaurs “scary” after seeing a coloring book with their images. Picture my surprise then when that same little girl expresses sheer excitement about the opportunity to go with her daddy to see their skeletons. L.E. went to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for the first time on March 6. Photo after photo filled my phone’s memory as I gazed over each one during my lunch break. It was in some of those pictures that it hit me just how far she has come in just over two years. This realization–that I am sure hits every parent at some point–had its proof in one particular text from my husband: Leaning on a sign with long-legs and a tired stare, I saw no baby.Image

Just this weekend, she decided she no longer wanted to be rocked before her afternoon nap. I looked at her with a tinge of disbelief, and asked if she was sure. She was. I, on the other hand, was not.

When I listen to one of her stories and respond with “Ohhhh”, she insists, “Mama, don’t say ‘Ohhhh’ [insert mocking tone her]. Say ‘Yes’.” Say yes? I began wondering when my toddler daughter began correcting me. I don’t remember there being a chapter in any of my parenting books about how to deal with this milestone.

As much as I want to go back  to the days of endless snuggling in the rocking chair, I know there is a lot of of sweet mixed in with the bitter pieces of these memories:

Even though, Linnea did not want my help going up the stairs, she wanted me to play with her as soon as we got to her room. Even though, she looked like such big stuff in those pictures at the museum, Ben said she held his hand firmly the whole time they were there. Even though, she did not want to be rocked, we cuddled in her little bed as she moved the hair out of my eyes and gave me an unsolicited kiss. And even though she corrects me, we get some pretty big belly laughs when we make a joke out of it now.

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The truth is, like her newborn days, these days are numbered too. And I will hold onto the sweet as long as I can knowing just how quickly these moments may fade.

Note: This post was inspired by the writing of a good friend, Meg. She recently posted a post entitled, “The Hardest Phase“, which got me thinking about how quickly everything changes.