In the last week, two people (bless you!) have asked me about this little blog of mine. And because my ego is easily stroked, and because I miss having a place to share my ruminations about motherhood, and because I'm relatively lousy about filling out Hadley's baby book--I'm back. At least I'll have a few blog posts to share with her when she's 12 and curious about her younger self.
Also, for this fleeting hour, the laundry is done, the kitchen is clean, the toddler is asleep, and I don't have a deadline tomorrow. I can't promise such a moment will ever come again, so I must relish it.
And now, with that preamble aside, I'm not entirely sure where to restart.
With Hadley, I suppose. But how to capture her? She's not a baby anymore. She was an infant wrapped in rolls of chubby flesh; now she's tall and almost thin, as her body burns off those pudgy wrinkles to lengthen her arms and legs. She was a snuggler; now she can barely sit still--unless we're reading books. She was so little and helpless and dependent on me; now "I do it myself" is one of her favorite phrases (second only to "I have a treat?").
There is so much she knows how to do that I don't remember teaching her. She's a whiz at letters and colors and shapes--and I suppose we taught her those things, though I don't remember deciding to--but the stuff that's most amazing to me is less obvious. For example, she pretends. Lately, she has been entertaining the friends from her favorite TV show, "Caillou." Caillou is a four-year-old who has a cat named Gilbert and friends Leo, Clementine, Jason, and Jeffrey.
We spend a lot of time persuading imaginary Clementine or Leo to come out of the kitchen and play in the living room. Sometimes Hadley has to go pick them up: She cups them in her hands (apparently they are quite small) and speaks to them gently: "It's okay. I got you, Leo. I got you. You okay." We must feed them breakfast all the time, and then they have to go to bed. Then one of them needs water or Cheerios or paint. They're a high-maintenance crew.
If I had imaginary friends, they would serve me chocolate-covered strawberries and rub my feet. But that's another story.
We pretend we're at the doctor's office, and when it's Hadley's turn to be the doctor, she listens to my heart, gives me a shot (always), and pronounces me healthy. Then she whispers conspiratorially, "Be patient! You get a lollipop." We pretend we're going to sleep, and she pulls a blanket up over my shoulders and says, "Sleep tight!" We pretend we're owls and we must run around the house, flapping our wings and yelling, "Whoo, whoo!" If you happen to be here for this event, please note in advance that we are owls, not birds. Hadley gets very cross if you don't get that part exactly right.
I wonder what she thinks owls are.
I love the way she orders her world. I wish I could remember thinking in the wide-open realms of early childhood. Owls don't have to be birds. Leo can be six inches tall. The doctor's office can be a complicated vehicle for procuring a lollipop. How will we preserve this sense of possibility as she learns about the world? There are so many rules, so many assumptions, and I wish we could somehow make her aware of them without asking her to swallow them all.
I want her to have a playful childhood. If she's half me (and Jason suspects she's more like 90 percent me), she'll learn life's rules carefully. She'll abide by them, then she'll cling to them because she'll find some satisfaction in meeting them, knowing where to draw the lines and what's expected of her. She'll like benchmarks and gold stars and knowing that you should paint the sky blue when it's easel time because, after all, the sky is blue.
Except when it's pink and purple.
I want her to remember the pink-and-purple sky, the days we eat breakfast for dinner, the joy that comes from having 6-inch-tall imaginary friends, the magic of not having to categorize all things. Sometimes, owls are just owls, right?
And I feel like now is the time to protect that freedom. She is watching and learning what we say and do. She's thinking about it and she's using it to make sense of her world. Of course, I have no idea how to do that, except for playing along when we pretend and not insisting on "right" answers. My hunch is that she will learn those soon enough. I've often had more right answers that I can use, but I sometimes lack for the freedom of thought that gives clever, creative folks the not-as-right-but-really-cool answers.
Hadley is reminding me how to do that. It's an unexpected gift of parenthood, this freedom to play and ignore the world's rules for a while.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to tend to Leo and Clementine. They want to paint the sky purple.