Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dear Chloë, year three

Dear Chloë,

A couple of days ago you told me, “I am Sarah, and I am three.” Sarah, as far as we can tell, was the waitress at the Ruby Tuesday we went to the day before. Neither your dad nor I remember this, but that's what you tell us. Sarah made appearances all day and occasionally thereafter, including tonight. I don't think she's going to be your first imaginary friend, but she's the first time you've claimed to be someone else. Normally, when we say “What are you?” all you ever say is “I am Cwoë.” You still don't have Ss or Ff, and I love your lisp. You say “tinger” instead of “finger” and “miley pate” instead of “smiley face,” and I sometimes wish I could preserve this aspect of you forever. (Though I suppose it wouldn't be very helpful in your college interviews.)

Freshly three-year-old you amazes me every day. You don't look at all like a baby anymore. I marvel daily at your long legs and arms, your face that comes into sharper focus each week. You speak so well, count so high, understand so much. You were aware of and interested in your birthday party this year: decorating, picking out the cake (“What kind of cake do you want?” I'd ask. “Moon cake!” You'd say. “Yes, but what flavor?” I'd reply), blowing up balloons, tabulating who would be there. You're constantly asking questions that make me pause and try to figure out how I know what I know—and if I know it. You pretend all day long, making the office your school where paint pictures and take naps, a cube of Legos a multi-flavored birthday cake (complete with pretend frosting), and yourself an astronaut or a dancer or a princess—which is the same as a dancer, just with more jewelry. We've tried to keep you from getting immersed in the insidious Disney Princess culture of girls your age, and so far we've succeeded pretty well, I think. People keep talking to you about princesses, and so you call yourself one, but you don't seem to know what to do after that. (Maybe because those princesses don't do anything themselves.) I think that's fine. I like the dancer, the teacher, the birthday girl. I can't wait to see what you play as you learn more.

You've been potty-trained for about a month—huzzah! It took a lot of time and effort to get here. But now that you are, you're so proud of yourself. Along with the potty-training has come, of course, pretty new underwear, and you've taken to putting it on yourself...and also your pants, and sometimes your shirt. You need someone to orient them correctly, but otherwise you, as you say with your arms outstretched and a glowing smile on your face, do it “all by myself!” More often you say “I can't do it,” so it makes me especially happy to see you so willing to try, so proud, so accomplished. A couple of days ago we talked about putting the top of the convertible potty seat on top of the toilet. Not only did you agree, but you proudly used it and then, to my surprise, suggested trying to use the toilet without the potty seat at all. It didn't work, as you're still not that big, but I was so surprised and impressed that you were willing to try it. You're not a terribly adventurous girl. Very cautious, and pretty clingy and whiny these days. I think that's the age, but you're definitely not as independent and fearless as, say, your cousin Addie. I'm okay with that. That's who you are, and it keeps you from doing things like dashing into the street and asking strangers to hug you, which is fine with me. But every once in a while you surprise me. I love when you do that.

You're so much your own person now. You have your definite likes and dislikes, and your own ways of doing things—of defying, of denying, of being tired, of being happy, of being unhappy. You still love green, though you're starting to get into pink a bit too. You refuse to do anything without your socks except bathe. I bought you some sandals, blue with green flowers, that I thought you'd love. And you like them, but only if you're wearing socks under them. On the other hand, you adore the sparkly, light-up sneakers your halmoni got for you. I'm so pleased that you're remembering your family and responding to them with affection. You're mature enough to play with your cousins and same-age peers now—really play, not just quietly follow along when they give you orders. You tell them what you want to play and what you don't, you contribute your own ideas. You haven't gotten to the point of compromising in order to play together, but you will.

You still love to read, which makes me very happy. We've gotten into longer books now, Olivia and Berenstain Bears and such, and I want to work on teaching you your lower-case letters, which we've neglected (in our defense, it's really easy to do so with the alphabets available for toddlers), because you're going to love being able to read for yourself. I mentioned that to you not long ago, and you hesitated, so I added, “But I'll still want to read to you,” and you relaxed. I want to read with you as long as you'll let me. And I'll keep making up bedtime stories and ridiculous songs for you as long as you want them.

You've gotten more physically active over the past year, doing a lot of jumping and dancing and running up and down in the hall--especially in the last month when you've been out of diapers or Pull-Ups. You're not as into naked time as you used to be, but you still indulge sometimes (though always with socks). “Do you see my butt?” naked you will ask if you're especially punch-drunk from tiredness. I'll say “I see your butt!” and you'll dash off, giggling, to run up and down the hall, and then repeat. You have a love-fear relationship with slides, and a simple dislike for swings, but you like going for walks, and pulling your sister in the wagon, and playing in the water table and the sprinkler and any pool you can find. You love to climb on me, or clamber over your daddy when he's trying to comb your hair. You love your daddy, and it makes me so happy to see it. Though the “Where is my daddy?” gets kind of old when I've told you “He's sleeping” or “He's at work” four times already.

You draw real things now: snakes and suns and flowers and circles with blobs in them that look like eggs or eyes or maps of islands. They're rudimentary, and you still enjoy simple color scribbling, but it's a definite sign of advancement. I love your pictures, and how proud and possessive you are of them. “Maia didn't color that,” you told me when Maia held up a picture of yours that she'd scribbled a line or two on and I'd praised it (because Maia is also quite proud of her scribbles). “I colored that.”

I continue to be proud of how good a big sister you are. I'm not saying you're perfect; you certainly have your jealousy and your moments of pique, where you push Maia away or yell at her because she's innocently taken something that you wanted. And your own streak of bossiness comes out when you repeat the things we've told her-- “No Maia! No buttons!” or “Don't touch!” But you're so unendingly patient with the way she steals your drink—whatever it is; all she wants is whatever you have—and sometimes refuses to tell you good-night or give you a kiss when she's giving them to your daddy and me. You'll readily keep her company or try to entertain her if I ask you to. You share your food with her without anyone asking you to. You try to get her to play with you in the tunnel or with your Duplos or in the sandbox. When she won't kiss you, sometimes you kiss her, on her hand or her leg or her belly. When I chant “So sweet—such a treat—baby feet” you tickle her toes and say “Baby peet! Toh tweet!” and you seem to mean it. When I tell you I'm taking you somewhere, your first question is always “Can Maia come?” You're such a sweet girl. My favorite sound is the two of you laughing together, especially when, as it often is, it's because Maia thought something you did was funny and you kept doing it so she'd keep laughing.

You are my beloved big girl, growing up in so many ways, unfolding like a flower bursting into bloom. You're going through a whiny and defiant stage, which is sometimes annoying and sometimes hilarious (“Never—pretend—to bite me—ever—again!”), but I know it's what you need to be doing, and I'm doing my best to be patient with it. It's the clinginess that gets me most, actually. But a small part of me revels in it, because in my own way I want to cling to you, too. It's my job as the parent not to, but sometimes I can't help catching hold of you and hugging you tight, loving everything you are and everything I see you becoming but wishing I could keep it all from happening because right now is so perfect and right. But that's selfish and short-sighted, and so I keep watching your beautiful self become ever more complex, more funny and smart and thoughtful. And I try to hold you just tight enough to keep us both feeling safe but giving you the room you need to grow.


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