Monday, October 8, 2012

Little big girl

teafortwo They had their first tea party together this past weekend. With real red-velvet cake.

As a stay-at-home mom with the occasional freelancer’s deadlines, weekends aren’t what they used to be. I once needed that time to recharge, but without a 40-hour work week plus the harrowing commute, TGIF is mostly just F.

However, now that Little Miss is back in preschool, there’s one part of the weekend that I look forward to, and that is the quiet time we share while her sister naps for two to three hours in the afternoon.

They don’t nap together, lest we want two little exhausted (and exasperating) monkeys in our hands, so the older sister gets to use our room. She would either leaf through her books and eventually fall asleep. Or not. Either way, the important thing is that she has some down time.

Lately, I find myself climbing into our bed with her for the first half hour before I leave her to rest on her own. We usually chat a little, reflecting on our morning or discussing future plans, or I read her a story. Today, we got these Tell-Me-a-Story flash cards from the toy store this morning so she could make up her own.

“The witch took the key and opened the door, and she made some bubbling hot potion...And then the fairy fluttered by, but actually the big bad wolf is coming and the daddy mouse is protecting his baby...”

The story doesn’t make a lick of sense, but maybe that’s why I enjoy it immensely. Like most kids, she’s not self-conscious about being silly, and I think to myself, how liberating that must be. I smile at the names she picks for her characters, like Ria the mouse, Italen the witch, and the simple plot twists that are so, well, fairy-tale-like. “The princess runs away to see the mice get married...”

I have to say, her unrehearsed, real-life moments can be funny too, like this recent exchange:

Me: “It’s not a good idea to pick the flowers from the bushes.”
LM: “Yeah, because if I pick all of them, there won’t be flowers to make them pretty. Actually, the bushes will just look plant-y.”

This girl cracks me up, and that’s what I treasure the most in our quiet moments together. When she’s still, and when she isn’t clamoring for attention, she’s actually wonderful company.

It also amazes me when she uses words like “actually”, “otherwise”, and “although” in all the right places that sometimes, when she’s acting out, I have to consciously remind myself that she’s not even four. That she’s still at that age when she is cranky without proper rest, and that she isn’t always good about sharing.

We have to remind ourselves to continue to be patient with her, knowing that her missteps are often age-appropriate behavior. Not acceptable, but, at the very least, understandable, and it helps us to react accordingly.

This past summer was both a joy and a challenge when both girls were home because Little Miss was constantly competing for attention. Look up the word “infuriating” and you’d see her face next to it, sulking. I was mostly exhausted by the end of the evening as there was only so much “look at me” and “watch me” I could handle in a day. And, oh, the screaming.

At her worst, she was Little Miss Banshee when we removed her from an undesirable situation, and her screaming would then escalate from unpleasant to nasty in her room. There were several epic meltdowns that warranted complete isolation for a few minutes; there wasn’t much we could do except to let her blow off some steam.

I tried to be fair to her with how I divide my attention, but with a toddler who newly learned to walk and who loved putting everything in her mouth, I had to be be vigilant with Thumper. That also meant Little Miss had to find new ways to vie for attention, positive or negative. Many times, unfortunately, it leaned towards the latter.

I’m grateful, at least, that her ploys never amounted to anything malicious. She played well with Thumper, and continues to, often looking out for her baby sister when I’m not in their immediate vicinity - “Mommy, she’s eating the sticker!”

First wagon ride together. Can’t believe we didn’t use it at all in the summer.

As concerning as those terrible episodes were, once school started, they all but disappeared. I saw a transformation in Little Miss, and while she is still a little more unpredictable around her sister, I can usually expect a rather pleasant, even enjoyable, time, when it’s just the two of us together.

It’s not surprising, considering she’s had me all to herself for two and a half years, and to share what was once all hers can be a little tough. She’s only three after all.

I have to keep reminding myself that she may be a big sister, but she’s still only a little girl handling big changes in her life. When faced with a flurry of activities and life events beyond her control, she needs a constant. A rock. She needs us, her parents, to reassure her that while things change, we won’t. That we will always be there for her, just like we were the first couple of years of her life.

Realizing that, I decided to carve out some quality time for Little Miss and me during the toddler’s nap, and in that time, it would be all about her. Even though we mostly talk and read together, I’ve also fallen asleep beside her, and there’s no describing the sweetness of cuddling with our babies. Even if said baby is over three feet tall and all arms and legs. And the delight I see in her face when she sees me next to her upon her wake? Priceless.

This past weekend, we branched out and used this sacred time to craft, like this simple Fall banner that started the previous day with a walk in the park right next to us to collect leaves. Little Miss then helped me cut the pennant shapes - she did the straight lines - and glued the leaves to them before I strung them together with yarn. It was an easy project that involved the three people in the house who weren’t napping while Thumper was down.

FallBannerCollage This has been a Fall worth celebrating

Monday is Columbus Day, and there’s no school. I decided to leave Thumper with a sitter while Little Miss and I indulge in a morning all to ourselves.

I haven’t concocted a plan yet but I suspect there will be some conversations, some giggles, and perhaps an adventure or two. There may even be some chocolate - her favorite - in there somewhere. I will get my Little Miss fix. She will get her mama fix.

Then we will come home, and perhaps even take a nap together. Just me and my little big girl.

My big little girl.

And I absolutely cannot wait.