New clothes arrived by mail, and I’d asked Pickle to try them on for me in the living room, since that’s where we were at the moment. But she insisted on running back to her room to change into her new outfit, and as usual, my inability to tolerate inefficiencies refused to acquiesce: “Why can’t you just change here? Why go all the way back to your room for something you can do here? What’s the difference?”
To which she countered with animated hand gestures for emphasis, “Yes, mommy, what’s the difference? What. Is. The. Difference?” and turned my own argument against me. Good point. She won. At three, Pickle is already quite a force in the house. She has always been the “No, I want to do this!” kid, exerting her independence and refusing help every chance she gets, which I both admire and get frustrated with because I am an impatient person. I like things done quickly and efficiently, and that’s not the mode in which she operates. But as strong-willed as she is, she’s also extremely sensitive to emotional changes. “Are you mad at me mommy?” she’d tremulously ask upon detecting my frustration and would react strongly if she knew I was upset with her, not so much remorseful about her actions, but unhappy that she’s not in my good graces.
It’s this same sensitivity that made her stop mid-activity at the playground when she heard a boy crying, and just like her daddy, who is compelled to find a solution to fix a problem, she took her own balloon – the one she was fighting her sister for just minutes ago – and offered it to him, probably hoping to stop him from crying, to make him happy. It was an unprompted gesture, but My Guy and I weren’t surprised. In fact, we were watching from afar and when he spotted her looking around after staring at the boy with visible concern, he said, “I bet she’s going to give him her balloon.” She just likes to make people happy.
This girl is all surprises, and yet not surprising at the same time. She’s afraid of ants, but would think nothing of picking up a beetle the size of her thumb to bring it along on our evening walk with us. She’s been potty trained since she was 2.5 but she’d wake in the middle of the night, walk all the way to our room, holding her crotch and doing what I call the pee-pee dance, just to tell me, “Mommy, I need to go potty” and wait until I mumble something like “okay, sure,” in my sleep before dashing back to the bathroom she passed to get to me to complete her business and eventually climbing back to bed by herself.
She’s certainly confounding at times, but nonetheless utterly delightful. And perhaps that’s why, during Little Miss’ first week of Kindergarten, we were happy to wait another week before sending Pickle back to preschool so we could have her all to ourselves and vice versa. As a second child, her one-on-one moments with us are rare as she had to compete for attention from the moment she was born. That week, while her sister was figuring out kindergarten, we took time away from work to explore Austin with our little one just to spend time with her.
More than savoring the sights of our new city, more than learning about President Lyndon B. Johnson’s considerable contributions to American history, more than the cake they were serving at the magnificent LBJ Library in honor of what would have been his 106th birthday, we were relishing our little sprite, who giggled and danced and squirmed and snuggled and ran as fast as her legs could take her.
Ever since we moved to Austin, the girls have shared the same preschool schedule, so they often coexisted together at home. They were either both away or both in the house. Now that Little Miss is in kindergarten, Pickle will once again have her parents all to herself on Mondays and Fridays – the days she stays home from school. I remember luxuriating in that time we had together back when she was a wee baby up until this spring. She, who would continue to pepper me with random kisses as we walked, who would regale me with stories of her “new mommy and daddy,” an alternate universe that she had conjured, who would use every excuse in the book to fight naptime obstinately: “I heard (pronounced hear’d and not herd) sumping making a noise in my woom…did you heah that?”, who would still speak with a lisp and mispronounce words, like lellow and wunning, and misuse them and hers, as in: “Them are not mean; them are nice” in reference to beetles, and “I was holding hers hand.”
The same girl who would let out a banshee wail from the injustice of not having her way would also, when she actually naps, sweetly and wordlessly climb onto my lap and just hold me and hold me and hold me. With a constant devilish glint in her eyes and yet the most tender of hearts, she is an enigmatic creature of extremes, both exhausting and exhilarating, infuriating and inspiring.
Back in preschool now, she’s a little sad that her sister is no longer with her, but she went into her classroom and into the familiar routine without a moment’s hesitation all the same. Ready to start a new year. Ready for anything. And as always, I watch her in awe.