July 14, 2006

Fifteen Months

Dear Party Girl,

I've written a lot about your sister on this blog. Sassafras is three and a half now and has big questions and big ideas and is both enchantingly dear and yet strong as a brick wall. Your sister is our first, an unwitting guinea pig in this experiment your dad and I call parenthood. Before her, we only had to worry that the pets were fed and the light bill was paid. Now that Sass is entering the life of a "big girl" we are fumbling along with her on this ride, trying to have just the right mix of authority so that she'll respect our boundaries, but yet give her enough space to be the awesome person that she is, and so it may seem that she gets more "press" than you do around here, and you may be right. She's our firstborn and our love for her is bigger than life.

But, my chunky-legged, toddling, yogurt-loving baby, so is my love for you. If your sister is the happy, boundless puppy of my heart who tugs at the leash and urges me forward, then you are the baby soft kitten who nestles in my lap, purring with contentment. You're my baby, my little one, the one who still clings to my knees and who still calls me Mama like it's two separate words Ma-Ma, and who still greets me with arms wide open when I return from a long trip -- say like from the kitchen.

That isn't to say you aren't happy or boundless, because we don't call you Party Girl for nothing!

On your first birthday, I started a letter to you to put into your baby book and it never got finished. That month was a busy one -- you were just learning to walk and taking my eyes off for you for even one second led to one disaster or another. Your sister seemed horrified at the idea that you were suddenly upright and your hands were now unoccupied with crawling and by the time I got the two of you in bed every night, I was spent. But now? Now you walk with ease, and sometimes it seems by your shriek that you think you are running (though the speed is the same). You still race to the bathroom if I forget to shut the door, but instead of dunking your hands in the toilet you stand in front of it -- rubbing your hands together -- knowing a hand washing is coming. You stand in the pantry where our litterbox is kept, chortling to yourself until you hear me say Where's Party Girl? Did I..OH NO DON'T EAT THE LITTER! And then you shriek with glee when I find you innocently standing there.

You are a precocious talker and a few weeks ago I started counting the words you could say and got to 30, but now I've lost count. Today you said swing and spoon (or ing and poon) and you walk around the house declaring Gee-up, gee-up WHOOS! This is from a song Grandma sang to me when I was little Giddy-up, giddy-up/We're going to town/WHOOPS!/We fell down! If no one is playing with you, you squat down on Whoops! and giggle gleefully at your cleverness. You cover your eyes with your hands and wait for someone to ask with mock seriousness Where did Party Girl go? Where is she? and even after the 100th time we play it, you still laugh that deep belly laugh of yours when you throw open your hands and shout Pee-a! Pee-a! And I smother you with kisses to assure you that I had no idea where you were. Sometimes you'll only cover one eye, because you don't want to miss the action as I search under the table and Sass or Daddy look out in the window, wondering if you've escaped to the backyard.

Yesterday it was just you and I at home and we were playing on the floor. I casually wondered if we should go play outside and you whipped around and came running to me, grabbed the collar of my shirt and starting yanking -- like you thought you were strong enough to pull me to me feet. Then you ran to the door (do-ah!) and started banging on it, so out we went. When we play outside, you walk right past the Little Tykes slides I kept around just for you and climb the tall ladder of the swingset. As you careen about the fort on top I dodge from one side to the other to make sure I'm there if you fall, and you laugh outloud, thinking it's a game. When I try to hold you on the slide you pull your hand away and declare: Mines! It's the same thing you shout when you finally find a coveted toy unguarded by your sister. Mines, mines, mines, you walk around declaring to whoever will listen. It's also what you shouted when I put you in the tub tonight and wouldn't let you take your baby in with you. You're sad because the baby can't take a bath with you, I croon. She'll get wet! We don't want a wet baby doll! But you just wailed and cried and finally I had to give you the 30 second once over so that your baby doll could be returned to your quivering arms. You are hugging her tight as I type this, fast asleep in your crib.

On Wednesday you had your well-baby check up and charmed the doctor and nurse with your friendly sweetness. You had them so wrapped around your finger that they seemed genuinely dismayed that they were going to have to poke you and ruin your good mood, and when the nurse did administer your shots you gave her a heartbreaking look of betrayal: How could you? I gave you my friendship freely and in return you did that?

I don't like to compare you and Sass because I fear it will lead us to a place where you feel pigeon-holed -- where Sass feels like she has to be one way and you feel like you have to be another. When I was young, I was shy (and still am) and in any group outside of my family, it took me a long time to warm up. When I did, though, someone was always bound to say Well! Finally! She speaks! or something equally embarrassing and I'd clam back up. It's like I couldn't break out of that box I'd been placed in by my peers, and I don't want you to enter the world of childhood friends with any preconceived boxes to deconstruct.

But I will say this: At this stage in her life, Sass makes me want to protect her because she's sensitive. She takes every little molecule of the world into her little heart and holds it so tight that sometimes I can't even see what she's making of it. She thrills in the joy and wonder of life, but lives it with a somewhat guarded heart -- like she already knows that life is beautiful, but also frail -- a trait that was sent overnight express from my DNA to hers. But you? I want to protect you for the opposite reason. You enter every situation with the doors of your heart flung wide open, welcoming any and all in for cookies and tea and I want to put my own little gate up around your heart to protect you, to hire my own night watchman to look out for your unguarded heart. But at the same time I want to nurture that in you, and maybe learn from you a little as well.

Today we took you to one of your and Sass's favorite spots -- a park with a shallow creek just right for wading. We started at the nearby playground, but the minute you saw the water you kept running away from me yelling Dat! Dat! I couldn't keep you still to put on your suit and sunscreen and you toddled off with your straps falling down and a white paste covering your body, but you didn't care. Your sister was already there, hauling the biggest rocks she could carry out of the water and setting them on the shore. As quick as you could you threw them back in and when she caught you she was infuriated, but she couldn't help but give a little giggle as you grunted to pick up the heaviest one. She chased you away for a while, but you kept returning because with your sister is where you always want to play.

Tonight, you struggled to fall asleep and I rocked you in my arms. You're such a good sleeper that I rarely have to do that anymore, beyond giving you your bedtime bottle, and it felt good to snuggle in the old wooden rocker that has soothed both you and your sister many a night. You tucked in close, pulled your pacifier out and touched my nose. Mama. You said. Mama dis. You put your pacifier back in upside down and I watched you until your eyes drooped and your body got that deep heaviness that sleeping babies have. I let the weight of you in my arms sink into the part of my heart where all of my most cherished memories lie, and I laid you in bed.

I love you, Party Girl.



Blogger Margaret said...

Making me cry, huh? I did fine until I got to the part about the different approaches Sass and PG have to life. PG certainly does have an unguarded heart. It's a beautiful trait. A bit scary because she's hurt she may hurt in a big way. But I also think she love and feel joy in a way that's bigger than we can imagine. She's an amazing little spirit.

July 14, 2006 11:11 PM  
Anonymous MOM said...

Sass and Party Girl are very, very fortunate little girls. They have a mother who loves them to the core, feels their hearts, nurtures their spirits and gives them a life of beauty and charm and grace and wonderness. She teaches them, and learns from them at the same time. Everyday I am filled with awe and the gift you give your children - you give them all of you, who you are and the beautiful woman and mother you have become.

July 15, 2006 12:05 AM  
Anonymous janey said...

*Sob* xxx

July 15, 2006 3:54 AM  
Blogger Lauri said...

Gosh.... sniff, sniff that was so sweet. I love how you describe each of your daughters spirits and personalitys... sounds like your doing an amazing job nuturing them as individuals.


July 15, 2006 9:46 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Wow. Tears in my eyes. That was a beautiful letter to your daughters. And then the comment from your mom. Oh man.

They are lucky girls indeed. And Vice Versa.

July 17, 2006 11:00 AM  
Anonymous Jill said...

I just wanted to let you know that this post is now up at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog Carnival.

Thank you so much for contributing!

Co-Founder, Silicon Valley Moms Blog

July 18, 2006 9:10 AM  

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