Where I wish my little girl a happy third birthday
I was the lone adult, home with both kids. Leila couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 months old — that when when I realized just how much trouble I was in. Two children, six-months apart in age make for some unique challenges — the specific one, here, was a very mobile child who wanted to be everywhere at once, getting into everything, while the other was a potted plant. CJ was all over the place, nearly walking, sometimes even taking a step, when Leila was quite content to just be.
On this day, CJ would just not let his sister be, so I took Leila, put her in her Bumbo chair, and put the chair inside the pack-and-play. Sometimes, you need to put someone in solitary confinement not because the that person has committed some offense, but because you need to ensure that person’s safety. CJ, the barely-walking ball of destruction was a constant threat. Leila, though, was content to just play by herself.
It was at least twenty minutes that passed – CJ was in what some might call a “tricky stage,” and required near-constant supervision/attention. It was at least 20 minutes that passed before she wailed — I came running. Nothing was wrong, she just wanted to make sure that I knew she was still there. As soon as she saw me, she smiled – content.
That — that very moment, is when I realized just how much trouble I was in.
Part of me never really thought I’d have a “girly-girl.” But that should simply tell me to never expect what I think will happen. Leila seldom leaves the house without a tutu. There was a two-week period that she would only ever respond to “princess,” ignoring the more prevalent “Leila” or “La”1. Her ice cream must be pink – though she prefers the taste of chocolate, pink is far more pleasing to her. Hearing her brother & cousins call out their favorite super-hero names (“Hulk” or “Superman” or “Spiderman” or “Batman” so that everyone else knows just who that kid is imitating) when the enter a fracas, she screams out “Princess.” Formal occasions not only call for tutus, but also fairy wings. She’s learning that I have the ability to completely ignore tantrums, but my resolve breaks for silent tears.
I pray that she never chooses to play poker, because my daughter seemingly cannot hide her emotions. There is no greater joy than when Leila is happy. There is nothing more devastating than when Leila is sad. She cannot play “hide and seek” without giggling & revealing her position.
If you asked her, right now, how old she is, she’d say six . . . see, she makes Monty Python’s King Arthur’s counting look downright normal: one-two-six-nine-two-ten-six-nine-twelve.
She shows a level of compassion that makes my heart smile. She cannot see someone sad without wanting to fix it. While she’s very eager to have “her turn” in any activity, she isn’t content until everyone has had an equal turn (well, maybe she wants an extra one, after everyone else has gone…). She’ll seek out a baby to play peek-a-boo, whether she knows the kid or not.
She exhibits absolutely no fear — be it a new person, a new place, a snake, or a steep slide, she’ll approach without a second thought. This makes me insanely proud, and insanely scared.
Today, she’s three. And, still, during a sleepy morning, she’ll wake up and look at me – once we’ve made eye contact, she’ll just smile, just like she did years ago. And I still know just how much trouble I’m in.