Barely two and a half and already acting like a sixteen year old with infinite knowledge of the world, my doe-eyed round-cheeked niece comes sauntering into the kitchen wearing my sister’s hot pink shoes. She struts like she was born knowing how to balance in 6 inch heels, her feet dragging only because they are 6 sizes too big.
A few days earlier I had tried to explain to her, as she pushed her “Tinkerbear” around in its stroller, that moms just don’t wear heels when they take their babies for a walk. At least not the moms I know. She scoffed at me and continued pushing her way around the living room, stopping occasionally to adjust her pink rimmed sunglasses or pull up her knee-high black boots.
She demands attention from anyone willing to listen, and will speak loudly even when she has nothing to say but a string of seemingly unconnected words or phrases. Periodically lifting up her shirt (which in a few years will no longer be appropriate), I laugh and tell her I can see her belly button.
Mimicking my laugh she says, “My betty button?”
Correcting her is futile, so I just say, “Yeah! And I have one too!”
She proceeds to lift up my shirt (which, again, will be completely inappropriate in a few years), and in seeing my belly button proclaims, “WOW! WE’RE FRIENDS!”
Since she began attending daycare about a year ago, she’s been working through what friends are – often declaring, when she’s feeling particularly bratty, “We’re NOT friends!” So now, she’s settled on this one small similarity as a clear indication that we are forever connected as bosom buddies. It makes me want to squeeze her face and shower her with kisses.
As she’s grown more into her self, leaving her chunky baby cheeks and soft demeanor behind, I am amazed by her ability to pay attention to the world’s most minute details, always determining how she can fit in and grow to be more like the adults around her. She’ll ask for jewelry to wear and a cell phone to cart around, opening it and saying things she’s heard all of us say – “Ok, I’ve got to go to work. I’ll call you back.”
But while she would love to mold herself into the world, I want to mold myself into her – bottling her excitement and letting it out when nothing seems worthy of dragging myself out of bed for. To her, getting a pizza pocket for dinner and being allowed to watch the Berenstein Bears is cause for celebration (probably since we periodically tell her she can’t watch because “they’re hibernating”).
In time she’ll fit seamlessly into this existence, abandoning her obsession of Toy Story 3 and spending more time thinking about who likes her and who doesn’t. But for now, I want to keep her this way – putting up with her incessant whining just to be able to witness the times when she’s so clearly amazed by the world she can hardly contain herself. I’ll play her repetitive games because her smile is contagious and her ridiculously adorable giggle is intoxicating.
I see the struggle that is raising her, but can’t think of a gift more amazing than her existence. I can’t wait to see the path that she’ll forge for herself because if who she is now is any indication, she’s on her way to becoming something spectacular.