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Zuzuday: life at four

Every now and then I worry that this little girl isn’t getting her due. I worry that I don’t praise her enough, work with her enough, teach her enough or am patient enough with her. I worry about how she’ll turn out. I worry about whether or not she is listening. I worry if she understands all those things I offer up as verbal soliloquies. I wish I had said less. I wish I had just hugged her. I’m grateful for another day to try again. I wonder why I thought the previous year was such a difficult age…again.

And then the next morning starts before even 5am. She crawls into our bed and seemingly snuggles in between Lovey and I only to let me know that she would prefer the pillow case I’m sleeping on. As I tell her to go to sleep she tells me her feet are cold and then kicks off the covers that I throw over them. I roll away to hide my irritation and she cries that I should cuddle her. Less than two hours later, she confidently strides into the bathroom and politely lets me know that a Momma should go get a little girl’s slippers from the living room when they are cold; not get angry. I stare at her debating how to respond and when I finally settle on a simple smile am rewarded with a huge grinning hug back.   I tuck the lecture on speaking back to adults into my heart for another time. The few times I’ve offered a puffed up, “Because I’m your mother and I say so!”, I’m met with the sincerest of warnings, “Well next time I’ll be the Momma.” Come next life I’m screwed.

Too often I react when I get irritated with the way she’s behaving. I don’t take each action and think about it in individually before responding. She does. She comes to me fresh-faced; a bewildering mixture of innocence and wisdom. The week before Christmas, Lovey took her to the market so I could have alone time with her mountain of presents-to-be and get them organized, opened and wrapped. Over the last six months I had been squirreling away pieces to a Dora Dollhouse I had bought on ebay and planned to fully outfit. Furniture, generations of family and all. I heard the car pull up and hurriedly started piling the pieces back into the box they had been stored in. I just about had the box closed when she came barreling into the dining room and saw the gleaming orange roofline to the house she plays with daily at her school. “Is that the Dora Talking House from school?!” she asked with excitement in her voice. “No, It’s Daddy’s tools. Do not go into that box or you could get hurt and Daddy would be angry. Stay out.” I not so cleverly improvised. She looked at me and went back to her donut still warm from the market’s bakery. An hour later with her sister still napping I notice it’s strangely quiet considering the previous hour’s sugar intake. I start down the hall only to be greeted by a proud-as-a-peacock four-year old holding up an unopened box containing Abuela- Dora’s grandmother. “Can you open this for me? I can’t get it!” she says to my surprised face. I take the box from her and head to the bedroom I had also not-so-cleverly hidden the box in with a mere arm pillow covering it. Sure enough, the doll house is out of the box and most of the furniture is set up and Dora herself is finishing up what could only be described as a four-course doll meal. I. Was. Furious. As I’m taking it in, Zuzu points out in all her suredness, “See Momma, it wasn’t Daddy’s tools! It was the Dora Talking House from school! You were wrong!”

What would you do? What could you do? I did not want to be that mother. The one who goes so far to punish her child that there is no Christmas. But, what does she learn from this when she gets the present- Mom WAS wrong. I AM right! Sigh. So I send her to her room for a good bit of thinkin’ time and angrily pack up the house. I put it back in storage and mope about it for a few days. Now, I wish I had just given her next week’s delight a week early. I wish I hadn’t been so set on trying to figure out the lesson in this situation, that I missed this one. Christmas was a week away. What I was going for was this perfect childhood treasured moment when she came into the living room and saw that Santa knew how good she had been and had gifted her accordingly. I pictured her delight, and really- my thrill at having conceived it. I had that scene in front of me, just a week early and since I wasn’t expecting it- I missed it. Instead, I got got by the holiday stress-monster and a whole lot of weeping and moping for a few days. It’s still a treasured childhood memory- just not the one I had planned. But what’s that John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” There you have it. Life with small ones in a nutshell.

That being said, there are other moments in time when I am floored by her and the wisdom that she shares unknowingly, rather than her intended; ahem, teachings. A couple of weeks ago we had a weekend fort set up in our living room. Zuzu had been asking to sleep in it since Friday. Come Sunday she was still asking. My final protest was that I needed her to nap in her room so that I could pick up the living room from the morning’s playdate. That way when she was up we wouldn’t have to clean, we could just play. She moved on to saying ok but how about she sleeps in there tonight then. I relented and agreed to naptime. About an hour into her nap, she comes poking her head in the office. She’s known for her lobbying efforts around reducing sleeptime regulations in our house. As soon as I heard her pitter-patter from the living room I felt irritation rise up in my throat. I just knew she wasn’t going to cooperate. When I turned to her in the doorway though she had the biggest grin and a gleam in her eye. “Momma come see what I did!” As she let me by the hand into the living room I was stunned. Every book that had littered the floor was neatly stacked on an end table. Every stuffed animal that had been strewn across the room was piled into an armchair. The baby toys, neatly stacked back in their tubs. The room was utterly clean. I looked at her in amazement as she stumbled over her words to tell me, ” Momma I was v-e-r-y quiet so you wouldn’t hear me. I put the animals here so I wouldn’t wake my stister. When she wakes up I’ll put them away in my room. I cleaned it up so you wouldn’t have to! Yayyyyy”

Mother’s day came early in our house indeed!

The last time I remember being this amazed by her unselfish behavior was when I was pregnant with her sister. She insisted on being an audience to my daily barfing show. Insisted, like beating down the door that had been firmly closed to get in there with me. Sometimes she even brought snacks. Sometimes she offered me some of them. Usually she held my hair back.

Really, she’s a good girl. And that dollhouse? She got it. Santa, ummm…handed it over to mom and dad to wrap up and give on the big day. She didn’t ask about it again during that week. When she unwrapped the box, she came neatly back over to me with another hug and the only gift a mother ever wants. ” Thanks Momma.”

(Actually, it was “Thanks Momma. Thanks for not returning the house to the store. Thanks for not telling Santa to give me coal.” But I’m not sure every mother wants that last part.

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