Zuzu was just about 12 months old the first time it happened. She stood in the carpeted hallway staring unhappily up at me as I answered her request for another cracker with a not right now. As she wasn’t going to stand for it, she oh-so delicately laid her small body down, ensuring not to bump or bruise herself and set to wailing and kicking after a quick glance in my direction. My lips turned up as I turned away to hide my laughter at her first tantrum.
Within a year it was not nearly so cute and the next year after that it was downright infuriating. These days when the fury bursts from her you can feel the floors shake as she stomps her twinkle-toes sneakers back into her bedroom.
But we knew it was normal development emotion-wise and set in for the duration. Like clockwork at her next half-year mark she would set into a new range of developmentally expected behaviors that would ease up as her birthday approached. Convenient isn’t it? The sudden return to being a sunny little bout of sunshine just in time to ensure a good birthday gift or 12. Downright Darwinian.
Then along came the Quail. We had read and bore witness to a series of offhand comments about “those kids”. You know God’s angels, the sunny, happy-go-lucky carefree children who never get angry? The passive full of light and good cheer children who didn’t know any better than to just grin at you and passers-by? Even though she showed a full range of emotion, these images held enough water to make me think that perhaps the personality trait of cheerfulness itself resided on that 21st chromosome and that our Quail maybe did have a little bit extra.
That is until about the age of eighteen months. When, one day, the Quail sat happily humming into a plastic microphone in the sun-filled living room. When in skipped Zuzu who also had a song on her lips. Zuzu donned her sweetest “Momma” voice and leaned in to pry the microphone from her sister’s hands. The Quail, she gripped that tiny pink cylinder of plastic firmly with one hand, placed her other little hand square in Zuzu’s face and hollered “STOP!” Zuzu was crushed as we turned away to hide our giggles and mental high-fives at the Quail’s newfound feistiness.
Enter a year later. And yes, there has been all the typical naughtiness you expect from a pre-schooler, laced with just enough mischievous sparkle in her blue and Brushfield spotted eyes to keep any grown-up from disciplining her too sternly. And then one weekend, perfectly timed with just enough of a snot-filled nose to make us question the origin of her fury; also timed perfectly within a month of her turning 2 and a half; our cheerful little helper, one day out of the blue refuses to pick up her crayons. Not only refuses, she stomps her foot (which we silently applaud since up until the last few weeks her balance wasn’t sturdy enough for her to not topple over in the attempt) and then goes in for the kill. She kicks over the little yellow bucket of crayons she’s been directed to fill. Silence fills the room, as she waits for our response and we wonder briefly at the skill of the kick and the pile of colorful crayons spewed across the black rug. Then she gives her age-old gesture of discontent- a version of flipping us off with her arm and attempts to leave the scene of the crime. I return her to it, with low firm instructions, no longer humming our clean-up song. She plops down, fixes her glare on the rug and growls. This continues for another minute until I’m clear she isn’t going to clean up her mess and so off to time-out she goes as an angry wail fills the house. Finally, shuffling slowly back in, head hung low, bottom lip bird-perched out and her hand sorrying circles on her small heaving chest she bends to pick up first a yellow, than a purple crayon and drops them squarely back in the pail.
Typical pre-schooler right? Shouldn’t have been so surprising. Except we’ve been marveling for months at how much the Quail enjoys helping grown-ups clean-up and this seemed to blow in out of nowhere. Apparently someone forgot to inform her of her abundant cheer that her syndrome relies on. A series of similar versions of the story ensue over the weekend involving, animal puzzle pieces, Cheerios and far-flung cups of kefir. Enough so that by Monday afternoon Lovey declares she’s going to the pediatrician tomorrow. I agree, this behavior is unusual. We know one ear tube came out a month earlier and she’s had a cold for a week and we have entered cold and flu season without the start of last winter’s daily breathing medications. She probably needs to start up her pulmicort and maybe an antibiotic or two.
The next day Lovey calls me at work. “She’s fine.” She’s up to 30 lbs 15 ozs. Her lungs and ears are clear. It’s a cold. That’s all.”
We both sat calmly contemplating what this banal diagnosis really meant. It may very well have been our first visit to a pediatrician that was met with the response of nothing here to see folks.
What it meant was that our ordinary child, was not filled with that magical sparkle that would cheer her all the way through her angelic life. What it meant was that she was developing socially and emotionally on time.
What it meant was we couldn’t be prouder.
What it meant was that we needed to buy a second plastic microphone and keep the bucket of crayons up off the carpet.