Baby is in a rapid-fire phase of language development. She counts everything now and is ever so pleased when things match: when, for example, we both wear our red patent shoes, or when she and her siblings are all enjoying an identical snack, or when she sees two daffodils blooming in the garden. Last night in the car I heard her little voice signing “We can hardly stand the wait, please Christmas don’t be late.” I haven’t played that song since last Christmas and back then she couldn’t sing those words, but now, unexpectedly and delightedly she remembers the words and belts them out. Baby also picked up on one of my phrases and now whenever something minor goes wrong (I drop a cookie on the floor), Baby will give me a sympathetic pat and tell me, “That happens.” I was wearing a new pair of earrings this week and she touched them to admire them and complimented me “Mama look cute!”. And the absolute best thing in the world is taht she now gives me spontaneous “I love yous”. “I love you Mama” she says seriously as we settle down to nurse. “Mama Baby friends” she tells me as we snuggle and read a story together. “Mama loves Baby, Baby loves Mama” she says with certainly and satisfaction.
I was quite good about keeping a baby book for all three children. I actually kept a regular journal for Older until he started elementary school. Predictably, I fell off the journaling wagon with Middle and Baby around the same time – although they were only four years and eighteen months old, respectively. I love those journals; they contain lists of the kids’ likes and dislikes, funny and insightful quotes that the kids made, and memories of milestones. All things I swore I would never forget, yet inevitably did. I keep the books next to my bed and used to jot down my thoughts before falling asleep at night. I have to be realistic though, staying up late studying nearly every night combined with a two year old who still refuses to sleep like a human being means that I am unlikely to start regularly journaling again anytime soon, if ever.
But something wonderful has happened recently, I have a couple of hours on Saturday mornings basically to myself while I wait for Middle at an appointment and then gymnastics class. I steal away to a little cafe and eat, all by myself, a breakfast that I didn’t have to cook. It’s divine. I spend the bulk of those hours studying. But I could spend a few of those hours writing.
Older finished Harry Potter number four this week. He’s stayed up past ten nearly every night frantically reading as the book reached its climax. I love that he is so obviously experiencing the deep joy that comes from being fully immersed in a great story. I could hear him call out loud in surprise, to no one in particular, “They killed Cedric!” and “Mad Eye Moody isn’t Mad Eye Moody!” He called me up to his bed a couple of nights ago aghast, “Can you believe Barty Crouch killed his own father? That’s awful.” Older also seems to have picked up some British mannerisms of speaking from ingesting all that Harry Potter. He told me, in all seriousness, that he needed to do something “straight away” and he’s been calling his siblings “youngsters”. I am just waiting for something to go wrong for him and hear him yell “Bloody hell!” A couple of nights I’ve even allowed him to come out of his room after his siblings are asleep and sit on the couch and read with us. It is rare that I get significant alone time with Older and he and I both love these quiet late night talks. He gets such a thrill from being awake with the grown-ups and feeling grown-up himself. I can really see the young man he is becoming. I hope that no matter how old he gets he will still want to have long talks with his mother.
Middle is still just as challenging, but at the same time, I feel that we have turned a corner in our relationship, with her as my daughter (as opposed to my son or my transgender daughter). I am a words person; words carry deep meaning to me. So it came as no surprise to me when I had no trouble accepting Middle’s dressing as a girl, but a some difficulty accepting her name change and the idea of her being my daughter. I don’t know if it is simply the passage of time (it’s been about 10 months now) or Middle’s hair now being shoulder length or something more ephemeral, but I do know that I am able to think of her as truly one of the girls now. A few nights ago after putting on her pajamas she donned a magenta tutu and red Converse with her jammies. She looked both ridiculously cute and beautifully mature beyond her five years. I sat at a tiny kids table across from her, playing Barbies (they were at a gymnastics meet) while also discussing microbiology (“bad germs”) on the side. I was struck by how that, right then, was the kind of image I always had in my mind of a having a daughter: feminine, and fierce, cute and confident, smart and spunky. Her own little woman. And here was my daughter, my transgender daughter no less, epitomizing everything I had ever envisioned in a little girl. It was awesome.
Somehow keeping a recording of my children’s’ lives has fallen off my list of something important to get done. But it is important. For me, reading through those journals is somehow brings back their younger selves even more clearly than pictures or videos. The world doesn’t need another mommy blog, but I need to remember them as they are now. So this Saturday morning I used my alone time to write and to remember: