Big Girl

The night before last I was awoken by the presence of a little person next to my bed. I feel like every night since the evening Older drew his first breath I have slept with one eye open (figuratively speaking); my radar constantly sweeping for a sign of an awake child. After nine years of this I don’t wake in a start anymore when I feel a tiny human staring at me, but with a resigned sigh. Baby stood next to my bed and stated the obvious “I can’t sleep”. “Climb on in”, I said as Husband gave a slight moan of protest. You see, we sleep in an antique double bed; it feels more than cozy with Husband and I in it. Add in Baby and the bed is downright crowded. But 4:30 am math looks something like this for me:
Crowded in warm double bed >> Sitting on cold hard stool next to Baby’s bed

About half the time Baby ends up in our room she snuggles into me; seeming to almost want to crawl back in the womb with how close she tries to be. The other half of the time Baby tells me her thoughts. There are so many thoughts. The night before last was the other half of the time. Did I know that she is old enough to use the “big knife” (my 9 inch chef’s knife) now? Baby felt that she was and this was apparently what was on her mind before the sun rose. And what shall she use the big knife for? Why to slice oranges for fresh squeezed juice, of course. Which she wanted me to know that we should make for breakfast. And did I know that it was getting very close to Valentine’s day? And that we hadn’t made any cookies yet? It was a cookie crisis. So she helpfully suggested that, after we enjoyed our juice, we should make some heart shaped cut out cookies. Naturally, no cookie is complete without sprinkles so we should be sure to get out all the sprinkles so we can make good sprinkle decisions. She informed me that she could do all of these things because she is a big girl now! (Of course, not so big that she can’t fit in Mama and Daddy’s bed.) My half of the conversation went something like this “Mmmm hmmm”. Around 6:30 am Baby finally fell back into a deep sleep. Just in time for Husband’s alarm to sound and the noises of his getting ready to keep me awake. I stared at the clock and thought about how damn tired I was going to be all day.

I’ve been working on slowing down and saying more “yes” in my life. I wasn’t fully conscious when I apparently agreed to letting Baby use the big knife, squeeze oranges, and make cookies. I don’t think anyone would hold my 4:30 am mumbles of agreement to be binding. So when, first thing in the morning, Baby headed for the knife block to implement her plans I have to admit that my first instinct was to say “no”. She’s four years old. The knife is nearly as long as her arm. And sugar cookies. Ugh. I love to eat them, but making them is time consuming. And sprinkles. The mess! Then I looked at Baby’s excited face and I thought that somewhere between six months and eighteen months from now (we’re not sure when Baby will be going to kindergarten) we won’t have any more of these moments. I won’t have the option of saying yes or no because we won’t be here together. So I get out the cutting board, the oranges, and the big knife. I place my hands over hers and gently guide her as she cuts her first orange. Triumphant she pushes half of it down on the juicer squeezing out the juice. I do the rest of the slicing but she does half of the juicing. And unlike times past, she doesn’t need me to go back and re juice all of her oranges. She inspects each orange half as she goes along, extracting every last bit of juice from every one. We drink our juice. I make myself a rather fabulous egg sandwich to go with it (when in Rome…). I preheat the oven and get our mise en place for the cookies as Baby plays. She doesn’t see me getting the ingredients ready and is thrilled when she turns to see them laid out upon the kitchen table. I wonder if I say no so often that she is surprised that I am sticking to my middle of the night “yes”. We make the dough. We make pumpkin muffins as the dough chills. We roll out the dough and Baby tells me that she can cut out the cookies without help. She’s right. She makes two dozen precise hearts exclaiming “Perfecto!” after each one. I break out the selection of sprinkles. She applies them methodically to her sheet of cookies. I work on another sheet. While it takes her longer to complete her sheet than mine, I think there is actually less mess and wasted sprinkles around her cookies. While the cookies bake we go outside and she builds a “house” out of gymnastics mats and patio chairs. When the walls collapse I step in with a tablecloth and clothes pins and we build a fabulous palace. Baby wants a sign for her house and brings me scraps of wood for the house. “Yes”, I say again and I hammer random shapes of wood together. A proper sign needs color, “Can she color the wood with makers?”. “Yes.” She gleefully writes all of the girls names in our family (mine, her sister’s, hers, and the cat) on the sign explaining that this is a girls only clubhouse. We feast on cookies for lunch; her sitting in her humble abode, me sitting outside peering in through a “window”. We’re both clearly tired, but we’re both happy. I watch her chattering to herself in her house; she’s so completely carefree and happy. I marvel at how well she did cooking this morning. She is so capable now; she really is a big girl. But not so big that I don’t have her all to myself for a little while longer.

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