The first time my littlest little girl told me she loved me was about a month after I’d met the little girls. We were in Target, she was still little enough to sit in the seat at the front of the cart, and she was parked firmly in the undies and socks aisle. I was a little further down the aisle looking for tights for the little girls’ Christmas dresses. The ones my husband and I had bought together (our first joint purchase for the little girls). I was looking at sizes on tights and she screamed “I LOVE YOOOUUUUUU.” I was frozen. Crouched down next to tights in black, white, cream, and pale pink. I wondered what to say back. I was very aware of the dangers of being involved with…not my husband…but with these little girls! I couldn’t not say it back, right? But as I cautiously looked around Target (looking for what? People who would somehow know I was a new addition to this family???) I was terrified that people would know I shouldn’t be saying such things so early in the game. I barely choked out the words “I. Love. You. Too.”
Having just turned three when I met her, my littlest little girl was stubborn. She could stare me down, stomp her feet, and cross her arms with an indignant nod with the best of them. Little did she know I could stare for minutes without blinking, stomp harder, and cross my own arms and nod my own head indignantly. She pushed and pushed to see how far she could go with me and quickly realized it wasn’t far.
She took to me pretty quickly. She snuggled, and kissed, and hugged, and kissed some more. With her I experienced so many firsts that most of my girlfriends had already endured with their children. On the way to daycare one morning she threw-up all over my (clean and beautiful) car. I didn’t care about anything except for my poor little girl (this surprised even me). Or the first time I dropped her at daycare and she clung to me sobbing…wanting me to take her with me. And the heart wrenching drive to work that followed. Because she was littler, and younger, and less communicative than my oldest little girl (who has such an old soul it makes her sometimes seem much older), she was the closest thing to a baby I’d ever had. There were pull-ups, and cuddling in bed with her until she fell asleep, and she needed me in a way that our oldest little girl didn’t back then.
As she’s grown older her astounding personality has begun to take shape. She has the kindest and gentlest soul. She’s laid back and is easy for people to get along with. She is quick to take people under her wing. She befriends those who need one. She sees sadness in people, children and adults alike, and immediately tries to comfort them. There are days when her kindness and love hit me like a brick.
In the past couple of years we’ve had some challenges. Children are so different. The way my oldest and littlest little girls process information, react to disappointment, and do schoolwork, are like night and day. Whereas our oldest little girl can zip through homework in the blink of an eye and catch on to every single thing with ease? Our littlest little girl has to work at it. It takes work to provide an environment in which she can truly focus and get through her homework. And there are days? Sweet Jesus there are days that one sheet of math homework, or one particular spelling list? It’s like pulling teeth with chop sticks covered in Vaseline. I’ve had to be hard on her, I’ve had to work to keep her focused, and it kills me a little each time because I’d much prefer to be snuggling or laughing with her.
I’ve also recently noticed that this lovely and kind girl is so intent on making others happy that she often forsakes what she wants to please others. This is a trait of my husband’s. A trait that is at the same time endearing and the most frustrating thing ever. While it sometimes makes things easier, I so want her to grow up being able to clearly communicate what SHE wants, and what makes HER happy.
Even though we struggle some days (at approximately 4:30, at our kitchen table, pencils in hand) she remains my little one. When I put her to bed each night and tell her that she’s a smart girl, a beautiful girl, an important girl, and a kind girl, and that I love her very much, she often repeats it to me as she strokes my hair. She often tells me I’m the best mom ever. She asks how my day at work was. She tells me she’s happy that my job allows me to help people. And that I’m pretty.
The other day she had her first day of basketball practice. A sport SHE chose to try. Without her big sister. On her own. Later, to celebrate, she and I went on a date to paint plates. While we were hard at work on our plates I told her how proud I was of her for being brave and trying something new by herself. How proud I am that she is such a bright and wonderful girl. When we were leaving she told me she loved me, and I jokingly said “I love you more,” and she pulled out an oldie but goodie. Something she used to tell us when she was littler. She said “I love you past heaven.” And as we walked to the car I struggled to keep breathing as my heart fully melted away for this little girl.
Today she turns eight (cue panic attack) and she couldn’t be more excited. We often joke and tell her she cannot under any circumstances get one bit older or bigger. That we’d like to keep her at home forever. And she always joyfully agrees that she will in fact stay with us forever. And then she reminds us that we do have Sullivan the dog.
TODAY: What if I do my best to balance our sometimes challenging times with the lovely times we’re able to share? What if I do everything I can to encourage this little girl to do the things that make her happy? And if I remodeled my basement to be a swank apartment, and locked her in there forever, would it really be considered imprisonment?