My friend Molly mentioned to me in a text today something about keeping a baby book, whereupon I blushed, swallowed hard, and was really, really glad she couldn’t see my expression. Baby book? Do a lot of you guys keep baby books for your children? No, wait. Don’t tell me if you do. You know the guilt a lot of women get when they spend too much time on Pinterest (“Oh no, I don’t keep color-coordinated drawer dividers for my daughter’s hand-stamped polka-dotted monogrammed socks! I have FAILED as a HUMAN!”)? That’s how I feel when people mention baby books. Why do you think I started a blog? It’s all of the memories with none of the guilt.
Our Saoirse turned five this weekend. I look at Cian, propped up beside me now, cooing away each time we make eye contact (which is a lot. He’s cuter than most puppies), and remember very clearly when she was that small, smiling and cooing, breaking out into a four-limbed stationary dance whenever we talked to her. She was the center of our world, and there was something about her that seemed so uniquely special. Many of you know that she was just two months old when my father passed away from pancreatic cancer, and I think that has so much to do with that feeling we had. Here was new life amidst death, something so pure and good and perfect juxtaposed with awful suffering. My father was dying, my daughter was born. It was a strange time, and she, this young person at the beginning of her life, was there for it all.
But now she’s five, and other than being twice as tall as other five-year-olds (not exaggerating. I didn’t realize it until we toured her kindergarten class and saw her with the other children. It was like the beanstalk hanging around with a bunch of Jacks), by all appearances she’s a typical five-year-old. She loves to play. She hates to share. She’s mostly even-tempered, but when those stages of temper tantrums hit, it’s like our house becomes Pearl Harbor for a week. But I don’t want to remember that. I want to remember this:
- She refuses to let her hair be styled. No clips, no ponytails, nuthin’. Drives me nuts, and I’m convinced her preschool teachers think we pull her out of bed and just stick her in the car. I swear, we brush her hair, Mrs. S. It’s just…she’s five.
- She chooses her own clothes. I approve the “going-out” clothes, but of course she has free reign over her play clothes. And every single time, she chooses an outfit that matches, but doesn’t. The child has incredible skills in selecting tops with the same colors as the bottoms, and vice versa–every. single. time, the colors all coordinate–but the outfits are always a glorious mess of clashing patterns and Jackson Pollock craziness. I’ve already filled out her application for design school.
- We were at a party store Saturday picking up supplies for her family birthday party, and she selected the following: Jake and the Neverland Pirates tablecloths and decorations. Pink plates and utensils. Hello Kitty wrapping paper. A gigantic Mylar balloon shaped like a green race car. This is our child. Product manufacturers who insist on dividing their wares by gender, take a look: My kid wears princess dresses and races matchbox cars. And the cars aren’t pastel-colored.
- Speaking of toys, this child has more of them than we know what to do with it (not purchased by us, but by very well-meaning grandmothers and aunts and cousins and…), and we’re terrified of her growing spoiled. But last week, I told her that her family was asking what she’d like for her birthday, and if there were any specific toys she wanted. Her response? There was no list, no enthusiastic I want, I want, I want. Just: “I don’t know. What anyone wants to give me.” Okay, then.
- BUT. Two years ago we started what is apparently now a tradition of filling her bedroom floor with balloons as she sleeps the night before her birthday. And actually, we might’ve forgotten it this year if she hadn’t reminded me: “Mom, when are you going to give me my balloon surprise for my birthday?” Um, as soon as I just run out to the store really quickly, Saoirse, and buy them. And buy extra so we don’t forget to do the same for Quinn’s birthday…though SK will probably remind us.
- She is SO EXCITED to start kindergarten. Every time we pass her future school, she gets super excited and announces it as we pass. Is it strange that we thinks it’s amazing that she can identify buildings, and knows directions, and could tell us how to get to certain places if we forgot? It’s amazing, right? How do their little brains sort all that stuff? But her school–she knows exactly how to get there, and so excited (I may have just mentioned this?). And all I can think is, You’re going to Catholic school, kid. Check in with me again after about 12 years of uniforms. Though the uniforms are stinking adorable.
- She uses phrases like “not quite” and “actually” and “either or.” Correctly. In conversation.
- She is so, so smart it actually kind of frightens me a little, because there’s going to come a day very soon where she starts to trump my caffeine- and lack-of-sleep-addled brain and both of us will irretrievably realize that she either is or has become smarter than her parents. I just pray she’s out of the house before that happens. Or the caffeine-addled brain is going to quickly become a vodka-addled one.
- She is sensitive, and feels things so deeply, and I’m terrified for what this will mean for her adolescent years. Mean girls, I’m watching out for you. And by “watching out” I mean praying you stay on the other side of the classroom/hallway/locker room/bus from my daughter. Seriously, shoo.
- She remembers everything. Should be good fodder for her own blog one day. One I might not read.
- And finally, FINALLY. I was adamant in Saoirse’s earlier years about restricting her intake of meat and all sorts of gross animal products. I mean, the child was largely vegetarian for a long time because I certainly didn’t want to cook it inside the house (this is clearly before I re-discovered pepperoni and slid, stumbling, backward into the land of cheese steaks and bacon). You know what the child craves now? Shrimp. Chicken wings, preferably in a sweet-and-spicy sauce. Barbecue ribs. Where did I go wrong?
I love her. I love her in a way that is guttural, and fierce, and from a place so deep inside me that every hurt of hers becomes mine a hundred times over. She is a child who misbehaves and hugs, who screams and sings, who pushes and insists on giving big fat kisses on the lips before bedtime. She is fiercely independent and needs order, but she’s incredibly messy and wants her sister around her at all times. She is so human, and so real, and so full of possibility and potential and excitement for what’s going to happen tomorrow that I sometimes feel jaded and crotchety in comparison. Is she the charmed creature that rose out of the loss that so marked her early months? Well, yes, but not because of that loss, or despite of it. She’s a child. She’s her own child, and that is reason enough to be cherished.