We named her Quinn because we wanted her to be Quinn. Intelligence, the name means. Isn’t that lovely? “Quinlan” was just what we gave her so she’d have something more formal to put on her diplomas (like how I put that in plural? Yeah, I did). She wasn’t supposed to actually use it. But from the time she could speak, our second-born has insisted on being called Quinlan. “What’s your name?” people ask. She breaks into a grin. “QUINLAN.” Queeeeeeen-lin, she pronounces it.
That’ll show us.
This child. Man, I can’t wait to see how her personality adapts when she’s fourteen, or twenty-four, or when she’s so old she can’t even remember how old she is. She’s so different. And dare I say it? Special. Because this girl is something else.
She still sucks her thumb, always when tired, most of the time when she’s upset, and often when she’s bored. The doctors have told us to make her stop, and we halfheartedly try, but it’s her security blanket. But it’s also messing with her speech. All of the words in the English language that start with “st”? She can’t say them, so she uses a “d” sound. We secretly love it. I know, wrong.
(Ask her what a “stick” is sometime. You’ll see what I mean.)
She needs to be touching us at all times. An arm around the thigh. A mouth touching an arm. Fingers in our hair. Without the thumb, we become her security blanket. This usually drives me bonkers–she’s so often draped over me–but I know I’ll miss it when she grows out of it.
Ask her what ice cream she would like: chocolate, or anything that’s blue.
But she won’t finish the ice cream. She’s not a sweets girl (who’s child is she?). She wants fruit, yes, but also the chips. She wants a hot dog, leave the bun. She likes miso soup because of the tofu, pasta with her grandmother’s meatballs, granola in milk. Give the child a peanut butter sandwich and some carrots and she’ll act like you gave her the world.
She got her sister to start eating baby carrots by telling her they were Cheetos.
She cries at the drop of a hat–this child, she is so LOUD (just ask our new neighbors. Sorry, neighbors!)–then forgets what she was crying about and goes back to her play. She’s secretly violent, shoving her sister when she thinks no one’s looking. She’s smart enough to know that it’s wrong, but not mature enough to know how else to communicate. Yes, we need to work on this.
She runs like Phoebe on “Friends,” full of joy and abandon and life. She skips through the house, jumps in place. The child walks as if somebody presented the day to her as a gift and told her to just have fun with it.
She doesn’t know how to play without her sister. Working on this, too.
She’s as tiny as the spindle on a staircase railing, all bones and ribs and thin, thin feet, but when she stomps up the stairs you’d swear the zoo misplaced a couple of their elephants.
She has her own bedroom now, but shares the bunk bed with Saoirse anyway, sleeping on the full mattress that’s three sizes too big for her, curled up on the edge because that’s all the space she needs.
I asked her what she wanted as a gift for her birthday and she looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. She shrugged her shoulders, put her palms up to the sky, and walked away. The child asks for nothing. Ever.
She likes being told what to do. Simple commands that clear the confusion. Cut and dry. Black and white. All of the characteristics of a lawyer or doctor, or career military, but I see her becoming a writer. Don’t ask me why. Just check back here in twenty years and we’ll see if I’m right.
She sleeps like a rock. Doesn’t move. Doesn’t budge. Just…still. Which is nice because all too often I wake up to find she’s crawled into our bed beside me. She is so different than what we expected.
She takes ten minutes to tell me at night what she plans to dream about. Worlds of baby dolphins and play and fantastic worlds set in the places she knows. All of her characters are named after us. They’re just a lot more magical.
She’s a miniature version of me. I see my nose, the dimple in the chin, the cheeks, and they’re all mine, down to the shape of her eyes. I hesitate to say she’s beautiful–I wouldn’t say that about me, but seeing a child, my child, is entirely a different story, and my Lord, is she beautiful–and also because I don’t want to focus my attention on the glorious mess of untamable light-red hair, or the freckles that have started to sprinkle themselves across the bridge of her nose, or the way her eyes are so often so bright I can’t quite believe I got so lucky to be this child’s mother. But I can’t help it. She is just precious. And I love her so much my heart swells up and I can’t keep it in. This child is just light, radiating from all over the place.
She turned four last week. Four. We took her to a children’s museum, and to Build-A-Bear, and out to dinner. We had a low-key party at a park for her and her preschool classmates, and another at home for family. David and I don’t spoil our children–we say we don’t, anyway, and try very hard not to–but birthdays are a different story. Birthdays are a celebration of the person, and this one, this Quinn, is somebody worth celebrating. She’s like a sequin sewed into the world’s bedazzled jacket. It wouldn’t look quite as fantastic without her in it, shining.
She’s four. And anyone who’s met her in the last couple of years only knows her as Quinlan. This name, the one we didn’t intend to use, means perfection.
And yes, I think it suits her just fine.
Quinlan walked into my office the day after Easter, pursing her lips like she does…
Cian has a bit of a speech impediment–if you’ve just met…