“Hey, Saoirse, could you please go to the bathroom and wash your hands?” I’m changing Quinn’s diaper as I say this, getting the girls ready before I set about doing the peeling and chopping of wee bits, gathering of yogurt (I think there’s a small farm somewhere in Vermont specially set up just for our family’s consumption of dairy. I should probably start sending regular tips in the mail) and other assorted yes-it’s-healthy-but-man-it-takes-forever-to-prepare items we call lunch around here. Saoirse’s lounging in the glider, feet propped up on my leg, talking to me about Blanket’s latest adventures. This, as one would expect, is way more fun than going to the bathroom. “Noooo,” she says, with a slight, defiant whine to her voice. “I don’t waaaannnt to.”
“Saoirse,” I sigh. “We’re eating now. I need you to get ready.” Off she trudges to the bathroom, eyeballing Quinn and me the whole way to ensure we’re not doing something gloriously fun while she takes care of business, then emerges again entirely too quickly. I inspect her hands, sniffing to find they smell faintly of soap and are still damp. Since everything appears to have gone right in there, I shrug and we make our way to the kitchen.
A little later, over another decadent meal of peanut butter sandwiches, pears and cheese (oh, don’t be jealous. It’s yours to have 4 or 5 days out of the week if you’d like to pop by. Unless you happen upon hummus-and-carrots day…), Quinn was trying to feed me her piece of toast, as 10-months-old like to do (trying to share her treasures, you think, or attempting to pass off yet another crappy lunch? I haven’t figured that out yet). I laughed and told Saoirse that she used to do the exact same thing to me when she was Quinn’s age. At this, Saoirse squinted at Quinn, appeared to think for a moment, then asked, “Mom? Can I be a baby again?” No, I told her. You’re growing up, I said. “Oh,” she replied. “Why?” And I told her that growing up was a good thing. Now she gets to run around, and eat ice cream, and slide down the slides at the playground–all the fun stuff Quinn can’t do yet. I didn’t tell her that after that stage comes schoolwork, and curfews, and forced Family Nights because she’s spending too much time out with her shady boyfriend. We’ll get to that in a decade or so.
So, after lunch, as I’m changing Quinn’s diaper again (have you been around babies lately? They pee. A lot), I ask Saoirse to go to the bathroom before nap time. As she starts to walk away, I call her back. “Hey,” I say, as I crouch down to her level. “I just want to tell you that I’m really proud of you for going to the bathroom by yourself, and wiping, and washing your hands like a grown-up. That’s a big deal. I’m proud of you.” She tilts her head to look at me, gives me a little smile, then heads off to the bathroom.
When I walk into that same bathroom after she’s safely in bed, there’s a good chance I’ll find the hand towel in the toilet, or the contents of the soap dispenser emptied onto the counter top. Today we had to change her pants because the front of them somehow got soaked with (what I hope is) water. Growing up. I think about how quickly she went from wearing diapers to emptying entire rolls of toilet paper into the pot in one sitting. But this is how it’s supposed to happen. Saoirse being able to handle herself means I’m doing my job. Yes, I think, as I wipe water off the mirror. I want you to be a baby again. She’s growing up. And as I wash my hands with what’s left of the soap, I know that’s a good thing. I think I just want a little more time before that happens.
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