With my due date now less than two months away, I am becoming increasingly aware of how time is ticking by. This pregnancy still seems to be crawling (and I’m okay with that), but I know I will look back and say how quickly it all went. And I will lament that I never cherished it enough, and that I can no longer remember how Cupcake asked “Do you want a hug, Mommy?” when I was crying last night during an overwhelmed-mom moment, or how Skittle wanders through the house every day calling “Waaaah waaaah waaah” as she searches for her water bottle just as my beloved childhood cat would prowl around crying for me to hold her.
These days alone with my girls, just me and them while Daddy is at work and we are free to snuggle and fantasize and play to our hearts’ content, are numbered. Poppy is coming. Every day his arrival is one day closer and, once he is here, I know that everything will be different. The days will become a blur for a while. I will forget to memorize the way Cupcake’s hair curls at the ends. I will forget how Skittle stands in front of our coat closet and “sings” her jibberish and, when we clap at her performance, she takes a little bow. I’m going to forget who they are and I’m not going to have the time to savor everything they are becoming. I’m not always going to have the time to hold them, smell them, feel them against me. It’s sad, but it’s true. That’s just what happen when a new baby comes into the home. Life shifts and moves in mysterious ways.
And so with that said, I want to write two posts some time within the next few weeks, one dedicated to each of my girls, in an effort to memorialize who they are right now. Of course, I know it’s impossible. Capturing the essence of everything that someone is on paper really only reduces them to a 2D version of themselves. But it’s something. It’s better than not even trying. Years from now, it will remind me of the details that will be hardly a whisper of a memory anymore.
These posts are going to be long, but I’m doing this for myself. Because I am desperate to hold on. And I’m doing this for them, so that they know I did my best, and I loved them then as much as I will in every day after this one.
This one is for Cupcake.
My firstborn. She’ll be five in November, which is incredible and unimaginable, and also seems like a long time coming.
Let’s start with the hard stuff, the stuff no mother likes to admit to. Because the truth is, it has not often been easy to be Cupcake’s mama. I hate labels and yet if there is one for her, it would be “strong-willed.” She is a strong-willed, challenging child who tests me at every corner. Please don’t tell me that is the nature of a toddler. All you have to do is watch her with her peers (not in just one moment, but in a collection of similar moments) and know that she is entirely different. She has been a challenge since shortly after her first birthday, when the tantrums started way earlier than I ever imagined they would. She was the child at a farm playdate when she was just 18 months old who was crying and screaming because I wouldn’t let her touch the rabbit pellets (poop) or because she couldn’t put her fingers into the chicken pens, while all the other children paraded around, following behind their mothers like good little chicks, just happy to see and touch the animals that they could. While it has gotten better with age and improved verbal skills, it is like this to some degree, in some way, at every single playdate. I’m not exaggerating.
As part of this strong will, she is terribly defiant. When I ask her to stop doing something, she will ignore me. When I ask her to do something, she won’t. When I tell her not to do something, she will try to do it as fast as she can, before I can even complete my sentence, so that she can say I never told her not to do it. And the more I want something from her (like saying “sorry” when she accidentally hurts someone or shaking someone’s hand at church), the more she resists. I am no master of indifference, but I’m learning to be, because it’s often the only way to get through to her. This, I will concede, is probably partly because of her age, but it’s to a heightened degree. It like this with nearly everything. Just yesterday, right before “quiet time” (no more naptimes for her), I started picking up the scarves and hats she and her sister had been playing with and she was upset because she wanted to play with some of them still. So she went to their toy grocery cart and upended it, sending “groceries” everywhere and making an even bigger mess for us to clean up. It’s moments like this that often make me feel like a failure as a mom, like, “Why can’t I just get her to listen?! And cooperate?! And BEHAVE?!” And it’s made especially difficult because she and I clash fiercely in this way. While I am the person who is uber-agreeable, willing to make sacrifices and go out of my way to please others (also, not always a desirable trait, I know), she is just the opposite. So it’s hard for me to understand and embrace this side of her.
And yet, I don’t want to let myself start wishing for an easier child. Her will is part of her. Whom I love far beyond space and time. And everyone assures me that a “strong-willed” child can be difficult, but they are going to achieve great things. They know exactly what they want after all. (And I can attest to that…”NO! Do NOT tickle me!” and “I don’t want the blue bubbles. Only pink!” and “DON’T talk to be like that, Mom.” and “I will NOT wear that!” and “I need five more minutes!” and…and…and…) So she’s going places. But I already knew that. I’m just a little terrified for the ride.
Cupcake is also toy-obsessed. Which I find curious since Honey and I are not the types of parents who buy their kids a toy every time they go to Target. She gets toys for her birthday, Christmas, and Easter, and occasionally if we find a good deal at Goodwill or go on vacation, and that’s it. Seriously. And yet…she is the child (the only one of 15 or 20, mind you) who is crying at a friend’s birthday party because she wants this toy and that one and every other one that the birthday girl unwraps. And I am the parent wiping her tears, whispering in her ear that she can add it to her wish list, and feeling oh-so-embarrassed. When we brought home a toy for each of our girls from Goodwill a few months ago, she sobbed because she wanted her sister’s toy just as much as she wanted her own and, in what I know was very real pain to her, she said, “I wish [Skittle] had never been born. She should have stayed in your tummy forever.” And just the other day, out of the blue, she started crying because she wants the same giant doll house as her best friend has…which led to a discussion about how we don’t have room for that because Skittle will soon be moving into her room so that Poppy can have Skittle’s room and Cupcake’s subsequent declaration that she doesn’t want a baby brother (whom she very much wanted five seconds before and after) anymore. Le sigh. It still baffles me, but I’m rather used to it by now. This is just how we roll ’round here. And some day, I trust, she will learn that there is more to life than dollhouses and puppy purses and every other toy on the planet.
And for all struggles that I have with Cupcake, there is so much to love about her. She is just a ball of emotion, always functioning with her heart and not her head. This can be a challenging aspect to deal with as her mother (or anyone who comes into contact with her), too, but it’s also beautiful. Essentially, she is a heart with arms and legs. Anger, excitement, fear, frustration, disgust, irritation, curiosity, disappointment, and great, forgiving love…it all shows. And comes flying at whoever is in the way. She doesn’t hold any of it back. My mom often says, “You always know where you stand with [Cupcake],” and it’s true. She hides nothing and has no shame in expressing exactly how she’s feeling to whoever is there (be it stranger or best friend). She is quick to anger and quick to laugh. And just like her mama, she falls in love easily. Two days ago, I had maternity photos taken by a photographer we’d never met before that day. At the end of the night, Cupcake asked for a hug and kiss from our photographer and said, “I love you, Brigette.” And that’s just how she is with nearly everyone. She becomes attached quickly, which I think is a beautiful way to live life, but it’s frightening as her mother. I already can see all the broken hearts that lay ahead for her.
She is clever too. And smart. I was a dedicated, straight-A student in school, but I think her braininess is all her dad’s. He has a brain like no one else’s. He craves knowledge and education. And he’s a sponge, so he remembers it all too. Cupcake is the same way. She loves to listen to her daddy’s explanations on what Pluto is made of or what a sewage plant is. She asks lots of questions and listens with rapt attention and, moments later, will regurgitate to you what she just learned. When we met with a dear blogging friend last year, the very first words out of her mouth were to explain how babies come of vaginas. And for a while, she was often heard saying, “I have a hypothesis!” We’ve outgrown that phase (mostly), but now she is happy to tell anyone who will listen what the umbilical cord does. She’s a mini brainiac, full of ideas and facts and theories and solutions, and it blows my mind every day.
And her confidence! Oh my, I would kill for the confidence she has. I once had someone (a stranger whom Cupcake had just introduced herself to at her cousin’s party), tell me, “Her confidence! That girl owns the room when she walks into it! Don’t ever let anyone take that away from her.” This stranger was right. My Cupcake can walk into a room full of strangers without even a heartbeat of nerves. She is bold and proud. And if ever there was a social butterfly, it is her. And it is possibly the quality I admire most in her. What has me quaking in my boots and looking for the shadows to disappear in, is her playground. She lives for social situations. When we go to the park or mall play area, it is not so that can play on the toys, but so that she can play with someone new. She doesn’t hesitate to ask someone she’s just met, “Will you be my friend?” and then proceed to run off to the play with them. She’s been this way always. While other toddlers go through separation anxiety, she would toddle away from me without looking back. It used to be so that she could go investigate all the fun toys and, while that is still true now, she is also always, always seeking someone to play with. And she’s also that child who will talk with any stranger anywhere — from the cashier at Target to the dad she doesn’t know at the park (she especially adores men, which is terrifying for this mama who is also a sexual abuse survivor and suspicious of every man) to the teenager who has no interest in her. Some months ago, I remember her turning to the man behind us in line at Starbucks and saying, “Hi, my name is [insert full name here — first middle and last]. It’s nice to meet you.” There’s just no social anxiety for this girl. And while I live in fear of her befriending the wrong person (kidnapper, child molester, etc.), I also live in fear of her social fearlessness disappearing with age and the insecurities of adolescence. But my hope is that this a permanent part of who she is. And while it may be tamed as she searches for who she is in those teenage years, I pray that it will never be gone and will return with full force as she once again finds herself later in life.
And then there are other things about Cupcake that can’t be labeled or categorized, but simply must be named, listed, described because they make her her:
- She is constantly doing somersaults and hand stands on the sofa as she watches her two PBS shows before quiet time (the only screen time we allow each day).
- While she enjoys playing on her own (especially when playing with the toys that she cherishes most and doesn’t want to share), she is also really amazing about playing with her sister, considering how little and non-verbal Skittle still is at this age. Today, they spent all morning playing “grocery store” and then having races up and down the hallway.
- For as much confidence as she has around others, it is peculiar to me that sometimes she lacks so much confidence in her abilities. It is typical that if she doesn’t believe she can do something, she doesn’t even want to try. The amount of tears and encouragement and praise and bargaining that we had to go through just to get her to attempt to write her name when she first began preschool last year would stun you. (For the record, she is now a pro at it.) And already, as we talk more and more about her learning to read when she starts “big kid school” (still a year away), the more she insists that she doesn’t know how to read and can’t learn it.
- She chews her toenails. Gross.
- She was the one kid in her preschool graduation photo with her finger up her nose. Again, gross. And embarrassing. And sort of adorable.
- She bounces back fast. She has always been the kid who runs into walls and falls down and gets skinned up and never says a “boo.” She got an awful black eye and an ugly goose egg last year and, while she did cry then, it lasted less than five minutes and then was never mentioned again.
- Her face is prone to blemishes. I guess that’s what they are. They’re weird to me. They never come to a head or go away without help. Up until about six months ago (when I finally got tired of it and insisted on picking it), she had a small pimple on her chin for two or three years. (I’m really not kidding here.) As soon as that pimple was gone, two blackheads popped up in identical places on either side of her nose. I picked at one recently, but the other one remains. And I suspect it will until I banish it too.
- She has a lot of fears, but they’re not of the dark, or monsters, or boogie men. She fears things like the sound of trains, or our belongings being washed away at the beach, or her sister being hit by a car in an empty parking lot. There are times when she won’t go alone into her bedroom because you can hear the horn of a very-far-away train in there. That’s when she asks her sister to come play in her room with her. I love how Skittle is a substitute for Mommy. :)
- She loves to sing. At a recent family reunion, she gave each person their own private serenade, all to the same song — “Let it Go.” (And no, we’re not Frozen-obsessed here. She’s seen it just once, but prefers Ariel to Anna or Elsa. She had just been given a Frozen microphone, though, and “Let It Go” was the only song it sings, so of course it was the only song she would sing too, even though she has quite a repertoire.)
- Her interests right now are arts and crafts, books, playing outside, princesses, animals, babies (the real thing, not dolls), and anything sparkly. She’s fairly girly, but I love that she also will play with dinosaurs, cars, and plenty of other stereotypical “boy toys.”
- She hates her feet being dirty and will freak the eff out if sand or dirt gets in her sandals.
- She also freaks out if there’s a bug anywhere nearby. Frequently, I get called into her bedroom at quiet time because there’s a “bug” on the floor. It’s usually lint.
- When she gets hungry (and I mean, very very very hungry), complete meltdowns ensue. Not terribly unusual (I get angry when hungry — er, hangry — too), but the tough part is recognizing when we’re approaching that point of no return. Cupcake doesn’t often recognize her hunger or ask for food when she needs it. So we have to be constantly vigilant…or pay the consequences when it’s too late.
- She’s fascinated by her poop. “Let’s see what shape it is!” she says to me when she gets off the potty. And she told me once, “I’m gonna tell Daddy and Uncle George I went poop.” And when I informed her that’s usually a private thing that we don’t often talk about, she said so proudly, “Oh, I tell my friends about it all the time!” :)
- She’s highly anxious (something even her preschool teachers have commented on) and can get herself into a panic over almost anything. Two days ago, it was because our photographer’s shoes and socks were near the water and the tide was coming in. Sometimes, it’s because Skittle is making a mess with her water bottle. Or because she’s afraid another kid will play with the toy she wants at our playdate. Or because a book has a ripped or crumpled page. It’s an endless list.
- She has constipation problems. It’s something that began just after her first birthday and we struggle with it even now. At this point, she’s been taking Miralax almost every day for over two years. (This was recommended by her doctor and appears to be the standard treatment for the issue…I’m not sure it’s the right answer for us, but it’s also the only thing that’s come remotely close to working.)
- My child who once hated the camera now loves it. She often asks me, “Can you take a picture of me?” Sometimes she smiles sweetly and sometimes she is a ham. And she loves to take her own photos too! Just like her mama.
- She loves the water…the ocean, the lake, the pool, the bathtub. All of it. I think she must have been a fish in another life.
- She is so excited for her baby brother to come. She wanted it to be a boy and has nicknamed him “Charlie” and talks to him frequently. She loves to feel him move. Early in this pregnancy, she said so sweetly to me, “I love the baby. I hope he loves me too, Mommy.’ The sweet innocence in that heartfelt desire nearly made me weep.
And so that is Cupcake in a “nutshell.” Which really is much bigger than the shell of a nut, isn’t it, since this post has gone on and on? But s he truly is a fine mix of sugar and spice, though perhaps a little more spice than I prefer in my cupcakes. But that’s what makes her unique, and mine. It’s easy to wish, on our worst days, that she was easier, more agreeable, a better listener, not so emotional, more willing to share, and so forth. But then she wouldn’t be my Cupcake. And so I’ll take her exactly how she is, impossibly sweet, but bold too, and with lots of cinnamon and nutmeg and molasses thrown in. She’s amazing. She’s incredible. She’s delicious.
And I’m the lucky one who gets to enjoy her every day.