September 10, 2013 § 3 Comments
My youngest turns three today. Lately, everywhere I turn, I am reminded of how fast she is growing. “Mommy, Mommy, my toes are sticking out of my sandals!” she cried jubilantly one morning a few weeks ago; “I growed into a big girl!” It’s no wonder then that she immediately fell in love with Alison Murray’s precious new picture book, Little Mouse (Ages 18 mos-4 yrs), where a little girl proclaims that she is no longer her Mommy’s “little mouse”; on the contrary, she is tall (like a giraffe), strong (like a bull), hungry (like a horse), and brave (in the face of a lion). On top of that, she can make her voice and her body do amazing things, from trumpeting (like an elephant) to pumping high on the big girl swing (like a bird).
Indeed, seemingly as if it happened overnight, my Emily too has become tall (skipping a clothing size to move directly from 2T to 4T). She is strong (fast enough now to keep up with Big Brother on the scooter). She is hungry (gobbling up her breakfast and boasting, “I beat you, Mommy!” “It’s not a race,” I try to convince her each morning). She is brave (walking confidently up the steps into her new school with a wave and a smile over her shoulder). She has discovered her own unique style of reading books aloud to herself (complete with animated gestures and musical accompaniment); and she has ascended new heights on the playground.
Naturally, my heart swells at this blossoming confidence and independence; but it also aches. When Emily was one, I felt differently. I read her Ruth Bornstein’s 1976 classic Little Gorilla nearly every day; it is forever imprinted on my heart (and it has since become my go-to gift for one year old birthday parties). Along with Emily, I would cheer as “Little Gorilla began to grow and Grow and Grow and GROW [until] one day, Little Gorilla was BIG!” We would sing “Happy Birthday” to Big Gorilla on the page when his family presents him with a cake and candles. This is all to say that when my kids were babies and toddlers, I couldn’t wait for them to get a little bigger: to start getting the food into their mouths instead of on their clothes, to spend less than 15 minutes putting on their shoes, to take off down the sidewalk without tripping and falling and bleeding and wailing seemingly every single day. But now my littlest one is at school five mornings a week, and my days are missing their very best part. My hand misses her hand. My ears miss her chatter as she plays with her dolls in the next room. My eyes miss watching her throw back her head and laugh in the most unexpected moments. When I picked her up yesterday, her second week of school, I hugged her tight and said, “Let’s go home and snuggle and read!” “NO!” she barked. “I WANT TO GO TO THE PARK! I WANT TO BE WITH MY FRIENDS! AND I NOT HOLDING YOUR HAND IN THE STREET NO MORE!” And then commenced the Tantrum of all Tantrums.
In that moment (and in many others since), I reminded myself of the girl in Little Mouse, who, fresh and clean after bath time and dressed in her mouse-covered jammies, realizes that “just now, right at this very moment, I think I’m happy to be…quiet and cozy…cuddly and dozy…Mommy’s little mouse.” I know that at least for a few more years, when we finish our stories on the rocking chair at bedtime, Emily will turn and tuck into my shoulder the same way she has since she was a baby. She’ll hum “You Are My Sunshine” as I sing it. She’ll give me her “kiss kiss fish” and two more hugs, then she’ll smile as I walk out of the room, leaving her curled up in a ball, my little mouse once again. In the meantime, I must find my new normal, and it’s a good thing there are always books around to help me.
Other Favorites About Wanting to be Big & Small at the Same Time:
Little Gorilla, by Ruth Bornstein (Ages 1-3)
Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball, by Vicki Churchill & Charles Fuge (Ages 1-3)
Baby Bear’s Big Dreams, by Jane Yolen & Melissa Sweet (Ages 2-4)
Tummy Girl, by Roseanne Thong & Sam Williams (Ages 2-4)
Leo the Late Bloomer,by Robert Kraus (Ages 2-4)