My Uncle Edgar used to tell my mom that her first mistake was letting us kids think for themselves.
Being a confirmed bachelor, himself, he was inclined to deliver these kind of helpful observations. And when you think of it, what, exactly, is the alternative?
My poor mom, putting up with him all those years she was trying to raise us, and well, manage. But I’m grateful he was in my life. Everyone needs an uncle like that.
J is now 5, and clearly, somewhere we managed to make the “mistake” of letting her think for herself. She has a unique kind of confidence, a certainty that she is right, that extends to her speech. She is perfectly capable of acknowledging that other people say “snowflakes” but she feels it is far better to refer to them, and particularly images of them, as “snow flags.” She likes saying “colander” so much that she uses that word to refer to calendars and dog collars, as well as the thing in the kitchen with holes in it. She still says “aminal” or even “aminimal,” instead of “animal”, and And, yes, she can say the other words. She just prefers not to. Likewise, she says “those things that babies drink from,” instead of breasts, or boobs or anything else, because she doesn’t like those words. However, her saying “Eau de voir” for good-bye in French drives me nuts.
Some days there are very few things I can tell her about. I’m embarrassed to think how many times I have caved in to her certainty that she knows better than I do. In many cases, that is simply because I can’t argue with her logic.
In part this is because J is also very sensitive. She gets anxious about movies and upcoming events, even happy ones. She can be cut to the quick by a poorly considered word: I mentioned that everyone is boring sometimes, in response to her complaint that some friend was, but I went too far and suggested that even she was, sometimes. Hurt feelings ensued that took hours to patch over.
She cares deeply about other people’s feelings, and will still run to get her little sister’s special blankie when sister is distressed (but that may be self-preservation to prevent ear damage – A has never been known to suffer quietly). J still bosses A around, but it is getting closer to a relationship of equals, unless A specifically challenges J’s knowledge. “You don’t know. You aren’t in kindergarten” J yells as the final riposte in numerous arguments each week around the treehouse.
So, yeah, maybe not so secure, but determined as all hell. I get that. Sometimes, I just decide that arguing a point isn’t worth dashing her sense of certainty. I remember when admitting I was wrong, or just didn’t know, was a strike to my entire sense of self.
J simply glows under attention. She revels in time alone with me, her dad or our beloved friend. And yet, when they are apart, J is the first one to think of making something or bringing something back for sister.
J now contributes real art to our world, drawing things and making crafts without any grown up intervention. She can draw all her numbers, and all the letters in any of our names. She’s interested in reading, and can spell out a few words. She still astounds with her memory of events or stories, and loves to listen to chapter books– we’re reading Alice in Wonderland now.
She looks fabulous these days, as strong as ever, but with her slender height, delight in hairstyles and ability to put together outfits – a talent that clearly has not come from her father or me – she looks fascinatingly different, older, younger, sportier or more elegant, every day. Mostly, though, she simply looks enchanting: a tough, mercurial, elfin child I was somehow lucky enough to have for my own.