Sunday, February 27, 2005

54 Months: a Rambling Tribute

Tomorrow is Mermaid Girl's half-birthday. She'll be four and a half.

She appears to be even more excited about this than she was about turning four. If that's possible. Four and a half. It's its own word, its own state. Fournahalf! Anticipation of the traditional Half-Birthday Cupcake is high, too.

She invited three school friends to her party. She was so proud to tell us, and then we had to break it to her that there's no party for a half-birthday. Just the cupcake. Tell them you're sorry, you made a mistake, we said. But they can come to your fifth birthday party in the summer.

She took it pretty well. Very mature, our girl, except when she's not. More mature every day. Tonight I watched her at the computer, playing the Wiggles game, complaining that the mouse wasn't working right and it was annoying, and felt again--this has happened so many times in the last few months--that a time in her life and ours is ending: the little-kid time that started four and a half years ago. When I look at her now, I see the school-age kids I teach, not the toddler she was. Her face is different, her hair, her vocabulary, her attitudes. She's a girl, her own girl, starting to move away from us already.

When her best friend Jemma comes over the two of them hole up in her room for hours, talking, making up games, trading pieces of their matching tiny plastic Disney Princess sets that they got on sale together. None of us grownups knows whose tiny plastic dress is whose; the girls keep track of it.

She listens to whole novels. She follows adult conversation. She has political opinions. She wants to talk about big things: war, God, death. (Though she doesn't talk about death as much as she used to; she's learning, the way kids do, to censor herself, to protect the adults around her, those fragile, jumpy creatures.)

She unbuckles her own seat belt, opens the car door and slams it closed herself. She helps carry groceries into the house. Last weekend she made me breakfast: a bowl of cereal, four different kinds, with my favorite kind on top.

I never got to write about our time in Florida back in December, how great she was with her baby cousin, playing with her and entertaining her, singing her to sleep in the car, really helping. Whenever she sees a pregnant woman she asks, "Are you going to have a baby?" And when the woman says yes, MG lights up and confides, "I love babies!" When I see her with a baby, the next-door baby or one of her friends' little siblings, I remember how she loved 4-year-old girls as a baby herself, how she'd perk up and her eyes would follow them with the same "here comes the circus!" look I see in theirs now. Those girls seemed so big then, practically grownups.

She still likes to wear dresses, but sometimes now she'll choose jeans of her own accord. Her jeans are nothing like our workaday ones: they're fringed and embroidered and glam. I don't know where they came from; presents, I guess, or hand-me-downs, or maybe she materialized them with her stylish mojo. A couple weeks ago she went to Hebrew school in her fringed beaded jeans and a shiny glittery velour shirt that she's had for a year or two. The Hebrew school director laughed when he saw her, and said, "A little belly shirt! That's just the cutest! But, you know, our dress code..." I was mortified: yup, the shirt did indeed roll up to show her little tummy. Right away I started trying to roll it down and tuck it in. MG sighed: "That shirt always shows my belly button, Mommy." But it didn't last year!

Today I was driving her home from Hebrew school (in a demure purple dress, this time) and we were talking about some people in the Bible. I got to Isaac and Rebecca and how people's parents used to decide who they would marry, not like now. "It would be like if Mama and I went to you and said, 'We've been talking with Robin's [8-year-old boy who she adores] parents and we decided that you two are going to be married.' What would you think of that?" (Sort of fishing, because secretly I halfway wish we could betrothe them in real life.)
"Not good," she pronounced.
"Why? You don't like Robin?"
"No, I don't like not getting to choose."

She'll still curl up in RW's or my lap and say, "I'll always be your baby, right? Even when I'm grown up?" Or she'll climb between us like she did this morning, crowing, "It's a baby sandwich!" She still likes to pat RW's breasts and talk about how she used to nurse.

She can't really remember nursing any more, though. She doesn't remember being home with RW last year, or the seder last Passover. Last year, she could remember things from when she was two, or even younger. I can almost see her brain rewiring, new connections fusing, old ones disappearing, as she turns herself into the next version of herself: Mermaid Girl 2.0.

In another four and a half years she'll be nine. Some nine-year-olds I know have their periods. Nine years after that, she'll be eighteen. So as of tomorrow, she's one-quarter of the way to adulthood.

When I think about it that way, a cupcake seems like the least we can do to mark the occasion.


Blogger Anna said...

This was so sad, so touching. I still can't reconcile myself to the growing-up part of my son's growing up. It hurts to read about MG moving away so early at four and a half. Four and a half! I don't know what kids are like at what ages, so it's all new to me, and to hear Four and a Half with such portent seems so soon...only a little more than three short years away. It's not long enough.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

oh Els...THAT post made me cry. i'm already starting to see some of those "growing up" traits in Harris...and while i like some of them...some downright scare me.

6:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It made me cry too. Mark will be 5 in one month. It *is* a new stage.

e wein

7:50 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

Oh! It's all so big! So overwhelming! I keep wondering if time speeds up when you have kids, or if it is simply a phenomenon of growing older. We need a grant to study this.

9:05 AM  
Blogger PPB said...

She's so precious, and I love that she's the little feminist that doesn't want you to choose her spouse--even a dearly beloved boy!

10:03 AM  
Blogger Third Street said...

Lovely post.

Don't fret about the end of babyness - the next stage is pretty wonderful and so is the next and the next.

Life with my teen is endlessly fascinating. I wouldn't trade it for the world - attitude and all.

Love it all.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luckily I don't have to worry about all this, because my baby is never going to grow up.


5:28 PM  

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