Cee is four. Four-and-one-third, but she can’t wait to be four-and-a-half. We’ve drawn out those fractions. And she asked if we could make a cake for her half birthday. Four-and-a-half is a big deal when you’re four-and-one-third.
She’s exploding with awareness about the world, and I’m just trying to keep up. She wants to know what the sky is made of, how many pennies are in a dollar, and why it’s still light at her bedtime now. She “reads” books to BabyM and her dolls with the confidence of a librarian, and she makes art every day (usually with glitter). She sits on the workbench in the garage and watches her dad work, and she knows better than I do where to find tools. She is eager to help and independent.
Until suddenly she’s not. Tears spring from her eyes, seemingly out of nowhere. She clings to me or stomps her feet in anger, depending on the catalyst for the meltdown. She’s four (and a third!), after all. She has a new little brother, and she has to compromise sometimes. And that can be really hard.
Anyway, that’s Cee now. Days with her are full of surprises, mostly good ones.
At bedtime tonight, we read a long book and then talked about our day together. We sang our “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” the way we have ended our bedtime routine since she was a tiny infant. (I wonder when she’ll outgrow that. I’m in no hurry.) I kissed her four times (cheek, butterfly, nose, and cheek again). All a very sweet bedtime routine, until it’s over.
And then the stalling began. There were questions about today and questions about tomorrow. There were demands for more kisses and hugs. There was a hangnail on her pinkie that she swore would keep her awake. I sat back down on the side of her bed.
“Cee, do you know what I do after you go to sleep?”
“What do you write?”
(She knows that I wrote a book. I’ve been working on the page proofs and the index for the last month, tasks that aren’t exciting to me, much less a 4-year-old. But now that all that is done, I had to pause for a minute to think about her question before I answered.)
“Sometimes I write stories. Sometimes I write about science. Sometimes I write about my day so that I can remember it a long time from now.”
Her eyes lit up with the first mention of stories.
“Oh, mama! Do that! Write stories!”
For the first time, I felt like Cee could appreciate my life outside of her. I’ve been writing and teaching, and often leaving her to do it, for the last couple of years, but I don’t think she’s thought much about that work except that it takes me away from her.
That thought is also always in my mind when I work – it takes me away from my kids, or at least means a sacrifice of much-needed sleep. As a mostly stay-at-home mom, work feels like a guilty pleasure to me now. Finally, a little time alone at my computer! It does little to contribute to my family’s income, but it enriches my life.
Finally, I can see how my work might enrich my daughter’s life, too. On her face tonight was admiration and respect for me, a writer of stories. It made me want to write more, for myself and for her.
Of course, I still had to get out of her room at bedtime, and I still had to endure another round of stall tactics. That’s life with a four-and-one-third-year-old, even one starting to understand that the world doesn’t completely revolve around her.