like a mini-nanny

To those who read this blog and have come to the conclusion I hate my children (I don’t) or am far too overwhelmed with the simple duties of caring for them (I am) or think ONE child should be enough for everyone (that’s up to you) – I offer the following anecdote:

As of this morning I have decided my 14 month old son can be left on his own to stand up on the couch and look out the window (one of his favorite pastimes) for limited amounts of time. So I’m making my pot of coffee and (somewhat nervously) peeking at him to make sure he’s doing OK as my daughter eats her breakfast watching him as well. Just after I get the coffee going I look in and see he is negotiating getting down from the couch – the tricky part for a new toddler – sturdily grasping the armrests and swinging one leg to the floor while the other is looking a little high-centered. My heart flutters in my chest – although it is occurring to me lately that my son is going to be that kid who will teach me to persevere through a multitude of falls, stitches, broken bones – and I step over the baby gate and hurry over asking, “Do you need help?” My daughter replies in a sharpish voice, “No, he’s got it!” and indeed, he has. He gets down, grins and bobs his head to our accolades, then heads over to the table where Sophie is eating. “I’m going to give him a bite” she says, carefully selecting a cool spoonful of her Cream of The West cereal and offering it to him.

My daughter is learning how to care for another and the process is fascinating to watch. It isn’t just that it often makes my life easier to have a sibling set who plays with one another and to some extent cares for one another. It’s seeing the pride my little girl feels when she demonstrates her competence in these abilities. I see it when she’s grasping her brother’s hand and guiding him through the park, or when she holds a new baby in her arms with her ramrod-straight posture and careful attention to the child, or when she makes up games and successfully engages Nels in them. She is proud she can do something so adult. Another surprise is she is very aware of Nels’ limitations, even as they change almost daily. Last week they were in the bath together when I heard her fearful voice calling me in from the next room. I hurried in to see her with a firm, wet grip on her brother’s shoulders, worried that he might fall in, explaining to me he’d slipped. She – at three – knows his physical limits and is aware of dangers he might get into. She is learning to be other-aware. These are skills she has developed that many others her age – and others a hell of a lot older – don’t have.

Five minutes ago she told me she wanted to grow up and have five boy babies and take care of them. I told her that was a lot of work and she said, “That’s my plan”.

Good luck, little girl.

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