Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

This moment is probably more shocking to people who didn't meet their child as a toddler and have had longer than ten months to get used to this idea, but...my baby is growing up. One indication is that strangers don't tell their children, "Be careful of the baby!" as much now. Usually they say, "Be careful of that little girl!" At least her recent willingness to wear a barrette has put the kibbosh on all the "cute little boy!" comments.

At the park two days ago, I was certain even before we got out of the car that the toddler on the slide was the same age as Jarrah. In fact, I was correct to within 10 days. When I remarked on this to her mom (who was polite but not chatty) she said, "Yes. But yours is so big, and so independent." I was actually thrown quite roughly into a full-blown panic by this comment, suddenly convinced that the CCAA makes a regular practice of doctoring the ages of abandoned children by as much as two or three years, and perhaps Jarrah is actually a mute five-year-old. After all, she is huge--not so much chubby anymore, but very tall and solid, much bigger in general than other kids her age, and not at all wobbly or hesitant. And yes, she is independent. She doesn't need or want my help to do much, and charges ahead in new situations whether I'm following or not. Later, when I told David about my theory, he said I needed to remember that Jarrah was a "cute blob" when we met her, with only eight teeth and unable to walk. Um yeah, I wasn't thinking about that. ;) David also said that he thought this mom was paying Jarrah a compliment. Ah. Can you see why I need to be married to this guy?

Anyway, a lot of things have gotten easier. Jarrah is very sturdy, flexible and has excellent balance, so I don't need to help her do as many things these days. That is a huge blessing for my lower back. She says about 40 words (I think), and her system of gestures and sound effects has gotten quite sophisticated, so I know what she means more often than not. She can also follow my "suggestions" (read: commands) no matter how many sentences they are. She is slightly less cooperative than she was when I met her, about getting into the car, or leaving the park, or not running away at the zoo, but I would still have to describe her as an agreeable, even reasonable child (for instance, she seems to truly respect the mighty power of cars and buses, and won't stray from the sidewalk if I make a point of reminding her. This might be less remarkable if my nickname for her wasn't "Magellan.")

Her hair has gotten long and shaggy, and we don't plan to cut it for a while, so tethering devices are necessary. Her tiny white teeth have become larger, and she has a lot of them (maybe most, except her two-year molars?) The only part of her that's still jiggly is her belly. She still loves to eat, and can pack in several pounds of fruit at any meal, but she's grown particular, and has a noted aversion to carbs (minus noodles and potatoes, which always get the thumbs up.) Bread in any form is anathema, as well as most proteins save deli turkey, but like the baby Moses she will sooner reach for a cherry than a chocolate cookie when presented with both.

She has increased her affection for books, and I might even describe her as a voracious reader, or at least a voracious bossypants about making other people read to her. She carries stacks of books around the house, and has favorites. She is an excellent mimic and dancer; even precise, small movements are noted and copied. She has suddenly developed an interest in crayons, and even drew on the wall for the first time today--a rite of passage, yes?

She likes climbing up onto anything--the bed, dining room chairs, tall ladders, play structures meant for eight-year-olds--but won't sit to eat unless we strap her in. She gets manic in the evenings and tears around yellling, flinging balls at us; she's mellower in the morning, but at all times of day she is insistent on "help" with all her playing and projects.

I've noted with delight that she is a very social child, growing instantly bored of any park if it's empty, and happily following children of any age to see what they're up to, then copying them. A couple days ago, she followed a boy of seven and his 20-ish brother, and was undeterred by them assiduously ignoring her. She did everything they did--built their sand castle, threw her body in the path of a tickle fight, rolled down hills. I wasn't sure if, or how, to intervene. She is taken with spontaneous urges to hug children she's never seen before, flinging her arms around them and frequently bringing them to the ground with surprise. Often, both the hugger and huggee love this unexpected wrestling match, and laugh and laugh. Sometimes, the huggee is frightened, and runs for the protection of mommy's legs. I'm not sure what to do about all this hugging: I figure it beats pushing, hitting or biting, but I hope she doesn't hurt anyone.

Today Jarrah and I went to the zoo, just the two of us, and it was a lovely afternoon. Several times I was struck by the difference, just in a zoo day, in nine months. She walked next to me as I pushed the stroller, and sometimes listened when I said "Stay with mommy and hold my hand." When we ate lunch, we sat across from each other at a picnic bench, and she was reasonably good about staying in one place. She recognizes some of the animals, and calls them by name, occasionally intelligible. Most of all, she truly understands that the zoo is the place where you go to look at "ann-muls," and I think it's this wondrously evident sense of perspective she has that affects me so profoundly. She has had experiences, and has integrated them into her memory, her knowledge, her preferences. Having never spent time with children before, I have never watched these developments, and they amaze me.

On the way back to the car, she spotted the old-fashioned carousel at the edge of the park. She's been on carousels a few times recently, and adores them, and I have seen with a pang that she doesn't even need me to stand by her horse anymore, let alone support her from falling. She sits up with beautiful, proud posture, and holds the pole in front of her lightly with both hands. She doesn't need to hold the pole, but her mommy asked her to. She understands that we wait in line to get on, and that when the music stops, the ride is "All duh!" She laughs with delight when the horse rises the very first time, but after that, she is focused. She concentrates on waving to the people outside. At the same time, she is studying the carousel, and she shows me the different animals, the other people, and eventually, the inner mechanism of the ride itself, the places where gears go up and down, because from the very first second that we met her, she has been trying to figure things out.

Which is pretty amazing, really. What I mean is, do you know what I've noticed the most in nine months? That somehow, with no help from biology, geography, language or anything that makes any sense, she is--bizaarely, yet undeniably--David's and my daughter. She spins, and dances, and hugs. She flings out her fingers and widens her eyes whenever an occasion could benefit from a little flair. But she also concentrates, not on toys, but on stolen household items and gadgets that she intends to dismantle and reconstruct, tirelessly, with great precision. Tonight she understood instantly that to inflate her beachball she had to pull out the valve and blow into it, even though we hadn't shown her how.

Pretty uncanny, huh?

8 comments:

Alleen said...

Oh Sam, she is just stunning! What a little lady. And I can just feel the love pouring from your words.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jenn said...

Sam... what a beautiful post! As she has changed into a little girl and not a baby, it is so obvious how you've changed into this amazing mom. I hope you all had a superb Thanksgiving. She is so stunning!

Big hugs.

Anonymous said...

What great photos of Jarrah! They capture her joy of life, and her amazing confidence.
You and David are doing wonderfully well at helping her blossom.

Best, Gail

Mir said...

She is so gorgeous, Sam!! I love the pictures. And the wild hair is awesome.

She looks like such a little girl -- isn't it amazing how quickly they grow?!

Anonymous said...

What dah-ling photos! It's so nice to read your long, positive, happy post. -- lix

Paul and Heather said...

Thanks for the "fast wait" vibes...I sure hope they work.

What beautiful pictures of Jarrah!
Heather

Cheri said...

Oh, the story, the photos, the charm oozing from my computer screen! Can I come to the zoo with you? Please, please, please! Hook up a mom whose kid is in school all day.

Anonymous said...

What gorgeous photos. We love Jarrah's expressions as she enjoys the swing.

You sound so contented with the world.
May you enjoy many more moments like these.

Tried to respond earlier but there seems to be a gremlin in the system.

Love Joan and John (Nanna and Grandad)