Lately I've been thinking about how I have a kid and not a baby.
We're thinking of going to Disneyland soon, and I've been resisting it for a long time. Not because I have anything against Disneyland, mind you: au contraire. I grew up there. Had my junior high grad night there. Got engaged there. But whenever I thought of taking Jarrah, I was all "Uch, the crying. The feet-dragging. The whining. I can't take it. We'll spend a million dollars and have to leave after four hours."
Now I sincerely doubt it. In fact, I can imagine a certain member of this household will be chipper as all get-out at closing time. I might be the one whining. Or crying.
In some ways, having a kid is so much easier. I won't have to change any diapers at Disneyland, or make any bottles. Giant, silent walking Goofies and Snow Whites probably won't terrify. After perusing the ride height requirements, I can see we'll be shut out of very few attractions. If you need her to walk a bit more, she can be successfully motivated with any kind of candy. She knows about Disneyland--from movies, from her friends, from books. She would be looking forward to the trip, if I dared tell her--long ago I learned not to tell her anything, since she could get sick or...oh hell, who am I kidding? Because I don't want to hear "Is it tomorrow yet?" 137 times before we go.
Lately, it's not so much that she's huge that I know she's a kid--it's the way she talks. Last night at dinner, she lectured us about "The Five Senses:" "Everyone has a different way of seeing, of feeling, of smelling. Oh, also of tasting...and hearing? No one is the same. We all have our own way. But the five senses help us experience the world."
Okay, Mr. Rogers. Let me get your cardigan and your tennies.
This weekend, there are a few annual events that have me reflecting on what's changed. Today is the Purim parade, and the kids show up at school in costume and march around. (What exactly they do is a mystery, since no parents are invited.) The first year, we'd been loaned a princess costume, and Jarrah was upset and confused when I tried to put it on her before school. She resisted mightily, mostly because she had no idea what was going on (she was two.) This year, she's been telling me for weeks what she planned to wear, and finally decided on Dorothy (phew! That one was hanging in the closet.) She showed me how she wanted her hair done, how to tie her bow, and which of her many stuffed doggies would be playing the role of Toto today.
On Sunday, there's the Purim carnival at school. The first year, she got stuck in a jump-jump obstacle course and screamed a lot. It was broiling hot, and she was sticky-wet and cranky with her belly sticking out of her t-shirt, scowling beneath her sunglasses. This year, she plans to go in costume, talks about who she'll hang with, what "rides" they'll go on, and how many hamentashen she plans to eat. We probably won't even see her for half the time.
Tomorrow is the annual Chinese New Year banquet. We have our stuffed pig, rat and ox in the toy box, and this year we'll add a tiger, I'm sure. With each passing year, the event becomes more about Jarrah than about us. She sits with her friends now, eating long noodles; they join the lion dance, "perform" for us on stage. Again, we won't see her much.
Which is a great deal of the point of them growing up, yes? That they become independent, stretch that umbilical cord (in our case conceptual and jokey, not an actual thing) to the breaking point as they explore the world, increasingly, on their own terms? Less and less will she look to me to know how to feel about things. More and more, she'll decide for herself. And I understand and welcome this process, but I can't get over how soon it's arrived.
A couple days ago, Jarrah cried to me "It's so HARD to be a kid!" I told her it's harder being a grown-up. "Why?" she asked, clearly mystified. "For one thing, no one makes you a snack like I'm doing right now. You have to make your own snacks." That gave her pause. "No one takes care of you when you're sick. No one drives you to see your friends. You don't get to play as much as you want, or nap when you want to. You have to do things so the house doesn't fall down."
She was quiet, but I figured she'd just lost interest. Apparently, I was wrong.
Last night, Jarrah said to David, "It's hard being a grown-up. It's easier being a kid."
"And why is that?" David asked her.
"When you're a grown-up, you have a lot to do. When you're a kid, grown-ups do everything for you. Being a kid is easy."
"See?" I smiled, turning to David with my arms full of dishes. "Look how awesome I am at brain-washing."
The weird thing is, I wasn't entirely convinced anymore that my argument would hold.