Friday, May 29, 2009

A Mother's Chorus

Last night during bathtime, as the sounds of the sprinklers pshh pshhed on the evening air and The Little Mermaid soundtrack was joyful noise in the playroom, Kate and I were having a conversation and playing when she said very clearly in reference to herself, "Not a baby."

She has been fascinated with the parent/baby relationship for about a month and a half, assigning her toys roles. She has two similar blue balls, one big and one small. She has been calling the bigger one the "mommy ball" and the smaller one the "baby ball." This analogy for size has been a useful teaching tool for her alphabetical letters, i.e. "Mommy 'B' and Baby 'b'. Lately she has assigned roles to the Hundred Acre Wood characters: Piglet is Mommy, Pooh is Daddy, and Tigger is Baby.

We have been reading older and older books which feature little girls, and often, their younger baby siblings. We read the Eloise Wilkin classic "Baby Dear" a few days ago, and then during her overnight with Amie, Kate and my mom read a story about a little girl who was going into her little girl bed. I know the baby vs. little girl concept has been on her mind...

So last night, Katie said, "Not a baby."

I responded (after repeating her words back to her, which I usually do both for clarity and so she can hear the sounds again) "Not a baby. Are you a baby?"

Kate replied, "No."

I asked, "Are you a little girl?"

Kate said, "Yes!"

I said, "That's right, you are a little girl now. You know how to do lots of things that babies can't do. I am proud of you, my little girl." Then we listed many "little girl" things Katie knows how to do.

All the while I was thinking, You will always be my baby no matter how old you get.

Watching Kate define herself and mark this physical and psychological moment in her life is fascinating. She knows at 19 months that she is not a baby anymore and she wants a label that celebrates her feeling of being bigger and more capable. Before I know it, she will be defining herself in ways that make her more and more independent...until one day, she has defined her life such that I will really only be a supportive and loving friend and spectator.

But she will always be my Baby Kate, if only in my own head and heart. And that I think, is the beautiful and difficult part of being a mother.

Baby Kate, a few weeks old

Little Girl Kate, yesterday morning