A little while ago, as we were cuddling before bed tonight, Katie and I were reading and talking together. Lately she will say, "I want to talk about..." and then fill in a subject of her choosing. It is one of our favorite activities to do together and, thankfully, plays to my greatest strengths so we can discuss at length.
As we were talking, she says, "I like you, Mommy." I replied, "That is sweet! I like you, too. In fact, I more-than-like you: I love you! I like you AND I love you. I like being with you and love that you are here with me."
Some time passed as we talked more (about the opossum and meeting the new neighbors yesterday and about her birthday parties). I kissed her head again and I said, "I love you so much, Katie."
Well, she reached both her hands behind her and put them right onto my face, and she said, "I love you, too."
And then she started singing, "I love you forever/I love you forever."
After that we talked a little more, and she wasn't sure she wanted to go to sleep. Right after my shower (she stayed with me during my night routine this evening), we both put on vanilla lotion on our hands. At the time, we both smelled our hands and had fun being alike. She talked about it almost all the way downstairs, how we both had "vanilla cream hands." So seeing that she wanted to be sure of our togetherness even during the night, I had us smell our hands again and I told her, "I have an idea: whenever either of us starts to wake up tonight, let's smell our vanilla cream hands and think about each other, okay?"
She smiled so much and settled in...
The past couple of weeks have marked another jump for Katie, one that has been obvious to us even before her absolute sweetness this evening. She has shifted now into thinking more about others, offering things like, "Do you want...?" and predicting what we MIGHT want and bringing it to us before we ask. I often call her, "my girl" and sometimes "my darling" when I speak to her, and she has started using these pet names as well, like to me: "Do you want this pen, my darling?" It's cute... Today she even appended "my mommy" to a clause directly addressing me.
She is also showing more reasoning ability---and we, in turn, are figuring out how to explain things to her even more effectively to help at transition moments during the day. She does best when everything and every reason is given to her, knowing why I ask her to do something or what my reasoning is if I need to say "no" to something. The "you will do this/not do this because I am the parent" strategy does not work with her---and really, even though it worked with me as a child, I must applaud Katie for sensing that that the fundamental premise of that logic is flawed. :-) I have always tried to explain my reasoning to her a little, but I think I am doing a better job now at pinpointing the best and most efficient explanations for everything...and she is able to handle more complexity as well. At times when our transitions are fast---say, Friday mornings when we have to wake up, get dressed, eat, and get in the car almost immediately to get to our class in Fallbrook---I have learned to forewarn her about the pace, such as: "Today is Friday and we remember on Fridays that our mornings move a little faster because we have to be to our class on time. Let's work as a team to get dressed and get to our music class." With Katie, it is all about front-loading her with information. The more she knows in advance, the better. Ultimately, I do tell her this: that there may be some things we decide with which she will not agree, but that we will try to explain them to her---and in the end, even though we recognize her intelligence, Mommy and Daddy have lived longer than she has so we have more information. In the past few months when she has tried negotiating on certain points, (after I have explained), I do also have no problem telling her that, "This cannot be negotiated" which, actually and amazingly, usually makes her stop arguing the decision.
It definitely seemed like some of the behavior associated with most two-year-olds befell us early (mainly this summer and early fall---before she turned two), and I really think we are moving now beyond it. Everyone who knows Katie best has each remarked independently of my assessment that she seems to have reached a new maturity lately. This seemed to coincide with her new "I want to talk about..." Perhaps her ever-increasing verbal abilities are helping to ease the frustration of communication all people must feel at some point in their development. She has enough verbal ability now to routinely make jokes, come up with original lyrics to familiar melodies, to idiomatic language ("out of place," for example), and to use synonyms to describe her feelings or words we don't understand.
Also, she helped to make dinner last night, as she normally does. We made bee-bim bop, a favorite dish. There are probably many ways to make it, but we like to do ours with rice, marinated filet mignon (nice and tender for everyone), steamed carrots, steamed spinach, and egg. Katie loves it. She really, really loves to eat meat, and she finished almost all of her beef filet. Anyway, after we had the bowls prepped, we called Daddy for dinner. As he received his bee-bim bop, Katie stated proudly, "I made dinner for my daddy!"
She is so sweet!