My kids love a book about a very young bear named Bartholomew. In these toddler tales, Bartholomew's caregiver, a large bear named George, inevitably repeats himself until he loses his cool and gives a directive in a "big voice." (Hmmm...sounds a lot like our house.)
In one such story, George gives Bartholomew a black kitten. After reminding Bartholomew to "be gentle" over and over, George uses his big voice. Then George says, "She's only little, Ba."
Of course, George was talking about the poor kitten, but when I think of that phrase, I immediately think of my own precious girl.
She's only little, Ba. Only, I hear George gently scolding me. She's only little, Jessie.
It's just that Maddie is not little. Yes, she's 3 1/2, but she's huge. She's very tall for her age. People mistake her for Parker's twin all the time. Parker, who is a full year and a half older. And she's not just tall. She's tall with sass. This girl has attitude oozing out her pores. She'll size you up in one glance and dismiss you in an instant if you have the wrong accessory (read: she doesn't like girls who wear bows in their hair). She'll shriek if her brother attempts to interrupt or talk over her. She'll stomp up the stairs if she doesn't like your answer. We have battles over shoes (yes, you must wear them to the store), hair brushing, drinks (no, you may not have any more chocolate milk today), toys (I'm sorry, I didn't realize I wasn't allowed to pick up that princess), you name it. Daily.
The other day I was sitting on the steps in the hallway, helping Parker tie his shoes, when I glanced into the bathroom. The door was open, and Maddie was at the sink. She was washing her hands. And I saw it. She was on her tiptoes. I was taken aback for a moment. You see, had I not been sitting, I would not have been at the angle to see her feet. I never would have noticed that she still needs to stand on tiptoes to wash her hands. She's much to independent to use a stool. (Stools are for babies, momma.)
"She's only little, Ba." Tears stung my eyes. She is only little. How easily I forget. She is only 3. She still talks with a lisp and has no sense of modesty (read: she gets naked. a lot.). She still requests stories and "seh-shull" time ("special" one-on-one playtime with mommy) daily. She still wants to be sung to sleep at night and carries her favorite, tattered "strawberry" blanket everywhere she goes. She's only little.
This has been my mantra since the tiptoe discovery. She's only little. She's only little. She's only little. Because it's true. Because there will be spills every single day for a time. Because there will be battles over barrettes. Because there will be boo-boo's with every outing, especially when concrete is involved. And that's okay.
"Be gentle, Ba. She's only little." And she won't be for long.