I have some catching up to do. I blinked and two weeks passed. Two weeks of good busyness mixed with those stressors found in every workplace or home whose doorway you've crossed. Today, catching my breath on thoughts of a weekend with not much planned, I looked to find my children are not the children of two weeks ago, but children much-changed. Nathan has learned to babble - in cars. With the exception of a cruise through the grocery store (after which, an employee stood waiting at the front of the registers to meet the little man she'd heard babbling a solid twenty minutes), he speaks only in cars. Loudly. Continually. Even if you've been driving an hour. It makes me laugh. It makes his sister throw books. Well, just once.
He has learned to cluck his tongue, and I am happy to oblige him with detailed conversations of tongue clucking for the smiles they elicit. He has also found his thumb and laughs each time I shake it free before trying to sneak it back to his lips. Our conversations are easy, centered around our shared interests of eating and sleeping and catching up with our friends during long car rides.
Tonight, hugging a dampened-towel-clad Audrey, I realized that her lengthening limbs are about to outgrow those standing-on-my-knees hugs. But, what has really caught me off-guard these past weeks (what always catches me off-guard) is her stretching mind and the new ways she's using it.
Last week, while standing outside, she told me, "The darkness is swallowing the sun."
The next day, she informed me, "Birds don't talk. Birds just chirp. Only people talk."
Last Friday we dressed up as cows to go to Chick-fil-a with some friends. I asked her to go potty before heading to the restaurant. She refused explaining that cows don't pee on the potty, they pee on the ground.
Today, (we had read a book featuring a Moose who becomes a clown this morning) en route to the gym, she said, "I've never seen a clown. Where do they like to go?" in a tone that implied she was about to begin a red-nosed man hunt.
In the past week, Audrey has also learned to barter, an act she performs with the skill of a veteran flea market haggler.
Tuesday, I was ready to head the evening into our bedtime routines. Audrey was ready to head outside. I told her I would take Dusty (a favorite doll) away if she walked out the door. Audrey informed me that she was going outside and she was carrying Dusty with her so I wouldn't be able to take her, but (since she was choosing to go outside) I could have two of her stuffed animals. A frog and a duck. She didn't want them anymore.
Last night, Audrey got a special treat when she was invited to spend the night at a close friend's house. Before she left this morning, she asked Michael if she could spend the night at his house again. He told her she could stay a million years. "I want to stay here forever," she told me when I came to pick her up. (I can't say that I blame her. Spending every day with my best friend sounded like such a great gig, I married him. Plus, Michael has a fun mama).
"Why are you taking me home if I want to stay somewhere else forever?" she asked on the drive home. I explained that we would miss her. "If you let me stay with them now, I'll come live with you when I'm older," she offered.
Each night, when I tuck Audrey into bed, I tell her she makes me a lucky mama. She has a habit of repeating our bedtime phrases. Goodnight. Goodnight. I'll see you in the morning. I'll see you in the morning. You make me a lucky mama. You make me a lucky mama. It wasn't until this year that she began changing the phrase to "you make me a lucky Audrey," so that it made sense. Tonight, as I carried her upstairs she said, "I'm going to figure out a way to make you a lucky mama."
"You have already figured out a way to make me a lucky mama," I said.
"I'm going to figure out a way to make you a lucky mama," she repeated.
The last two weeks have been tricky. We have reached the stage where so much hinges on words and actions. Often, I don't know what words to say. Often, I realize mid-sentence that the best thing to say is nothing. Often, I find myself meditating on this gift of parenting, the work of training a child and building a bond: strong, complex, intricately made, and ultimately, fragile - as the best things always are.