The Mouse is growing up. And I’m not sure I like it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT one of those “Oh, I wish she could just stay this age FOREVER!” kind of people. I have fond memories from her birth (see How The Mouse Got Her Name) to the occurrences of this evening. The Wife and I agree (mostly) that our fondest hope for The Mouse is that she grow up strong, confident, competent, self-reliant, and, most of all, not an A$$hole (there are other terms that can be (and have been) used, this just seems to the be the most consistent in being used to describe humans who are mostly a waste of space, but I digress). If you ask me what my favorite ‘age’ has been so far, I would unequivocally say the very moment right now. Or now. No, wait… and… NOW… You get the idea.
It’s just that she really is starting to become strong, confident, and self-reliant. There have been hints of the momentous changes that seem to be occurring, it’s just that.. well, I’m not sure that I am ready for it. A friend of mine (Thank you Erin) posted on FB the other day about how her daughter (same age as The Mouse, BTW) successfully gone to the potty, then selected clothes and dressed herself and how wonderful it was but also how difficult it was to accept this. I’m guessing here that these collected events had been happening sporadically over the past few weeks at least, perhaps months and that these milestones had been actively celebrated, at least that certainly has been the case with The Mouse. But placed together in a series, a concert of these activities, the realization of a fondest hope, a self-sufficient (to a degree, I mean we are talking about 4 year olds here) human being is emerging. Much like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis cocoon, it’s beauty is overwhelming, especially juxtaposed with the perceived fragile nature of the creature itself.
As The Mouse gets older, we have begun requiring more of her around the house: picking up her toys before she can play with other toys or watch TV, helping to set the table, cooking with The Wife or Nana or me, helping to feed Lucy, putting laundry in the washer or dryer. Simple chores that all children should learn to do. Helping around the house, not for prizes or treats, but because it is part of living in a household. Chores are just a part of living. The Mouse has, on occasion, followed our lead. If we are making up our bed or picking up our room, she’ll start helping without being asked, or put away her toys in her own fashion ( She once showed me her doll’s clothes strategically placed across her room on various other toys, boxes, her toy castle from Christmas and was proud of having ‘put them up’). The Mouse is quite handy, actually, and not more distractible than any average child… I mean, really, who hasn’t gotten distracted by the toy you are putting away or those books sitting on the counter, or that newspaper, or… my digressive behavior isn’t just for my writing… But, again, pretty simple things. No big deal.
Saturday morning, The Mouse had had enough of sleeping by 8:30 (30 minutes longer than usual, so score there) and came bounding into The Wife’s and my bedroom, laying out her dictum of getting up and getting breakfast (it was a laundry list that included pancakes, sausage, bacon, eggs, and waffles… Poppa DNA test # 6,743 complete and logged). And, as is usual when we have the luxury of a Saturday morning as a family with no obligations, we usually lounge in the bed for a little while before actually enacting the breakfast plan. The Wife then said to The Mouse, “Well, let’s get your pull-up off and your panties on and we’ll go and start cooking breakfast,” to which The Mouse replied, “I already did.”
The Wife: “Already did what?”
The Mouse: “I already went potty, took off my pull-up and put on my panties.”
And then The Mouse proceeded to show us that she had, indeed, already took care of business. No Big Deal.
Now, all children go through growth spurts, and The Mouse has been no exception. Strangely enough, it only is noticed in those odd moments. It happened several times this week. Grocery shopping with The Wife and The Mouse usually entails at least one “I’m thirsty.” from the smaller of the two. Which of course is uttered when the ubiquitous water-fountain is potted near the entrance of the store. Now grocery shopping is a weekly event for us, so the water-fountain trip is common. What made this time unique is that The Mouse got her own drink. pushed the button, stood on her tippy-toes and quenched her own thirst. And it was No Big Deal. She got her drink, wiped her mouth with her sleeve and returned to help with the shopping. No Big Deal. Except the week before, I had to lift her up for her to reach the stream of water. Literally one week. One week and she had physically grown enough to get her own drink from the water-fountain in the grocery store and, to her, it was just another day. For her Poppa it was momentous. I was flabbergasted for a moment. I told The Wife. She was wide-eyed in wonder. And we smiled and finished our shopping. No Big Deal.
Tonight, as we went about our nightly evening routines, The Mouse requested a t-shirt from The Wife to wear to bed. Not a Mouse t-shirt, but a Momma one. The Wife pulled one of her own out and dropped it over The Mouse to wear. The Mouse, however, had a complaint.
“It’s not long enough.”
Sure enough, somehow, the Female Adult Medium T-shirt my wife had given The Mouse to wear, was, for night-shirt purposes in her world, too short. It didn’t come to the floor. It was hitting her just below the knees. So, she instead, wore one of mine. A Male Adult LARGE T-shirt. One of my recent show shirts from last season’s musical. And it fit. As a night-shirt. It didn’t swallow her up and drag the floor. It came to her calves. It didn’t need to be knotted in the collar to keep it from falling off. It fit a little broad in the shoulders, but it fit closer to the way her night-gowns fit. Shirts made for gown men are now the right size little girls to sleep in.
So we watched a little TV (Caillou), puttered around, played with Lucy (laser lights and dogs are just too much fun… even when the dog is the size of a Shetland pony), had a little bed-time snack. Usual stuff. Then the unusual occurred.
The Mouse told The Wife and I tonight she was going to go to bed by herself. And then she did just that. She gave kisses and hugs to me, The Wife, and Lucy, then ran down the hall. The Wife and I were smiling skeptically at first as The Mouse ran down the hall, my over sized show-shirt flapping. Then we heard her door shut. It was that crystal clear moment of realization. The Mouse had just put herself to bed. So we waited. Held our breath. Looked at each other in the interminable time it took for the moment to sink in. She had put herself to bed. No story. No song. Just bedtime for The Mouse. No. Big. Deal.
“Poppa! Could you come turn my night light on?”
Yes! The night light! It was just a ploy to get me back there and we would have a story, a song, a game of questions and bed-time wishes. Status Quo, Situation back to normal. I walk back to her room, she points out her night light (the switch is on the cord, she has yet to master that) and I turn it on.
“Thank you, Poppa. Good night!”
And I am shown the door. It shuts behind me. The Mouse has put herself to bed. The Wife and I figure on waiting her out. The Wife turns on the baby-monitor to make sure we aren’t just being ‘played’ by a four year old who hates going to bed. And we wait. We hear the usual Mouse noises at bed-time. Then silence. We look at the monitor. The mouse is asleep.
I am so proud of The Mouse. She cleans her room and picks up her toys. She helps us as best she can when asked. She minds and is polite, says “Please,” and, “Thank you,” more often than not. She is growing up strong, competent, confident, and self-reliant. And she is sweet. And tonight she put herself to bed. I don’t know if this will be repeated tomorrow night or the night after that or if this is a one time occurrence that will take weeks, if not months to be repeated. And it really doesn’t matter. I love her at this moment and every moment that has been and all the ones that will be. I’m just beginning to wish these moments didn’t happen so fast.