This week I am working the nightshift, and to make up for not seeing you in the evenings, I took you out for a special before-school treat today. We went out for bagels and then to the park, where we rode the carousel and the train and walked around the lake. Some of the highlights were: the buzzer going off in the restaurant to tell us our order was ready (your shout of glee was so loud the whole restaurant knew our order was ready), finding a forgotten pacifier on a bench (it is now your most prized possession), letting a ladybug crawl on your finger, and saying hello to two honking geese. You were so full of wonder and enthusiasm, practically glowing with pride that you were out with your mommy on a special trip to the park on a school day.
It was the kind of day I've always dreamed of having with my daughter, the kind of day I remember having with my own mother. At the end of the summer, she always took me out for lunch at a "fancy" restaurant at the mall, and I always got the very fancy hot dog wrapped in puff pastry. And one day when I was in elementary school, I will never forget, she pulled me out of school early for no reason at all just so we could spend some time together. I will always remember her standing at the front of the classroom, telling the teacher I had a dentist's appointment—and my delight, when we walked out of the classroom and she told me there really was no dentist's appointment. She just felt like picking me up early. I want you to have the same kinds of memories, of special time spent with me, of knowing just how much you are cherished. It's amazing how easy it is to skip doing these kinds of things, because we are so caught up in our routines of getting to school, getting meals on the table, taking baths, cleaning up, doing errands. But today reminded me just how important our unscheduled time is. Those will be the days you remember, I hope.
It's so nice to be able to think happy thoughts about you, and our relationship, because things have been really tough for the past couple months. That's part of why I haven't written one of these letters in so long, because I didn't want to write, "You are a little monster and I am going to sell you!" For weeks it has felt as if you were constantly on the edge of some crazed and irrational tantrum, looking for a reason to lose it, unable to cope with even the smallest bumps in the road. A request to change your pants or put on your coat could be met with 20 minutes of flailing, screaming and rolling on the ground, biting your own hand in fury. Every request, for more milk or snacks or help putting on your coat, came as a bratty demand or a scream. Those that weren't met immediately turned into meltdowns.
But then about a week ago, it was if a switch flipped. You are sweet and fun to be around, constantly making lovely observations about the world, happily doing what you're asked. And I find myself thinking about you all day, melting at the memory of your sweet smile. You are my girl who loves pink with a passion, and despite my best efforts to shield you from the forces of marketing, would like nothing better than if every one of your possessions was pink and covered with the faces of the Disney princesses. (I draw the line at buying Disney Princess junk.) Colors seem to be how you process the world right now. Everything is defined by its color, every person identified by their favorite color. You are fascinated by letters, and learning to write them. You love to count things. You go up to 12, and then begin randomly calling out numbers like sixteen and twelveteen. And you are beginning to draw pictures. People with arms and legs and faces, rather than aimless scribbles or endless spirals that you called lollipops. You are growing up. I can only hope I am enjoying you enough along the way.