Old and Young

There are times when the Girl most decided looks older than her actual age: riding her bike in the carport the other day was such a time; at the beach this summer was another. Yet looking older and being older are two different things. Indeed, looking older, acting older, and being older are three different things. Two of those three are out of anyone’s control. Acting older is a function of biology (brains and bodies must develop, after all), psyschology, and lastly, choice.

I try to influence that choice by increased reference to the Boy. “When Little Brother is here,” I’ll begin when I sense some fussing is approaching, “will you really want to act like such a little child? Don’t you want to be big sister?” Perhaps a bit manipulative, but isn’t that the case with most aspects of child rearing at this age? Manipulation will only get me so far in the game, though. The rest is her choice.

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Tonight’s choice: to cook dinner. It’s a lazy, almost-emergency-nothing-planned dinner: we have a jar of spaghetti sauce and some noodles in the cabinets for such evenings. Perfect for a little girl.

“You’ll do the hot stuff, Tata,” she explains. “I’ll crush the sugar for the noodles and other stuff.” (I can never get “bullion” into her head; it’s always “sugar.”) She pours the jar of sauce into the pan, swirls around the water in the jar to rinse off the leftover sauce, cleans off the table — everything she can do, she does.

These are the small accomplishments that instill intense pride. “When Little Brother is five or six, he can help, too,” she says offhandedly as she crushes bullion cubes. “Guess what, Mama!” she almost yells when K walks through the door, “I cooked dinner!”

And so the future unfurls itself slowly in front of us. We watch and smile, anticipating and almost dreading: we’ll look back wistfully on these blog entries some day, we know.

But this is only half of the story.

As surely as she shows flashes of the years to come, the Girl reminds us that she’s still five. “Want to see how I can jump like a frog?” she asks after dinner.

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If only she can keep this balance of youthful excitement over the most seemingly insignificant things and an increasing sense of responsibility, I’m quite certain of her future.