Monday, April 14, 2008

The Girl at Play

I'll admit it: I want contradictory things for The Girl. I want her to grow up to be a strong and independent woman, but wouldn't mind if she skipped the whole 'rebellious' thing, at least in regard to her parents. (Since she's still a preschooler, I can still cherish this illusion.) I want her to be both confident and gracious, both brilliant and humble, and both sociable and autonomous.

How hard can that be?

I may be biased, but she is an amazing kid.

Sunday afternoon I took her and The Boy to the park to shake off some cabin fever. Another Dad was there with his kids, who were the same ages as TB and TG, so the kids paired off and set out on various adventures.

I expected TB to be autonomous and wonderful, and he was. He took the other boy under his wing and demonstrated his advanced rock-skipping technique at the creek, as well as devising various games involving running really fast in wide circles. I didn't catch the rules, but the games tired him out pretty good, and I know enough not to interfere when he tires himself out.

But TG was amazing. She flirted shamelessly with the other Dad, led the other girl around the park, ran after the boys from time to time at breakneck speed, and traversed the creek mud with the best of them. She has a contagious laugh, and she loves to use it. She even tells jokes, in her way. She gets the form of jokes, but hasn't quite mastered the rhythm. She'll get there.

When she gets overtired or overstimulated, she'll either grab a book and climb onto my lap (with an imperative “Read!” that brooks no hesitation), or she'll just find a quiet corner and sit in it silently for a few minutes. (After returning from the park, she retreated to her room for a while. When I went up there to check on her, I found her kneeling before her window, just quietly staring outside. She joined me as I walked away, content to have been found.) I think I enjoy that so much because I recognize it. Any introversion she has, she comes by honestly.

TB, TG, and I often wrestle/tickle on the living room floor when I get home from work. (They don't do that with TW.) I'm trying to teach her that both 'no' and 'yes' carry meaning. An actual exchange from last week:

(I'm tickling TG)

TG (laughing): Stop!

DD: Okay. (I stop.)


TG (confused): Why'd you stop?

DD: You told me to.

TG: Oh.


TG: You can tickle me now.

DD: Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! (tickling resumes)

I'm hoping that she'll get used to being able to define her own boundaries, and to 'no' and 'yes' carrying meaning, so she'll be able to hold her own as she gets older. I want her to know what 'safe' feels like, so she'll sense that something's wrong when she's unsafe. And even though it's tough to remember sometimes when looking at her baby face, she has her dignity, and I want to encourage that.

I know that as she gets older, I'll get dumber and less relevant and she'll know everything. There's probably nothing to be done about that. I shudder when I think about my glorious daughter enduring the slow torture of junior high, the candy-coated brutality of girl culture, and the general horror of the teen years. (And I remain in deep denial about eventual dating. Whenever TW wants to get me going, she just brings that up, and I revert to something along the lines of “LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LALALALA.” I'm not proud of that, but there it is.)

I just hope that she'll carry with her some vague emotional memory of when she could just hop on Daddy's lap with a book and make everything right with the world.