As church was clearing out on Sunday I went to pick up my daughter and she gleefully told me, "No, Mommy, I am playing." She had the biggest grin on her face. And she ran back down the hall and around the corner to continue her play. She was so excited at the revelation of this activity that she kept running back to tell anyone who would listen, "I playing!!" She likes to exclaim, "This is fun!"
Where did my baby go? Her curiosity and revelations expand at a fast pace. My little girl requests books by their name. She now asks questions all the time. Like, "Why did you turn the tv off?" Or, "What's that for?" As with every other stage we've had, I didn't expect to have to experience it already. I seriously just finished breast feeding. (Well, maybe 9 months ago.) I just started being okay with leaving her with someone else. (What does being okay with actually mean? Does it require being worry free? Does it mean not checking in?)
Now my little munchkin is developing a mind of her own. She is vigorously experimenting with her independence. She has a temper tantrum when I declare we're done shopping and have to leave the store. (Yesterday that meant a flailing, screaming child in one arm and $60 worth of groceries in the other, which made for opening the truck impossible. I think bribery may be in our future.) She asks to drive the truck and turn the nobs. She tries to do up her own carseat. She feeds the dogs or gives them way too many cookies. She concentrates on putting her own shoes on. She even wants to try to put a diaper on.
And her imagination is developing as she investigates her world. She emphatically tells me the dogs are barking because there are helicopters or roosters outside. She tenderly holds her stuffed animals and asks if they are okay or if they would like to go to sleep. She recites lines of her books, like Dora taking her on an adventure and telling her to go through the garden. And she plays games with her dogs which they have to silently bear as they get covered in toys.
I want this time to slow down. So I find I am spending so much of our day snuggling on the couch or reading in the rocking chair. Chasing her around the house. Holding her in my arms. And being awed at her development.
Yesterday I made veggie burgers and when I offered her a bite she correctly exclaimed, "That's a beet!" Today when I tried to pick something off her scalp and asked her what was in her hair she said, "Fingers". And lately she keeps asking me, "Why? Why did you do that?"
Soon we'll be discussing constellations, planets, and mathematics. Soon we will be talking about homework and opinions and why people believe different things. And every time I'll probably think, Where'd my baby go?
But she'll always be in there. With her soft belly and her cute bum. Her infectious laugh and her inquisitive eyes. Her strong balance and confident exploring.
She'll always be my baby.