Thursday, January 22, 2009

Growing Ups

"Mom, I don't have anyone to marry..." Milo is sitting next to me on the couch, dejected. I am nursing Violet and, when my lap isn't contested ground, Milo and I have been having some pretty deep conversation while Violet drinks and snuggles.

"Honey, you're three and don't really need to marry anyone for a very long time, if ever," I tell him gently, taking his thick little hand in mine. I squeeze it softly to let him know that I've heard him and take his inquiry seriously.

"If I don't have someone to marry when I get growed up, will I have to marry Violet?"

"No, little buddy, you can't marry your sister. If you want to get married when you're all grown up, you have someone to marry, I promise." Looking at him, I know it is true. He is a handsome little fellow, brimming with life and energy, his humor riddles every conversation. Of course, he is mine and I am tremendously biased, but his grandfather (my dad) agreed -- stating that, "he's got everything -- intellect, humor, personality, looks -- what more could you want?"

I sense that his question is more rooted in his immature attempt to puzzle together the pieces of family -- that he is matching people to mates and trying to understand the diagonal relationship of aunts, uncles and cousins. My suspicion is confirmed when, the next day or so, he hands me the action figure of Obi-wan Kenobi. I say, "Thanks! I love Obi-wan!"

"Mom! He's a toy... you can't kiss or marry a toy. That's silly!"

He is starting to figure out the rules, the code of society. He is constantly questioning why people do X or Y and what would happen if they did the opposite or chose something different. He's piecing together explanations, often logical in a three-year-old's illogic. His expectations are more firmly established, often leading to endless argument when they are unreasonable or unattainable -- as in "I want pizza!" on a night when I've already made another dinner. "If I eat some of my chicken, THEN I can have pizza!" followed by "You didn't make pizza??? But I waaaaaanted pizza!"

So we're trying to give him more control over his surroundings -- we've enlisted his assistance unloading the silverware from the dishwasher basket, sorting clean clothes, matching socks, putting away his toys and books every night. He enjoys this and likes feeling that he's contributing to our household. He refused to get into his bath last night until he'd gotten a firetruck puzzle put back into it's box and safely stowed with the rest of his puzzled. Scott couldn't argue that.

The smooth hand of doubt has crept into his psyche, too. One weekend he told me several times, "I'm not a smart boy." To my knowledge, no one has ever said that about him. Upon further questioning, he confessed that the sitter's daughters told him he wasn't smart. I think that the girls might have said something like, "Oh! That wasn't a smart thing to do!" when he did something not particularly well thought out, but I know both girls well enough to know that neither would tell him he wasn't smart. But that manufactured opinion became a pebble in his shoe and he couldn't stop thinking about it, incorrectly internalizing that he wasn't smart. This is such a small injury to his feelings, it was easily remedied by a quick discussion with the sitter and I've not heard a word about him being "not smart" since then. I know that not all slights, insults, and omissions will be as easily fixed; I understand that part of growing up is learning how to deal with the opinions of others, but my sensitive little soul lets these opinions rest on his little shoulders until he cannot carry them, then they spill out into my heart.

In Violet-world the biggest thrill is dress-up. She is working like mad to be able to pull up pants, slide into a shirt and jam her feet into shoes. Her taste is currently girly-girly and she's got her eyes on sparkly dance costumes and princess dresses. Too bad our dress-up box contains neither of those things, just a lone pink tutu...

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