The girl was tiny – really tiny. She looked like a walking baby doll. She was obviously much older than her size would lead me to believe and when I asked her mom, yep – 16 months in 9-month clothes. She was beautiful and just so precious. Malachi was tiny like that, too, and it was the best. He wore newborn clothes for 4 months, and I carried him around in his infant seat until he was 14 months old. In a sense you really do get to keep them “babies” for longer.
My daughter, however, is the opposite. 22 months younger than her brother but four pounds heavier. She is not even 2 but comfortably wearing 3T shirts because of her adorable, enormous potbelly. We are asked frequently if they are twins. She is stronger than my son.
And she’s fearless. She climbs things, jumps off things, and is utterly independent. I let her climb ladders and slide down big slides and learn by doing because she won’t have it any other way and she has plenty of padding to cushion her falls. Which are frequent. When Malachi is too timid to try something she goes first and barely notices when he follows her because she’s already off to do it again. She’s a natural leader who doesn’t even know she’s being followed – she’s just being herself.
She’s heavy, and she’s squirmy. You carry her for 5 minutes and you are exhausted. When Malachi hides from scary cartoon characters, she laughs. She talks in sentences and already knows half her letters and can count to 13 (minus “7”). She has entire songs memorized.
Two months ago she got a toddler bed for Christmas and she was really excited. She layed in it to watch TV and we set it up in her room that night. And the poor thing was terrified. She didn’t know what to do with herself and felt so insecure. Every time I heard her get out of bed she was picking up another toy to put in the bed with her – her popcorn push toy, her Elsa doll, 6 books. If I told her to go back to sleep she burst into tears. The next two nights I had to lay with her until she fell asleep and she still wimpered and sniffled. We switched back to the crib after that, and I dealt with my Mommy guilt for a week. I was so surprised by her reaction – my girl who leaps from couches, laughs at the guarddogs in our neighborhood, and watches the Frozen ice monster without fear just did not know what to do with herself in a bed with no walls.
I adore her hugs and cuddles, but carrying her around is so hard. She’s so big, and so advanced, and so mature, and I have to constantly remind myself, “She doesn’t know she’s big.” She may not look like a baby doll, but she’s still a baby, at least for a few more days. Even though she can do things other kids her age can’t do, reach things, open heavy doors, climb on the big kid playground, balance on a tire swing, she still crys when she bonks her head, or when she can’t play with big kid toys, or when Mommy can’t carry her anymore. She is Malachi’s best friend but she doesn’t understand pretend, so when he tells her that he’s a crocodile and he’s going to bite her, she runs to me for protection. And I have to say to myself and to my son, again and again, “She doesn’t know she’s big.”
Your kids don’t either. They don’t know they are mature for their age, or strong, or heavy. They know they are your baby and you are their protection. And in the moments when they are frustrating, or tiring, or needier than you’ve seen them in weeks, remember that most of the world still looms over their heads like so many giants, and most obstacles are still too big for them to hurdle. You are the one who gets on their level, picks them up, and carries them home.
She doesn’t know she is big, so I won’t forget that she’s little. She is, afterall, still my baby.