Noelle is exactly 2 years and 9 months old today, and I feel like I'm seeing the persona of a little girl emerge from the curtain and sheets of her toddler body.
Her protruding belly is disappearing. Her pudgy legs are getting longer, more gangly. Her face and mouth are turning into the silhouette of a girl and young woman I am going to get to know over the next several years.
This morning, she popped into our bed all bright and ready to chat.
"You guys went on a date last night?" she asked holding her luvie under one arm and crawling up the bedspread.
"Yep!" Dwayne said hoisting her up. "What did you do last night?"
Noelle sat up on her knees, her little feet splayed out beside her bum. "Well," she held out her hands and counted on her fingers. "I played and I -" pause, a twinkle in her eye "I pooped!" Then she slapped her forehead, laughed and flopped back onto the bed with us.
We were a crumple of sheets and bedspread and laughter.
I have had a revelation about my daughter in these last two days. Primarily about her personality. Well, that's not exactly it. I've had a revelation about my expectations of her personality.
Since being on this month long galavant across the country I have been forced to see her in a new light. Before this trip, I have been excited to fling open the doors and share my little girl with our family, to let them see the joy, the cuteness, the sweetness.
But then of course, we have been traveling, out of our natural setting, out of her normal rhythm, and she has been tossed around on the steady current of strange hotels, strange faces, strange schedules. In short, she's been sick and out of sorts. And on top of all of this, she has been, of course, a normal two year old. Primarily - obstinate and tactless.
For example, two nights ago, we had a friend over for dinner. During most of the dinner, my daughter was being a complete pill. I couldn't get her to sit down in her seat next to our guest. She was fussing and fighting, kicking and whining, and when she did sit down she was throwing her water around and making a mess.
After a couple trips to the bathroom for some correction, she settled down finally and pecked at her food. Later on, she was sitting in my lap and I decided to point at our guest and ask, "Noelle, who's that?"
She got that twinkle in her eye and said, "That's poop."
I was mortified. No idea what to do. I made her apologize and she did. Then I apologized again later to our guest. But I was fighting with myself the whole evening.
What was I doing that was allowing my daughter to be so rude? Hadn't she just been cringing and squirming the other day when NaNa was trying to give her a kiss? Hadn't she run away from BopBop yelling, "NOOOO" when he tried to say "hi"?
If you know me at all, you'll know that this sort of behavior would horrify me. And so I have set my mind to correct it. Dwayne and I have been admonishing Noelle to speak respectfully and kindly to NaNa and BopBop because they love us so much. And to talk nicely to people.
Anyway, back to the evening when Noelle called our guest "poop." After she had gone to bed that night, Mom, Dad, Dwayne and I all sat together in the living room.
"I don't think Noelle liked our guest much," my Dad said. I looked up to find him smiling. He was amused. Not defeated, like me.
"Oh because she called our guest poop?" I asked shaking my head.
"No, before that. I don't think she wanted to sit next to her at the table." And I could see in my father's eyes that he thought Noelle was onto something. When he looked at Noelle he didn't see a misbehaving little girl. He saw an intuitive child with the inability to manage her reactions.
And suddenly the light broke.
I do not want my daughter to be rude or a brat, but I also do not want to neuter her personality.
These are the new thoughts that have been swirling around my head and heart these last two days as I've been watching my little girl bounce around the house turning summersaults or sticking her feet outside in the pond:
- It's okay, if she doesn't like some one. We all have our aversions and attractions to people.
- But I want her to be gracious and kind.
- I don't want to make her feel like there's something wrong with her own tastes and sensibilities.
- But I want her to be well adjusted, to be able to move smoothly with society.
Ultimately, I am thinking about the line between training and guiding these little beings God has placed in our care, but then also giving them the space to be who they are?
The truth is, my child is much stronger than I have been willing to see. And I am recognizing that perhaps her personality is not going to be exactly what I would have chosen. Perhaps she'll be a bit more opinionated then I would have initially been comfortable with.
But when it comes down to it, I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world. I want her to be her. I want her to have all the fire and spice that is in her little being, because it is after all so much more interesting than being a "perfect little angel."
Last night, while we were on our date, Dad says that Noelle climbed up in his office chair, put on his glasses and sat at the computer. "I'm Bop Bop!" she retorted.
This morning, as I was walking across the grass to the back house, watching Dwayne and Noelle on the porch by the pond. Noelle stood with her hand on Dwayne's leg and shouted out over the yard, "Mommy!"
"Yes?!" I said.
She raised her little chin up in the air and crooned for the whole 3 acres to hear, "I love my Daddy!"