Two years after I skidded haplessly into the ranks of grandparents with the arrival of our mysterious man-child, the new generation gained yet another member.
And this one is a girl.
Aha! I nod to me, feigning confidence. Surely I’ll have the occasional, random notion what do to with this one. After all, I parented a small female back in the distant mists of of the dark ages. How different can this one be?
Sure enough, familiar signs manifest themselves pretty quickly. A miniature of her mother at that age, she reaches for purses and necklaces and makeup before she can walk unaided, distinctly prefers pink, and is mesmerized by sequins, shine, and frills.
In other words, she is the girliest of girls, straight out of the starting gate.
And yet, surprises unfold. The biggest? She’s Rambo in a Tutu. An astonishing combination of confidence, determination, and will rockets her forward through her toddler days. She will not be contained, quieted, or ignored, and rarely slowed. Pretty much ever.
No one will ever have to encourage this child to Lean In.
I observe this dynamic and can’t decide whether to laugh or quake in fearful anticipation of looming disaster. Maybe I’m just a tad envious of this boldness, this unwavering compulsion to damn the torpedoes.
Where does THAT come from? And how can I get some?
Chasing a ball on my lawn one recent evening, she shoves a small, fat foot into a hole and swan-dives into the grass, pearl-skinned nose in the dirt. I stifle a cry and lurch forward to the rescue, but before I can console, she springs up, concludes, “I’m all right!” with the finality of a judge slamming down the gavel, and bounds off before I can survey for blood.
A few days later, her older brother is late-evening cranky, and I’m thinking a fresh-air tonic is the ticket. Get your shoes, I instruct him. Let’s go for a walk. This outing is not intended as a threesome, as she is already in pajamas. But before her pouting sibling can muster a response, she has located her own shoe (only one, of course) and is waving it in front of me, jumping up and down like a college football coach trying to call time out with 20 seconds left in overtime. There can be only one answer: Of course you can come, too, of course you can. We wouldn’t dream of going without you.
On a recent visit to the neighborhood pool, she is a bit tentative about the water at first, but she finds her voice and raises it ferociously against the forces of injustice. A small cadre of older boys (about age seven, I judge, and she is a Mighty Two) has taken possession of her Minnie Mouse kickboard, slapping it with their swim noodles and enjoying the resulting thwacks and radiating sprays. This indecency cannot be borne.
“YOU BETTER STOP THAT!” she bellows, splitting eardrums of passers-by at least a good block away. “YOU SHOULDN’T DO THAT! THAT’S NOT NIIIICCE!” I glide over sociably, amicably, retrieving Minnie while the boys look around for the source of this racket. Catching sight of this miniature blonde Officer of the Law, they sneer cheerfully and move on to other prey. “I SAID, IT’S NOT NICE! ” she shifts into Verse 2, refusing to be ignored, “DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE!” It’s OK, I placate, I got Minnie, it’s fine, they stopped. Distraction is the only effective strategy, so we glide away in an aquatic piggyback ride.
Some strange twist of cultural expectations may compel me to intervene, but at heart, I’m really digging her approach. What woman doesn’t occasionally want the abandon to bellow at some guy who done her wrong? Who doesn’t crave the confidence to charge forward in the face of, well, anything? Who wouldn’t cherish the ability to articulate the wishes dearest and closest to the heart, with perfect clarity?
The other day she traversed my living room to locate me working in the kitchen. Evie, she called, while I’m stacking dishes. Yes, precious? I answer, but don’t turn around. Evie, she repeats, with a slight upward twist of the volume knob. This time, I turn slightly but proceed with my task.Yes, darling girl? (I love to lavish vintage endearments on them; no one else will tolerate that but the dog.) Evie! she insists, and finally I relent, stopping to hoist her to eye level, woman to woman.
Evie, she softens the delivery now, with her quarry in direct sight. I wait for it.
Evie, this whispered with blue eyes locked on mine, serious, deliberate, precise, unmistakable.
Evie, I want a peach.