Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dear Cadence, Month 33

Dear Cadence,

As I begin this, you are sitting next to me on the couch, petting, hugging, and kissing Lily, and giggling as she gets feisty and begins to playfully bat and gently bite your hands. You are so amazingly wonderful, little bug - you make me so unbelievably happy. That's what I am these days: Happy. We have an amazing family here, you, me, baba and the cats...and very soon, our brand new little one. It just feels so...right.

Chances are that by the time I write you another letter, your little baby brother or sister will have arrived and changed our lives in the way that only new babies can. It's going to be hard, and probably scary sometimes, and it's going to be stressful and there are going to be trials that we can't possibly fathom from this side of the timeline...but it's also going to be wonderful, welcoming a new life and new love into our family, our home. We have a strong base, are in a good place to take on this new challenge, one that I fully believe will be unbelievably fulfilling and beneficial to all of us.

I am excited for both you and the new baby that you will have a sibling - someone who, even if you don't always get along, even if you lead very different lives, is an ally in some way. Someone else grew up in the home you did, someone understands, to an extent, what that means and what it was like. Someone who will be able to push your buttons, get under your skin, and make you think in ways no one else can. Someone who will, barring unforeseen tragedy, be there long after Baba and I have passed on. Seeing how much comfort my mom has taken in her brother and sister since her own parents passed - even though the three of them don't always see eye to eye, and rarely see one another - I think having that kind of family around, that support, is so important. My own sister has often shocked me in ways that make me remember to love life, and all it has to offer. And Baba's siblings have been a steady comfort to him in rough times, in ways deeper than he knows how to communicate. For all these reasons - and, also, because it's just fun to have someone around to play with, bicker with, learn and explore with - we are glad to be giving you - BOTH of you - a team mate...which I am sure means that, in not too long, you'll find a way to join forces against us. Or at the very least, our sanity. And I couldn't be more glad.

You are already such a good big sister, though you still insist that you're just a big girl now, and will be a big sister when the baby actually comes out. Which, while true on one level, isn't, if only because I can feel the baby's reactions to you - your voice, your touch on my belly, your numerous hugs and kisses - and this kid knows you. And physically seeks out your cheek when you press it against my stomach. The kicks move to meet your hands, and search when your voice is close but you aren't touching....Baba's hands on my belly calm this kid down in no time, soothed comforted, and satisfied...but with you, I can feel the energy quicken, like this little one wants to play, and can't wait to take you up on your many offers to hold hands or play with you, all the fun stuff you talk about doing together once s/he comes out.

And I'm sure you will both have a blast. I can't wait to see how you adapt to life as a role model and friend. You have so much to offer the new baby...and me, and baba, and yourself, and really this whole world! You've grown so much recently, sometimes it's hard to keep up, but you've been keeping us on our toes for sure.

We've spent a significant amount of time this month blowing bubbles. BIG bubbles! LOTS of bubbles! and you shriek and chase after them and giggle when they pop in your hair, or in my face. And then there is all the time you spend being a kitty, with SHARP CLAWS!!!! (which you'll demonstrate by gently pressing your fingernails into whatever exposed body part is nearest to you...me leg, baba's face...you are careful, and never actually hurt us, but you display all the danger you know comes with sharp claws pretty accurately, and then show your responsibility by retracting them and being a sweet kitty.)

You've also upped the ante on your tendency to catch people so that they can't leave. Especially in the mornings when Baba is trying to get out the door to make it to class on time...you will often jump up, dash after him, hug his leg tightly and declare "Got! now you can't go." This little game has, admittedly, been more effective than one might expect, and has had a slightly detrimental effect on Baba's ability to make it to class in a timely manner. Especially since you get SO SAD if whoever you've "got" doesn't play along, at least for a couple minutes. You have power, and I think you know it. We are in so much trouble.

Which brings me to a few more points, regarding your intelligence, thoughtfulness, and explorations into the world of ideas. You are gaining a sort of thoughtfulness that makes for some very interesting conversations, and quite often makes baba and I actually think and reexamine our own answers to your many insightful questions. Whether it's because you've asked us why we have cheeks, (or butts, or lips, or feet, etc) or whether we're joining you on an imaginary adventure, you're constantly displaying your ability to think and make connections on your own, and now to invent your own ideas. Ideas about how the world should work, or inventing 'realistic' creatures...you have a brilliant mind and it's very exciting to see it at work, even if half of what you say seems like sheer silliness, if you take a minute to think about how you came to this conclusion or what's behind the creation of that character...it's really quite remarkable.

The other morning, when I was still groggy and not quite ready to get out of bed, you decided to take me on a trip to the zoo along our bedroom wall. "I'm Kate the mama, you're my big girl Cadence, and we're at the zoo! do you wanna see some creepy seahorses?" As you pointed to various 'enclosures' in the wall, you introduced me to the inhabitants, which started with those creepy seahorses, and branched out from there. "This is a creature kinda like a seahorse, but not really." You pointed out some Vumps. Vumps? "A Vump is a creature with a butt." and there was also the bug called a Mama Gunk Bug.

On another occasion, while we were using the potty, you took your underwear off completely instead of just pulling them down, so I asked you: "Did you take your big girl pants off because they're dirty, or just to get them out of the way?" Your somewhat incredulous response: "Just to get them out of the way, mama, I have to take them off to get to the pee that needs to come out! That's how it works!"

(Speaking of potty...the big new development for the month came with the purchase of a great new step-stool which lets you get onto the potty all by yourself. With that addition, and some help from a new paper-towel-turned-toilet-paper stand, you have officially achieved Bathroom Independence! You can do it all yourself now, Baba and I no longer need to assist you in any part of the process, which means you can run off and use the potty without even telling us you need to...you use it, wipe, flush, and wash your hands - with soap - all on your own. Amazing. I think we're all adjusting to this surprisingly big step!)

Your confidence is growing too, and you're much more willing to assert yourself when you know something to be true. Like the other day, we were watching Sesame Street and they were exploring habitats. At one point, just when the show was asking what an environment where an animal lived was called, Carmen came over to us, and I scooped her up into a hug and playfully turned to you and said "have-a-cat?" pronouncing it as closely to the word "habitat" as I could, and while you seemed to get and appreciate the joke, you lovingly corrected me by saying sweetly, with a slight tilt of the head: "no mom, it's a aptitat!"

Your arguments are getting more sophisticated by the day, too. This is probably not the best example of this, but it is one of the cuter ones: I don't entirely remember the context for how the conversation got started, suffice it to say we were playing together and generally being silly.

ME: Should I bite your butt?
YOU: No, it's not food, and it's in my pants, so you shouldn't eat my pants when my butt's in them.
ME: But I can eat your pants if you're not wearing them?
YOU: Yes.

This, again, is one of those goofy conversations that, when actually analyzed, shows a surprising amount of thought backing it up. You didn't care if I bit or ate your pants, but since your butt was not something that should be bitten or eaten, I shouldn't bite or eat your pants if you were wearing them. Priorities, one thing taking precedence over another...Your butt was more important than the pants, therefore, even though it would normally be ok to do something destructive to the pants, it was not ok to do so in the given context. There are still some adults who can't figure that kind of stuff out.

You have the unbridled honesty that only a two year old can have. Part of me is going to be really sad when you learn to humor people more deliberately, because for now, even though it is sometimes ruffling to hear, your honesty is really refreshing, and easy to work with. If you tell me you like or don't like something, it helps me learn what will work in the future; if you tell me something doesn't work, I know to fix it, and if you tell me you're happy, I don't need to worry. I know that eventually you'll learn to keep secrets and manipulate the truth, so for now I'll enjoy it, even when it means that you lean over to look at the picture you've just asked me to draw and comment "oh, it's kinda crappy."

(though, it does get a little confusing sometimes when you're trying out new vocabulary words. While I think that, generally speaking, you're pretty cool with the whole mammalian reproductive process of growing the child in the womb, you said to me the other day: "I can't believe you are carrying a baby around in your belly mom. That's so Abhorring.")

Oh little lady! There is just so much about you that is inexplicably awesome, and which overwhelms me on a daily basis. As much as you, and your routines -and life - change, (like remember how you and Baba used to light smellies every night before bed? Incense or a scented candle? You even had a special lighter with a fish on it, you'd pick a smelly from the box and we'd let it waft through the room while we sang you to sleep, and then extinguish the flame...and now you instead pick a nature sound out on baba's ipod, which lulls you to sleep after we've read you a story and left the room? You grow up too fast) some things are ever present. The part of you I can't pinpoint on the page is one of those things...your uncannily sweet, thoughtful self...Just, YOU. The you that is there whether you're deliberately defying us or preempting what we may ask, the part that doesn't change when your courage has been shaken, the devious little soul that I love so very much...

The other day, we were sitting on a bench in a subway station, and a baby started crying somewhere down the platform. You asked me why the baby was crying, and I responded that I didn't know. You fell quiet for a moment, pondering, and then looked up at me and said: "I think that baby's crying because she wants to sit down with her mama. Can I sit in your lap so they can sit down, too?"

I mean really, Cadence, you're two years old. Whatever happened to the "terrible twos?" You're hearing someone in distress, deducing what the problem might be, theorizing a solution and sacrificing what you have in order to realize it...there is nothing terrible about you, at all, in any way.

Which is, in part, why I am not at all surprised (though very happy and proud!) that you were admitted to the Blue School for next fall. I am so excited for you! And you are so excited too! you talk about it all the time! You tell everyone: The blue school is going to be your school, and you'll get to go to class and the teacher will help you learn stuff, and there will be other kids there, and they can be your friends, and then you'll all grow up tall together and learn even more cool stuff and come home and be with mama and baba and the new baby and it will be so much fun, but sometimes it'll be hard and that's ok...and you'll go to class all by yourself to learn and then come home! Your exuberance is downright contagious, and I feel like sending you to this place, which you clearly seem to feel a connection to, is really the right choice. and I mean, aside from how great a school we think it is, if absolutely nothing else, THERE WILL BE OTHER KIDS for you to meet and play with...and that is just a huge, wonderful, relish-able fact, and none of us can wait for the start of the semester because of it...but then again, it's not like there won't be plenty of huge momentous events between now and then...so I think we'll all survive.

Oh, and my last word there brings me to another weighty subject that has been rather prominent this month. We were sitting in the living room the other day and something - presumably a cat, though no one saw the actual culprit - knocked something over on the other side of the table. After all the "what was that!" proclamations and questions had settled, you told me that you thought it was Puppalina. I pointed out that Puppalina wasn't here, which lead to a rather unexpected, surprisingly in depth discussion of death, and what it means to die, and the implications that had for living and what it meant for those left alive when a loved one dies. We talked about Pup-pup, of course, but we also discussed Grandpa Ed, and how he'd looked in his coffin, and what was different about him then, and about Baba's Wai Po, who's funeral you attended when you were quite young. I'm not sure why this is all hitting home right now, I guess you were just developmentally ready to learn about mortality more tangibly, and you drew on all the experiences with it you had already gone through...We cried together, and talked about how that was OK too, experiencing all the emotions that come with grief. You've brought up the subject many times since then, clearly working through your understanding of this very profound fact of life, and much to my gladness, it doesn't seem to be a fearful subject for you.

And true to form, you've taken the idea you got from my words and made it your own, putting your own spin on it. I overheard you telling Andrew the other day: "I don't know when we're going to die, but then someone will plant us." I hope you keep asking about these things, sweetheart, and that you are never afraid to talk to us about the big subjects. I love you so much...I can't tell you how overwhelming it is to contemplate death and you in the same headspace, and throw into the mix that you're interest in death coincides with the birth of your new sibling...Sometimes nature is just so present that you have no choice but to sit back and let go, because there is nothing we can do about it. We can trust, we can surrender, we can find peace.

For now, we are going to go right on drinking in and enjoying every moment of life, from your latest grammatical quirk ("Well..." you say before half of your responses, "Well, I was just going to..." "well, I don't really want to," "well, I think I need some help..." and you tilt your head slightly to the side and made a single-sided scrunched up face to indicate the character of the "well"...) to your new habit of climbing into the bay window in the living room, closing the curtains, and then bursting through them to perform grand shows, singing wonderful songs and sometimes even inviting guests onto the stage. And being as present as we possibly can, to make sure we make the most of every moment.

I love you so much Cadie Bug, my wonderful, amazing little lady. There is nothing I can ever say that will truly express how deeply I love you; but I hope that you can feel it solidly enough that I will never need to resort to inadequate words to describe it. Know, as we welcome the new baby in the next few weeks, that as much as I will love (and already do love) that baby, nothing - NOTHING - can ever take away from how much I love you. You will always be my sweet baby.

Let's do this, Cadence. Let's embark on this next adventure hand in hand. (You've already told me that you want to help me while I'm having the new baby, said you didn't know how, exactly, but that if I was scared, you'd give me lots of hugs and kisses and would tell me that it's alright. YOU ARE TOO AWESOME.) You and me and Baba and the kitties, and all of our amazingly wonderful families...we can do this, and make life great! As you used to say all the time: ONWARD!!


Love always,
Mama