If there’s one thing that’s universally true about parenthood, it’s that every stage of your child’s life will provide you with new surprises. In the case of the Peanut, at the risk of sounding like an insufferable bragging mother, I have to say that her verbal skills were off the charts from very early on. When she was two she spoke in sentences—very short simple ones, true, but sentences nonetheless. Now that she’s four her grasp of cause and effect, and even more abstract concepts, is becoming clearer to us, and it’s nothing short of astonishing. She constantly makes observations about how one thing affects something else. But it’s her emotional development that is even more interesting to watch, though a bit nerve-wracking for me.
The Peanut comes from a long line of finely-emotionally-tuned, sensitive women. My mother, whom I love dearly and have a great relationship with now (though I didn’t always) is probably the biggest worrier I’ve ever met. Except for my mother-in-law, who exhibits many similar traits. My mother’s epic anxieties were a source of constant angst in our household when I was growing up. There’s no doubt that I’ve inherited these tendencies, though I try to keep them in check. Right now the Peanut is going through a stage (which may be nothing more) where she is extremely sensitive to any perceived emotional wound. Last night when we walked in the door, all I wanted to do was go to the bathroom in peace, and she wouldn’t give me two minutes to do it. I got impatient with her.
“Two minutes! Just let me be in here by myself for two minutes!” I said, shutting the door firmly. At which point I heard, from the other side of the door, a mournful wail.
“But now you’ll hate me forever!” she cried.
Can you imagine anything more heart-rending than that? The idea that my beloved Peanut, who I like to imagine, now, as literally a light that I carried inside me for 35 years in the form of one tiny, magical egg, might think that I could hate her?
I came out of the bathroom and kneeled down next to her. “Can I tell you something?” I said. “I need you to understand that there’s no way I could ever, ever hate you. You are my beautiful Peanut and I love you more than anything. I just really wanted some privacy in the bathroom for a minute.”
She stopped crying and nodded at me. And such is the resilience of four-year-olds that she immediately started chattering again, pulling out toys and running around the house like a brightly colored spinning top, the way she always does.
UPDATE: And then this morning, she was hanging out with me as I was getting dressed. She likes to help pick out my clothes for the day. I asked her to bring me a non-descript knit shirt from a drawer, and she did, taking her usual pride in "helping." "You look beautiful in that, Mommy," she said. How blessed am I, to have this Peanut for my very own?