Saturday, May 15, 2010

Farewell, Toddlerhood

It is written that toddlers are babies ranging from one year to four years. After tonight, my toddler officially joins the ranks of childhood. Cinco en Mayo.

It is with conflict that we jointly cross this five-year milestone. For one, I welcome the opportunity to know that the last of my small brood will enter the realm of public education, come September. But in another breath, I think about how this, the autumn of my life, continues to change colors. The greens begin to yellow so slightly, and people around me know that I do not embrace aging with welcome arms. Thus, this transition marks yet another change in my journey--accepting that my baby begins her own new passage.

Today we had a modest celebration for her, and I watched as Kendall commanded the room, as she does have a strong, independent spirit. She is the kid who everyone follows at preschool, at the playground, in the 'hood. She is the card, the tease, the muse. Funk and spunk, full of spitfire and wit well beyond the toddler years. Yet she seems troubled at times, not sure if she wants to be like the big girls or remain the baby.

In the early evening, after everyone had left, I asked her if I could take her picture as she cheered in her new uniform, pom-poms by her side, long blonde mane swept into a shiny pony.


No? Why?

"Because I said no."

This did not go over well with me, to be honest. I pulled the adult card, ordered her to smile as I held the camera.

Instead, she pouted. I repeated my request. Soon, pouting led to tears that led to downright weeping.

She yelled at me. I yelled back.

Ugly, it got.

Soon, my veiled threats became every child's penance: Time out.

After a few minutes of listening to her cry, I sat down in front of this mini-me, asked if she knew why she was there. I tried to listen to her, but I could not concentrate on her words. For in the background, the Bose speakers spewed forth the extremely moving "Doretta's Dream" from Puccini's La Rondine. The piece, an extremely moving composition, tugs deeply at one's emotional core. It is one of unrequited love and defeat. And so all I noticed were her cornflower blue eyes rain tears of disappointment that slid down round, reddened cheeks that still spoke to me: baby.

Her small nose twitched and her lips quivered.

I heard no words except the last two: "Hug me."

And so I embraced that child, this girl who would still be a toddler for another 12 hours, and told her how much I loved her. She continued to cry as I began. She is the quirky, brilliant squirrel who is the constant center of attention, the one who keeps me young despite the angry calendar. I hugged her until "Doretta's Dream" ended--and I wished for her to pursue the ones that lie ahead, to chase what makes you happy no matter how difficult some dreams may appear.

Happy Birthday, Keni Jane. You will always be my baby, no matter what year we're in.

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