This guest post comes from Christa Terry who’s a blogger, editor, and author who writes at I Know How Is Babby Formed. Her newest big project, Mom Meet Mom, helps moms find their new best mom friends and just expanded its beta launch nationwide. You can also find her on Twitter @howbabbyformed.
If you’d like to guest post, whether you have a blog or not, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have emailed me and haven’t heard back yet, please email again. I’ve been behind on emails lately. Sorry about that.
My daughter Paloma is four. Small for her age, but a mature four. Her language skills exploded early on and so we’ve been having long talks for years. I’m entirely biased as her doting mama, but I think of my girl as not only smart, but also sophisticated. She knows what nerve endings do. She’s interested in space and the elements and biology – these are interests that are easy to cultivate with books and experiments and old fashioned observation. Discovery can be a solitary pursuit.
Paloma is also a dancer, like I am. She has been dancing for almost a year now, studying tap and ballet just like her mama has done for going on thirty years. Dance is very much not a solitary pursuit. The hardest part of studying dance for her has been mustering up the courage to walk into a classroom of other little girls without me by her side. Like me, my daughter is a homebody and shy. The hardest part of studying dance for me – outside of finding the time – is probably mustering up the courage to walk into a classroom of other women.
The difference, of course, is that I have had thirty years to figure out how to straighten my back and sashay into the studio like a badass so no one knows how hard it really is.
Paloma has technically had four years to prepare herself and really much less time than that when you consider that she doesn’t remember all that much from her first two or three revolutions around the sun. To me, she seems so grown up – especially when she sits next to her nine month old brother, Hunter, to show him how to stack blocks or squeak his Sophie – but she isn’t. Before Hunter was born, I would have said she was just a baby herself. Now I look at her and I see a kid. A big kid.
I promised myself I would never be that mom who said “Be a big girl” or “You should know better” over and over again because I know better. A four year olds’ neurology is so unlike a grownup’s that we may as well be different animals. Paloma really doesn’t know better. She hardly knows anything at all relative to me, her mama, if you think about it.
She didn’t, for instance, know what a stage was. A stage. How elementary is that? She’d seen them in books but never in person and certainly not from the perspective of a performer. The recital was coming up. Her first, my zillionth. I tried to explain what a recital was and what she’d be doing and why, and how fun it would all be – and I was met with nervous tears. I’m ashamed to say I got a little frustrated. “This is supposed to be fun!” I said more than once, just not getting it.
And then I did something right. I got out of my own head and tried to get into her little kid brain which (though don’t say it in front of her) is still practically half baby. Suddenly I understood how scary the world can seem when everything – literally everything – is new. Dance class. Going on stage. The stage itself!
So I took her to see it. It was the best I could do, because how do you explain all of the complicated feelings that flood through you when you’re dancing or singing or reciting your lines in front of the audience you know is there out in the dark? We got up on stage together and looked out at the empty rows of seats. We walked into and out of the wings, then practiced filing onto the stage. Together, all alone in the echoing auditorium, we did our own dry run of the dress rehearsal and then the recital itself.
Because she’s little. And sometimes what’s supposed to be fun is frightening in its novelty. I need to remember that no matter how mature she seems, four is still four and my patience and understanding is a gift I can give her – and her brother, too, when he, too, starts to seem more like a big kid than a baby.
There will be plenty of time, years and years, for being a big girl. For knowing better. For now, I want to let her be little.
*Christa’s song pick… When You Dream