The precocious little girl with the unblinking blue eyes looked at me with grave seriousness. “How did you make the brownies?” she asked. I went through exaggerated motions with my hands showing that I put the egg in the bowl, I poured in the mix, I stirred and stirred, I poured the batter in the pan and then I put the pan in the oven and baked them til they were all done! She laughed at my animated antics, but her face revealed she still had an unanswered question.
She is just three years of age, but often speaks with the earnestness and gravity of someone thirty years older. She had already questioned:
- why I did not like pancakes, an inconceivable idea to her, as she forked her way through her afternoon snack of syrup-laden pancakes and Gatorade while I gobbled up milk and brownies. I stated as simply as possible that I like pancakes but I wanted brownies instead.
- why I was able to open the refrigerator and reach for the gallon of milk to pour myself a glass AND pour her grandpa a glass–all without asking for permission or asking for help! “Grandpa spank her.”
- why I chose to drink water with my soup. She did not verbalize this, but the look of frank confusion and disbelief was on her face when I sat down for dinner presented the question for her. Within minutes, she whined, “I don’t have a glass of water.”
- why I was able to pick up a magazine to flip through without asking permission. She sternly warned me with a very realistic motherly voice to not mess it up.
What she sees when she sees me is conflicting truths. She struggles to put these facts in context with what she already knows. She struggles to process the challenge of these irreconcilable differences that these facts represent.
You see, at just age three, she has yet to grasp the concept of age. Because I am small stature and need assistance from time to time, she sees me as a little girl–like her. Yet strangely enough, I am not under the same rules of conduct that little girls are–like her. Sometimes these differences frustrate her and seem unfair. Sometimes these differences she has learned to use to her advantage. She has not come to realize yet that I am old enough to be her grandmother, sorta-kinda-maybe.
The precociousness can quickly flip into petulance in the blink of an eye and without provocation or warning. As I got ready to leave, she hid away in her playroom and had to be coaxed to come out. Yet when she walked me to the car, she ran around it, “Deb, can I look at your car?”
I stood within the opening of the driver’s side door and had her stand in the driver’s seat. Her eyes were wide as she took in the details, almost as if she had never been in a car before. With an awed and breathless voice she said, “I need me one of these!” I leaned in to hug her goodbye before she climbed down from the seat. She was almost too preoccupied with the car to return the hug.
I settled myself then in the driver’s seat and was about to close the door and she admonished me to put the seatbelt on first. As I began to slowly pull away, she stood just a foot away from the car by her grandma, throwing kisses across the space. “I love you!” we both shouted almost in unison. Her precociousness is breathtaking. She then turned and ran to the backyard to resume the hard work of playing, to resume the carefree play of a child. One more glance out the driver’s side window to make sure she was not in danger of my moving vehicle, I pressed the accelerator to quickly move away before my eyes became bright with tears.
As I drove home, I could still see the expression on her face as she contemplated me baking brownies. Somehow, I don’t think she wanted to know how I actually made the brownies, but how I was able to make the brownies without an adult helping me. And I allowed myself to ponder for a moment that possibly she had hid in her playroom, refusing to come out to say goodbye, because she did not want to say goodbye.
A three year old has such an active mind and an active body. One minute, they are on their toes, reaching for the stars and grasping at all the wonders of the world–eager to learn as much as their little brains can fathom. The next minute, they are having a meltdown over the challenge that comes when what they believe to be true isn’t in keeping with the reality that adults are forcing upon them.
I wonder how often we are more like that three year old–ever so quick to have a meltdown when faced with the challenge that what we believe to be true isn’t in keeping with the reality that is being forced upon us. We struggle to process the challenge of these irreconcilable differences that these facts represent.