M has crossed the Rubicon into the land of teen disdain. I am a complete buffoon, the stupidest person she has ever encountered, worthy primarily of eye rolling.
In this new role, I am discovering the power of expectations. The closer I get to her, the more buffoonish I become. Leaning over to give her a kiss, I smash into her face and smother her being. Trying to be funny, I fall flat on my face. I am as awkward as a blind date, not quite sure how to address this being whose reactions I cannot predict.
I can write about this here, where she will read it, because, being the post-self-consciousness kind of family we are, we say things like, "M, you're being a disdainful teen!" and she says things like, "Yeah, and I will be for the next four years." And, honestly, she's not like that all the time. Though it's more than enough for me.
Meanwhile, E, seizing the opportunity, is staking her claim to perfect child. She loves her mama, she tells me repeatedly, and showers me with delicate kisses that land right on their targets. She behaves impeccably, whenever M doesn't, and she laughs at my jokes.
M pointed out yesterday that she only got to be the baby for 4 1/2 years, while E has already been the baby for 8. I pointed out that she was very ready to stop being the baby, and she loved being the big girl.
It's true, though, that I am aiding and abetting E in her efforts to remain a baby, which is very high on her list of priorities. For the first few years of M's life, I lamented every change and development, mourning the perfect previous M left behind. Then I realized that she was perfect in each new stage, so there was no point in lamenting. But with E, while I know she will continue to be perfect, I also know that I am experiencing every stage for the last time.
Some of the consequent loss is A-OK with me. I'm not so sentimental as to miss diapers, strollers, and the like.
But E still fits in my lap, and likes best to fall asleep in my arms. I can still pick her up and carry her downstairs. She's my baby, and someday soon enough she won't be, and then I'll be sad. Especially if she thinks I'm a buffoon.
But by then, M will be a delightful near-grownup, and while I won't have a baby, at least I'll have good company.