We were up early today. When I heard the first "Mama?" I think the clock read 5:58 am. There's much about the arrival of summertime that I await with gleeful anticipation. The earlier wake-ups brought on by the earlier sunrise, though? Not so much. Come high summer, it can feel a little bit like I'm living in the Land of the Midnight Sun with the hours the Little One keeps.
Anyway, as I stumbled my way through coffee making with both eyes closed, and while the rest of Fairfield County Connecticut was resting comfortably in bed on this Sunday morning, the Little One was bouncing in our kitchen.
"I wanna wear my dress!"
"Baby, I can't see anything because I haven't had any coffee," I told her.
"I wanna wear my dress!"
"Kiddo, it's the middle of the night. We haven't had breakfast. Or coffee. Anyway, your nightgown is like a dress," I offer. The coffee maker comes alive. Thank God.
"I. Want. To. Wear. My. Dreeeeesssssssss!!!"
Confession: I had no idea what she was talking about. Or rather, I made an assumption. I assumed she was asking to wear a pink crinoline number she wore on Easter. It's her go-to "look, I'm a princess," outfit. I'm happy to let her throw it on, but usually after we're finished with oatmeal or jam or other sticky, breakfasty things.
"Maybe after breakfast," I tell her.
"Noooooooo!" She collapsed in a heap on the kitchen floor, writhing and screaming. Certainly the neighbors heard and now assume I'm running some kind of satellite secret prison for the CIA.
"Kiddo," I stepped over her to pour myself a cup of coffee. "Really."
"But (sniff) you (gulp) promised (wail)."
I promised? The caffeine hits my bloodstream; my command of the English language is returning. Despite the rush from my morning fix, I don't remember specifically promising she could wear that dress today.
"Which dress do you mean, baby?"
"The beautiful one," she said, her bottom lip trembling. Well, that clears things up.
"Why don't you show me," I suggested, now that both my eyelids had come unglued. I followed her into her room, where she pointed to a new sundress, hanging on her closet door. A dress that I had, in fact, promised she could wear today to a friend's barbecue.
"Sure, honey, you can wear that," I said, taking the dress off the hanger.
"I don't want to be late for the barbecue," she said, pulling the dress over her head. One the most amazing tricks an almost-four-year-old girl can pull off is the immediate materialization and evaporation of tears. On her face there is no evidence of my CIA secret prison tactics. Incredible. "That's why I woke up early." She spun around twice, checking the twirl factor of her new dress. Apparently satisfied, she said, "I'm ready. Let's go to the barbecue."
Clarity washes over me like so much Colombian dark roast. She's so excited about this barbecue tonight with 2 of her best friends that she literally cannot wait to go, even if that means showing up 11 hours early.
"Oh, kiddo," I said, hugging her. One of the very best things about kids this age is the unbridled enthusiasm with which they approach everything--tantrums, barbecues, princess dresses, a dandelion-covered lawn--everything. Their capacity for joy, or any other emotion, is so much deeper and wider than anything we allow ourselves to feel as adults. They experience the world in ways that are so immediate and so intense. Sure, sometimes this approach isn't the most effective. Writhing and screaming on the floor of one of my client's offices, for instance, probably wouldn't get my contract renewed.
However, there is much to recommend this authenticity. Can you imagine--do any of us remember--what it feels like to see dandelions growing in a field and feel excitement? When was the last time you were so jazzed about an event that you woke up early and hopped out of bed, raring to go, 11 hours before you were expected?
Yeah, I don't remember either. But now that I've finished the better part of the pot of coffee I made this morning, I'm throwing on my favorite sundress too. I think the Little One and I will grab the camera and look for a field where we can pick some dandelions. Maybe we'll offer them as a hostess gift at the barbecue. We kind of can't wait.