A couple of years ago when our oldest two kids were toddlers, their Gram, who had been a preschool teacher in a previous life, thrilled the kids with a sweet Christmas craft. Using Quaker oatmeal containers (and don't all good preschool crafts begin with Quaker oatmeal containers?), they created little mangers for Baby Jesus, filled them with straw, and placed a perfectly-sized baby inside. Little Davis and Zoe had a wonderful season of playing with the baby Jesus and his cozy manger.
When, sadly, it was time to put away the Christmas decorations, I carefully wrapped and packed the mangers for use the following year. The baby Jesus? He stayed in circulation, a decision I have come to regret.
In the years that have followed, "Baby Jesus" (for he retains his name despite his lack of contextual manger), has become fully engaged in the life of the Kirk family babies. And may I digress here to inform the patient reader (hi, Mom!) that our gaggle of babies includes the unfortunately named "Mafen" and "Spaghetti." I'm highly concerned about the nomenclature of my future grandchildren. But more on that another time.
So, Baby Jesus being an integrated member of the Tribe of Babies, I regularly hear comments such as, "Mom! Look at Baby Jesus doing a cartwheel!" or "Mom! I just dropped baby Jesus in the sink!" or "Mom, Baby Jesus and Mafen are having a cage fight. I think Baby Jesus is totally going to take her."
Humorous, yes, but in that uncomfortable even-though-the-DaVinci-code-was-sort-of-an-entertaining-book-I-don't-think-Baby-Jesus-should-be-marrying-Spaghetti kind of way. If you know what I mean.
Next topic. Emma Kate. She's two, almost three, and boy, has she had a summer. In the span of 14 days, she potty trained, moved into a big girl bed, and gave up her pacifier. The trifecta of change. When a girl can no longer pee in her pants, sleep in a cage, or suck on a binkie, she's got to do something to express her feelings, so express she has.
But wait, there's more. Bye-bye nap. Take two hours of sleep from her life, add exhaustion to the miasma...well, let's just say we have considered some lovely boarding schools for toddlers.
We, being enlightened and veteran parents, have recognized the stress of transition and exercised additional patience with her, at least in our best moments. (Our best moments occur at least once a week. We're good like that.) Despite our sympathies, within appropriate developmental limits, she is expected to obey her parents. It's hard. We know that. She would rather not. We know that, too, and even identify. But, believing it is in her best interest to develop this skill, we have held her to the standard.
Thus, she's spent about 1/3 of her waking hours in time-out, carefully and deeply considering, (even though may look to the untrained eye like she's just yelling her head off) ye olde fifth commandment about honoring her parents so that she may live long. I really like that last part.
Now, our dear girl is a non-stop talker. As the summer has worn on, her primary topic of endless one-way conversation to to all those under her domain: the importance of obedience. There aren't many that fit the category of "under her domain", but if you do, chances are that you, too, have been relegated to time-out on the bottom step recently. Today, the pool toys were all given firm discipline and were sent to the pool-equivalent of the "bottom step of doom." (We don't really call it that. "Hell" has a much zippier ring to it.) Fascinating stuff as a parent, to see your words and actions reenacted and directed to the pool noodles and plastic sharks.
It has actually been encouraging and amazing to watch her begin to process this obligation she has to obedience. In the midst of this, be not concerned. We delight in her and laugh with her and read to herand play with her. She is joyful and chatty as ever, fearless as she jumps off the diving board, overjoyed to be a ballet student in her sister's "class", curly blond hair now long enough for a little ponytail, endlessly playing CDs, singing songs, and doing the hand "lotions." So she's a happy, loved girl. She's learning.
Now for the moment you've all been waiting for, the magical moment when I bring these diverse threads together. It happened this evening as we were preparing for a quick errand, the whole family to pile in the car for an exciting ride to the auto repair shop. All of the children had chosen a companion for the car ride. Davis had his Chickie, Zoe had her Mafen. Emma Kate was in a tight spot. She had a recalcitrant subject to deal with.
Finally she announced, "Well, Baby Jesus obeyed me so now he is allowed to go for a ride in the car."
Lighting flashed. I'm thinking Baby Jesus better get back to the manger, and on the double.