Tonight Madeline snuggled with me on the couch 45 minutes after dinner. Still wearing her princess dress and fresh off a crying jag caused by a run-in with Drew, she was done with the day. So was I. After a 12-hour drive home the day before from Colorado, I was still feeling fuzzy, disembodied and ready for someone to feed me dark chocolate in a Grecian fashion. I noticed Maddie chewing something small in the back of her mouth, maybe a tiny white Chicklet or a miniscule piece of Kleenex.“What are you chewing, Maddie?” I asked.Turns out, and it pains me to admit this, it was a piece of steak, the last bite of food from dinner. Like a persistent and adorable cow — a cow that would eat steak, if such a thing exists — Madeline was determined to be the digestion champion of the world.“You can spit it out, Honey,” I said as I offered my cupped hand. (Why is that always a mother’s first response?)She tried to spit it out and managed a tiny oozing of protein, but after all that chewing it was a hard habit to break. Suddenly, she started gagging and trembling, acting like an ominous volcano crowned with a big yellow bow. I didn’t force the point. I watched her swallow the last little bit of cow flesh as she sat crossed-legged on the couch, her blue toenails sparkling (they had been freshly painted that very afternoon), her pink Aurora gown regally draped across her knees.Madeline turned three this week. If I were still keeping track of months the way first-time mothers of infants do, that would total 36 months. Doesn’t that sound like the biggest, most grotesque newborn you can imagine? I know she isn’t a baby anymore, exactly. And yet what is she, really?She certainly cries as much as a baby. Anything and everything now makes her break into wails. The cheerful two-year-old has given way to a capricious, moody little diva with gorgeous eyelashes and horrible, horrible grammar.“Maddie, did you hurt yourself?” I ask, concerned.“NO MY DON’T!” she wails. (Translation: “No, I didn’t. I’m just crying for the sport of it.”) She throws her body around like she has been paid to mourn an emperor’s death.“Maddie, do you need a Band-Aid?”Then something akin to demon possession manifests itself. “NO MY NOT NEED NO BAD-AID!”If Superman has his kryptonite, Madeline has her Band-Aids. I’m not sure what in her personal history contributed to this, and yet ever since the dawn of (her) time, she faces a personal crisis whenever the blue box rears its ugly head. If Jesus himself came down from on high to apply a Band-Aid that featured a design with Jesus’ face, she would still throw herself to the ground in hysterics.And now that she’s three, I can only imagine the fresh nuances such a tantrum would take. A chest rattle here. A drool trajectory there. Add a hair-falling-into-the-face flourish and a head whiplash, and before you know it Jesus has revised his statement to:Let the Little Children Come to Me, Except for that One Over There Still Chewing Her Steak.Whatever this brave new world of dramatics means, I have a feeling I’ll survive. My own mother did, and I figure I owe it to her at the very least — for the entertainment value alone.Happy birthday, Sweet girl.
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