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.
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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.