First, there’s the awe stage.
My niece Lilly was born in October – just in time for the holidays. On Thanksgiving, and then again on Christmas, my family forgot entirely what it was we talked about prior to my sister’s bundle of joy. We sat around, taking turns holding the baby and cooing over the way she blinked, the way she made nonsensical sounds, how little her feet were and how chubby her legs were. All we could think about was how nice it was to have a baby around.
Next comes exhaustion. And panic. And worry.
As soon as the baby is up on two feet, your world is turned upside down. They’re reaching for the hot stove, running toward sharp corners, trying to open doors that lead to steep staircases and putting anything inedible they can get their hands on into their mouths. Basically, if it comes with a warning, the baby will try to test that theory. During said exhaustion phase, you spend a lot of time chasing the toddler in question, yelling for her not to do the dangerous thing she’s about to do, and then spending another 20 minutes apologizing for raising your voice as she one-ups you and belts out the loudest cry you’ve ever heard. The good news for us non-parents is that at the end of the day, I get to give Lilly back. God knows I love her, but after a full day, my arms are tired, I have a headache and I could give her a run for her money in the napping category.
Then, the most dreaded of my niece’s stages so far, was certainly the “no” phase.
No, I don’t want to go to bed. No, I don’t want to take a bath. No, I don’t want to be quiet. And no, I most definitely do NOT want to be held by Aunt Meg. We went on a family vacation during that no period, and I must say, my memories are less than fond. We went to Santa’s Village, and basically, Heather and I ended up walking around a freezing cold children’s amusement park like a couple of adult creeps, accompanied by a then-2-year-old who cried anytime we came near her. It was a barrel of laughs.
But now we’re in a really cool stage – a stage I wish I could keep Lilly in forever. My friends and coworkers will tell you it’s a stage that results in my forcing them to look at photographs of a little girl they’ve never met, and stare at them until they give some positive feedback to what is unquestionably an incredibly adorable video of her singing “Tomorrow” from “Annie.” (I don’t care about your kids, your grandkids or your nieces, so why I think you should ooh and aah over mine is beyond me. Call it the Lilly Effect, I guess). In this obsessive aunt phase, however, is an aging, maturing, interesting little person who comes out with some truly outrageous things.
Kelley: “Alright, Lilly, it’s time to clean up.”
Lilly (who is not even 4, mind you): “I’ve been cleaning all day, but ... a job’s a job.”
Or, after a particularly long day:
Lilly: “I’m so tired I could sleep on an elephant.”
This past weekend I had cute kid overload with that little rugrat. On Saturday morning, Heather and I took Lilly to a Teddy Bear Picnic at the East Greenwich Library. Naturally, one teddy would not suffice for Lilly, so she brought five – two in a baby-doll carrier and three stuffed into a pink backpack. It was a really great program, with stories, songs, a teddy bear parade and games. I find out after the fact that before Heather and I got to her house, Lilly told her mom that we would probably fight over who got to hold her hand.
The kid doesn’t lack confidence.
And on Sunday, she put that confidence on display for her very first dance recital. It wasn’t a dance so much as some turns and feet shuffling, but it was as cute, if not cuter, than I imagined it would be. The curtain came up and Lilly had a very hard time focusing, as she knew instantly that mommy was in the front row. She was instead focused on giving her biggest, best smile, and sneaking a wave to her parents. When the awards were given out later, she was the last one to leave the stage.
I don’t know what phase comes next, but I hope it’s as entertaining as this one.
And, for the record, I totally held her hand the most.