Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Slouching Towards Five

Where did the Planets come from?

Where did People come from?

Does it hurt when a baby comes out of your tummy?

Can we get a new sister? Because mine died.

How do people NOT have babies?

How many days was Maddy when she died?

What would happen if everyone just lived one day?

If you had a baby would you still love me as much?

There's something so deeply philosophical about Bella lately -- when she's not in a droning whine "Moommmmy, I'mmm hunnggry" -- that I ache to give her Carl Sagan and Hobbes and Locke and Shakespeare for her birthday, not the goldfish which she has adamantly requested. Questions that aren't posited just to be annoying or waste time or find the weak spot, but that demand answers more than a sentence long.

Most of them.

And I struggle to discover from whence these questions are coming: I am not pregnant, I am -- to my untrained and biased and eternally hopeful eye -- perhaps even slightly lighter around the middle, not the other way around. None of her friends have recently acquired siblings (although the sibling question came on a day when she went out with a good friend and her younger brother. I have a feeling friend is feeling some things through, out loud). We have not been watching old Cosmos reruns, or discussing Darwin at the dinner table. I am sure that all to most of these are standard-issue four-going-on-five philosophical "how does the world work" questions, but for me they seem to revolve around common themes lately: life, death, the meaning of the beginning, and the end. And of course, what comes next. There's always the corner, beckoning, and to which I can only shrug my shoulders and say with absolute certainty, "I don't know."

For me there's a subtext here, and it's Maddy. I have no idea what Bella's subtext is. Probably Spongebob.

At times she seems 63, and others, 13. Because you see, the other annoying habit she's picked up in addition to questioning the age and origin of the solar system, is announcing to everyone within earshot, "I have a boyfriend."

(No, I mean that. Today we went to the zoo, just the two of us, and she wanted to ride the camel. Which she had to do with another single child. So I finally got her up to the front of the line, left her there so I could run around and get her picture, and I heard her announce to the complete stranger camel guy who took her ticket nanoseconds ago, "I have a boyfriend.")

And again, I have no idea from whence this concept sprouted. I've been paying more attention to her programming (she watches an hour, but I always go do something else, so I honestly don't know if Olivia has "very special!" episodes, or Spongebob's sidekick Patrick has untoward affairs), and as far as I can tell she is not getting this attitude from television -- no one on her shows even dates (unless it's an older sibling, I've noticed in an ep of this and that, here and there, but interesting, they never use the term "boy/girl-friend", usually it's a "date" gone awry for comic purposes), and they tend to be mixed sex groups of friends who hang and which I find quite healthy all the way around. (Unless I'm missing something regarding Agent Oso, cuz that's new, and I'm sure a panda-type bear in a vest gets all sorts of attention from the ladies.) (I jest.)

I cringe. She's not yet five, and she's so proud to have this, to own this term. I've quizzed her nonchalantly on the issue, and she claims "he's a boy who's a friend!" and more to the point, the only boy at her school apparently who will actually play with her, and not push, hit, or otherwise tease and torment and knock down her stack of carefully placed blocks. And I remind myself that no more than two months ago, she was discussing marriage with her "girlfriend," and specifically, who would have the babies. So I'm trying not to get too (too) worked up, and I kinda ignore it and let it ride, and remind her periodically that "you know, you're too young for a boyfriend," but it doesn't seem to be dying down.

My suspicion is that this verbage and interest comes from the friend of ours who just got married after a whirlwind romance. I'm hoping it all dissipates with the rose petals.

We're pushing five here, and I do mean pushing. She seems so confident and content most of the time, and yet sometimes I can just sense her surfing, trying to catch her balance as the paradigms move under her feet. Sometimes she is so easy and fun I wonder why I haven't attempted to construct a sibling; sometimes she is so unsettling I can't imagine having the strength to parent another; and sometimes she is so singularly incredible that I struggle to remember why I ever wanted another child in the first place.


Anonymous said...

It's lovely to hear all about Bella.

Wow, Tash, we were at the zoo today as well. We probably passed each other!

k@lakly said...

There is something about girls and that word...boyfriend....that is just so darn tantalizing they can't resist it. Even when they can forego the 'boy', for annoying and pesky reasons.
I always love your Bella tales. She sounds so charming...just like her mother, no doubt:)

janis said...

She's going to be a fabulous five, and yes, she's peeling the world back, further, and wider. Sometimes I feel I will never ever be 100% ready for their questions and the things they say.

Catherine W said...

Those three final statements. How you managed to sum up such a tangled web in three such deceptively simple lines, I honestly don't know.

Now I am sitting here wondering WHAT would happen if everyone just lived for a day? That would shake things up a bit.

Congratulations to Bella on her boyfriend. Whilst I hope he may remain completely hypothetical for at the next 10 years at least, I hope she holds on to those rose petals for as long as possible.

charmedgirl said...

i laughed because a few weeks ago, elle kissed me goodnight and i wondered where the HELL she got THAT kind of kiss from! at 4.5, they are watching more and more 'real' movies and, while it's super-fun for me and marc, i find myself continually scanning my mental movie transcripts. you know, when they say something CRAZY. the other day, reece said, "HELLOOOO, FUCK!" after a long time and help from the girls, they explained that that's what the bunny in the special movies dad got for them says. he was trying to say "WHAT'S UP, DOC!" omg...

and, i know exactly what you mean. do i want another baby? horrible. horrible. horrible question.

loribeth said...

40+ years ago, when kids were much less worldly, the little boy across the street (three months older than me) solemnly told me, "I'm going to marry you someday." I said, "OK," but really didn't think too much about it. (Our mothers are still in occasional touch & while he's lived with a girl for many years, he never did get married, lol.) I can remember chatter about "boyfriends" when I was in the early grades at school. I think it's harmless. But yeah, you have to wonder where it all comes from...! Great post, Tash! She sounds like an amazing little girl.

Michele said...

So cute... She is absolutely a treasure.

Ah the dreaded boyfriend. My dear friend has a little boy with a "girlfriend". At this age, it's almost cute versus scary... But it's that whole thought that they will have a boy/girl friend one day! Ugh!

Julia said...

You know, I think in a lot of ways your job at parenting Bella in the wake of Maddy's death is harder than mine of parenting Monkey in the wake of A's. She was almost precisely Bella's age now, I think within a week or two, when A died. She could ask those questions then, she could integrate and find vocabulary right from the start. And I think because Bella was so young then, you are having to do so much of this over and over. Not that Monkey has stopped asking questions, but I think it's a bit different for us because of the age, more straight-forward, if you will.

Eeeeh, the boyfriend. For us, it showed us early this school year, actually a bit before it started. But the object of her affections kept changing. And (get this) then there was a list. Aha-- ranking list. To be fair, the boys knew about the list, and didn't seem bothered. She's honest, apparently. But it has died down now, and I haven't heard about a boyfriend or the list in months. I think she's done with that for now. Hopefully we get a break of a number of solid years. Oh, and when I asked for a definition, it was at first "a boy who is a friend" but we asked what was different about the designated one, since she has rather a bunch of boys who are friends. She modified it to "a boy who is a friend, who you will marry when you grow up." :)

Bluebird said...

I love this post, thank you so much for sharing.

Julia's comment struck me as really insightful. I imagine these are "normal" questions for a girl Bella's age, just compounded and amplified by her experience with Maddy's death. It does sound rather exhausting :)

niobe said...

I think you're absolutely right that the recent wedding is partly responsible for the "boyfriend" talk. On the other hand, I think most kids around her age have "boyfriends" or "girlfriends" or have picked out who they're goin going to marry when they grow up. I know I did.

Melissia said...

Oh, it does start early. My girls were in a fairy tale wedding of my sister in law's at a mansion on the Hudson River in New York when they were 3 and 5. We had to remake those green silk iridescent taffeta dresses for years so that they could relive those glorious moments during dress up reenactments!
There was no point in saving them, because really, where else is a child going to wear that ensemble?
I love your Bella stories as well, she sounds like a wonderful child and I thank you for sharing her with us.

Aunt Becky said...

Ben has decided (he is almost *gulp* 8) (don't remind me that he's almost 8) that he will have 3!! wives when he grows up. AND 1 girlfriend.

Um. Yeah.

He also plans to have 5 jobs to support them all. At least he's practical.

CLC said...

5 year olds are amazing in what they say. My 5 year old nephew told my SIL the other day that he missed Hannah. I know he doesn't fully get it, but he seems to get something.

Bella sounds so interesting and grown up. I don't know how I would answer those questions!

Inanna said...

Ah, five year old girls... my husband is investing in shotguns as we speak, as ours just turned eight and got her ears pierced. :)

moplans said...

sometimes she is so singularly incredible that I struggle to remember why I ever wanted another child in the first place.

she is and I love how you describe her.

Sunny said...

What a beautiful post.

My brother had his first kiss (if you will) on the bus on the way to school when he was in kindergarten and I was in second grade. It was with his girlfriend, Jessica.

The good news is that it was not the precursor to any questionable behavior. He didn't *truly* date until high school when he began a serious relationship with a nice girl.

Betty M said...

My 5 year old also has a list of questions - the latest being why haven't you and daddy split up! This seems to be a result of the explanations about the boy next door who is only here alternate weekends - a seemingly glam existence from her perspective. She and various boys have also declared their intent to marry. 5 is cute but terrifying.