Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I awoke this morning to the sound of my three year old’s voice, informing me that her baby sister was “dying, Mommy.” In my slightly sleep-addled state, I leaped out of bed and dashed into their room, hoping to be able to save her. Upon arriving, I found my eleven month old sitting in her crib. She grinned at me and at her big sister and raised her arms up for me happily, knowing that Mommy cannot refuse to pick up a cute baby. I turned my eyes on my eldest child, but without my glasses, couldn’t tell if her expression was one of innocence or of mischievousness.

I thought, “The only way this kid is dying is in the same sense that we all are: not in any immediate way, but slowly, gradually, and eventually.” I squinted at my three year old.

It reminded me of a day last week that she informed me, as I was drying off her newly clean sister, that “we are all animals.” I was surprised, wondering if her three year old mind had discovered that human beings are animals, so I asked her, “who is an animal?” “Baby Sister,” she replied, “and Mommy,” and as she added herself to the list, I wondered if she’d run down the list of her whole family, uncles and grandmamas and cousins and all, when she finished her monologue with: “And Daddy is a zebra.”

These are not my daughters.
I coughed out a laugh, and realized that she wasn’t talking about the human race as a whole, but a game we often played when getting out of the bathtub. Hooded bath towels don’t do much for drying a kid off, but they’re cute, and the woman who handed hers down to me probably realized that. My daughter loves them, though, and our game usually started with her making the animal sound of whichever hooded towel I’d placed on her head. Her baby sister would be wrapped up in a duckie towel, and she’d wear the sheepie one around the house, baaing like one of the flock. I don’t have any animal print towels, so I’m not sure why she decided that I should be a cow, but our after-bath activity for several weeks had been baaing and mooing at each other while I brushed her hair. And since everyone else had an assigned animal role, my daughter decided that my husband was missing out and designated him the noble zebra, though she would never answer my question: “what sound does a zebra make?”

So even though my innocent three year old has not yet realized that human beings are animals or that we will all die someday, sometimes she tricks me into thinking that she has. Eventually she’ll really know, but until then, I’m sure she’ll continue to say things that make me do a doubletake and think a bit before answering. That’s a kid’s job.

As long as she doesn’t do it while I’m still technically asleep.

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