From where I sat in the bedroom, I heard the familiar sound of my daughter climbing the stairs. Pat Pat. Pat Pat. Bare feet on wood, one at a time, turning the corner at the landing to the second floor hall.
“Mommy, how do you spell ‘black hole?'” she asked.
“B.L.A.C.K. H.O.L.E,” I told her without looking up. We’d been through this routine before. She turned around and before long I heard the Pat Pat-ing all over again.
Downstairs, my 5-year0old played an iPad App that required him to spell things to move forward in his game. If he encountered a river, for example, he’d have to spell “Boat” to cross over to the other side. My daughter was doing his bidding, the dirty work of a little sister, and by the time she made it to her brother’s side she’d jumbled the letters together in her mind.
“B.A.C.K.” I heard her begin. I imagined a back hoe appearing on the screen, doing nothing whatsoever to keep the meteors at bay.
At three, she’s not the most trustworthy reporter, rarely getting her facts straight and often exaggerating claims.
“If you don’t give me juice right now I might die.”
“He is the worst brother EVER and I’m never playing blocks with him again!”
Still, she’s entertaining to have around. She’s always good for a hug. And she can often be convinced to pitch in when she’s needed.
The funny thing about 3-year-olds is this: they’re just little people will life-sized personalities. The big kids they’ll one day become are already in there, and so are the teenagers, the college kids, the adults. I’ve seen this happen already with my older two— the baby that slips away a little bit each day.
Soon she’ll refuse to do her big brother’s dirty work. She’ll grow wise to his game. For now she feels helpful. Like she has a job, a purpose.
There’ll come a day when I’ll no longer hear that familiar Pat Pat up the stairs. For now I’ll cherish each one that I hear, bare feet on wood, taking it one step at a time.
More by Mary Lauren
Mary Lauren Weimer is a social worker turned mother turned writer. Her blog, My 3 Little Birds, encourages moms to put down the baby books for a moment and tell their own stories. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.