There’s a 3-year-old on my lap, face forward and cupping my cheeks with her hands. I oblige, raising my eyebrows, sticking out my tongue, and wiggling fingers behind my head like some kind of deranged rooster.
It is morning, and silly faces are our ritual.
Another one! She makes a silly face without even knowing it, bed-headed and sleep-encrusted, puffy eyes. She smushes my cheeks together, forcing my lips forward in a pudgy pout.
This time I attempt to cross my eyes,which I’ve never been successful at- not even with a slow finger to the nose the way so many have instructed me. I end up squinting them, nose crinkly and drawn up, duck lips like the high school girls on Instagram. My daughter, of course, does not appreciate my nod to pop culture but laughs nonetheless.
It’s simple to please her in this way, in this stage of bathtub bubble crowns and piggy back rides through the park.
We have other traditions, too. She drinks from a sippy cup which she calls a baby bottle, and sometimes I indulge her by holding her like and infant and patting her bottom. She makes exaggerated baby noises, Goo Goo and Da. It’s a game we play, both of us knowing she’s too old for this kind of behavior.
Lately she’s taken to turning the tables, insisting that I’m the baby and she plays Mama.
Drink your bottle, baby, she sing-songingly says. I stretch myself across her lap and pretend to settle in to sleep.
Three is a year of rituals, of silly liturgy.
There are others: Racing up the stairs to bed, I trail closely behind her chanting I’m going to get you! and swatting at her playfully.
Her insistance that I pretend to smell her feet when she removes her shoes. I squeal PEEE-UUUU! and frantically fan the air, and she pays for my performance with a high-pitched belly laugh.
My sons and I have our silly times too, but they’re the ones appeasing me when they tolerate an occasional bottom pinch or belly poke. Even then they roll their eyes and release an exasperated Mooooom.
As they get older they’re harder to please. They begrudgingly crack a smile when they sense my maternal neediness. They give in when I want a hand to hold and indulgent cuddles on the couch? Unless they’re sick, I can forget about it.
Life just gets more complicated. And when it comes to entertainment- let’s be honest- I hardly compare to Phineas and Ferb.
For now I’m grateful for the simplicity of three. For the silliness. For the tiny hands that cup my face, and the sweet girl who always asks for more.
Even if I can’t cross my eyes.
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.
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