My little fortune cookie

My daughter is growing up. That gives me the heebie-jeebies. I woke up today facing her makeshift corner in our room. She still has a little big girl’s bed, locally and beautifully made by Tess Vargas about two years ago — a white four-poster hand-painted with butterflies and flowers and a quirky fairy-queen in happy colors. It was a design she picked out from a catalogue, one she bugged me about for quite some time and because she was getting too big for the sofa pushed against one wall that she had draped with a pink mosquitero and that she proudly called her “bed,” I gave in. This little big girl’s bed that I am telling you about now is much nicer and bigger than her sofa, and she specifically asked for pink drapes so it feels like she is “in a nice tent” (her exact words). But under the pink drapes is a gauzy white material that looks like a veil. At bedtime she would draw the thicker, pink drapes and just let the gauzy white ones hang loose. She does not like it too dark at night.

Earlier this week as I was leaving for work I saw her in her pajamas, directing three of our helpers to take down the drapes in her bed. I also heard her say she no longer wanted to use (for the moment at least, I suspect) her kiddie sheets and that instead she preferred the plain white ones that she once upon a time called “too simple.” “White everything, Yaya!” she now insisted with a flourish.

I got home late that night and there were plastic flowers cascading down the length of her four-poster bed (we had bought these at Toy Kingdom when it was very new at the then newly-opened Mall of Asia). And yes, the sheets, the pillows, the duvet cover were already all white. Her bed, her private, most favorite spot in the room looked different already, and very pretty. And it was all her own doing, her own orchestration. My seven-year old daughter already has a mind of her own.

That was apparently just a portent of things to come because this morning I opened my eyes and saw on her wall, the one where her bed is pushed against, a poster of The Jonas Brothers, and another one of Miley Cyrus. I saw two more shots of The Jonas Brothers (whoever these young boys are) still about to be posted. Once when I was watching Grey’s Anatomy she passed by and asked me the names of the guys because she was going to look them up on StarDoll. When I got to McDreamy and McSteamy she said, her eyes fluttering “Oh, Mom, McSteamy is soooo cute.” Emphasis on the “soooo.” Today when she left for violin class she asked me how far off Christmas was. She wants a blonde wig like Hannah Montana, something for her and her little pink friends to use when they play dress-up, and she wants to make lotion and “fancy body thingies” when she gets back later in the afternoon. By that she means we will look for everything sparkly and pink and we will pour them in little jars. Last night we mixed pink body lotion with glitter powder from National Bookstore that we all at one point used for our school projects in elementary.

When I am dressing up now she will look me over carefully, from head to toe. Sometimes she says “Are you really going to wear that?” (she does not like very much the Kate Beckinsale/Pearl Harbor look, she says I look like I am “about to meet Alice in Wonderland”). I figured out she does not like puffed sleeves on a lady very much. Other times she says, “You have a meeting at my school Mom, make me proud and be stylish.” That really makes me double over in laughter. She sounds way too grown up for her age. She wears my heels and some of my tops, sometimes she even reads me a story in bed. Or she makes up her own story to amuse me. She massages me when I have a headache and hums me to sleep. When we pray at night she asks God to “make David Cook win on American Idol, pleasey, pleasey, pleasey.” She was overjoyed when he really did win, while I sat watching the replay of the results show with tears in my eyes beside her as they announced his name. David Cook does not even know us. Then she goes off to toast bread with butter and play with Gaston. Once she wore a Kuromi headband (it makes you look like you have cat’s ears) and entered the room where Gaston was fast asleep. She crouched on all fours and for the first time since he arrived in our house, our dog who looks like a pig but is really a dog and who never barks, finally did. He really barked. He thought she was a big cat. Frightened, she stood up to look human again and convinced Gaston she was just herself, his human playmate.

She is a study in contradiction, but aren’t all kids? And with the posters on her wall, she seems like such a big girl now. That was the tangible sign of my own coming-of-age years, only then it was Menudo posters. How time flies.

All that said, I only have to look at her to know that she is still a little girl, with her round tummy and boundless energy and love for everything sparkly, pink and sweet. She likes rock and the stuff that rock stars wear, like chunky metal and skulls. But then she will shift to her girly mode and wear a pretty dress when I least expect her to. The most precious thing to her now is three big boxes of erasers — she has hundreds of them in chubby, colorful blocks, others are in shapes of fruits, people, cars, houses, shoes even. For Christmas, together with her blonde Hannah Montana wig, she already told me she wants more erasers. She is frightened of lightning and thunder but she can watch horror flicks and not have nightmares. What are kids made of these days? They don’t exactly fit the same mold we adults grew up in. They are a little bit of everything every day, yet they are neither confused nor harassed. They just have the natural ability to enjoy and seize the day. For people so little size-wise, it amazes as much as it amuses me how they seem to have their own little big lives happening for them.

With all the things that need to be done in any given day, in the busy-ness of the here and now, it is so tempting and easy to say to a child, “Later, love, Mommy is busy.” I am making a conscious effort to not do that, although I am guilty of having done that far too many times than it is allowed. By the time “later” is done, the child is exhausted and has curled up in a corner to sleep like an angel. And so unlike adults: when morning comes there is no trace of tampo whatsoever.

Seeing how fast our Juliana is growing up, I never want to be too busy that I cannot find time to enjoy her antics. I know I never want to be too busy to laugh at her knock-knock jokes, I never want to be caught being stuffy and lacking the enthusiasm to be silly together. I want to savor all that she is and all that she is yet to be because her personality unfolds in bits and pieces every day (and I know that is the same for children everywhere). Their true selves are evident in the little things, always, and these little bursts of sunshine and surprise are a source of much laughter and joy. The facets they display are like the fortunes we get from a cracked cookie, always surprising, very rarely disturbing.

When she comes home from violin class later, yes, we will make her pink potions. After I write this I am going to clean some little jars that I found from my makeup kit and we will mix powder with oil, lotion with toothpaste, put lots of glittery “anythings” — whatever my little chemist wants to make. She is the boss. She says we are going to make precious beauty products. So be it.

Being a child, she has ideas that are not entirely viable and could seem like a waste to time but I must allow her to experience and explore. Some things cannot be taught, she has to discover that herself. When I was a little girl myself my mother always indulged me. Nothing was ever too corny for her that she would not help me make it with as much enthusiasm as I had in my little heart. Nothing was ever corny for her then; what gives me the right to say anything is too corny now that I am a mother, too?

I take inspiration from my husband who, after a hard day’s work, never says no to my daughter when she wants to ride a skateboard, bike around the village, play catch, do muay thai, slide in the mud, or pillow fight. He is very indulgent that way. I pine for the kind of energy he has because after doing maybe just a fourth of all that he does in one day I am ready to collapse in bed and just roll from side to side until I fall asleep. But Juliana and I cuddle and talk and giggle, compare our crushes and share secrets and I hope that more than makes up for the times when I had to say “Later, love, Mommy is busy.”

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