J brought home her January journal yesterday. At school they have journals with a choice of different writing prompts each month. I love seeing what she chooses to write about as well as what she actually writes. Seriously, it feels like I’m waiting for the latest sequel from my favorite author. I crave every page, and then I try to slow my reading in order to savor it.
It’s like other developments that have made me just wild with curiosity as the kids mature. She can eat solids now–I wonder what foods she’ll like? Now she can crawl–where is she going to want to go? Holy crap, she can say words now, what’s she going to say?
Am I the only one who’s freakishly fascinated by this stuff? It feels like it’s so compelling that there should be a special word for it that’s related to narcissism somehow. Is there a word that I’m just forgetting? Because it’s not narcissism, exactly. I don’t gravitate to their opinions or habits that are just like my own. In fact, when they do something that I recognize as inherited from me, more often than not it’s something I don’t particularly like, and then I wince like when you see an unflattering photo of yourself.
I’m more excited to find some goofy little quirk that I never would have expected. Who would have known that M would get so fierce on the soccer field that she’d growl? Or that J would love artichokes so obsessively? That M would spend months wearing a headband every waking moment, then switch abruptly to a ponytail with no discernible reason? That J would fall in love with Ewoks and Star Wars? Each twist and turn leaves me breathless with anticipation about what’s coming next.
When the kids were teensy, every action was a potential portent. I’d wonder if the bossiness was normal, or if it screamed future CEO. I’d record plinking on the piano in case she’d go to Carnegie Hall later. Was this dress-up obsession an indication of a bright future in fashion design? Of course, the omens could be bad, too. Crawling back into bed with me meant she’d never move out of the house, a bathroom incident meant that slumber parties might be impossible forever.
I recorded M’s first kick of a soccer ball: June 29th, 2003. Years later, on this very blog, I declared that I had two daughters who were “dancers-not-soccer-players.” Three more years, and M is obsessed with soccer, J with gymnastics, and neither one of them dances, except around the house.
I like it. That fluidity, that change, fits and starts, bumps and wiggles, but so much is the same. M at 1 year and 10 years: funny, stubborn, deft at parrying words and ignoring unappealing reality, brimming with joyful, even, maddening confidence. J at 1 year and 8 years: peaceable and sensitive, arranging her surroundings in pursuit of her own aesthetic visions, passionately affectionate, impatient with herself. It reminds me of those cool time-lapse growing up videos, where you watch facial features undergoing clay-mation shifts, hair grow and recede, but the same little spirit shines in the eyes and spills from the same smile.
So I love poring over the journal and learning little snippets of what J’s life that I didn’t think to ask about and she didn’t think to tell me. I wouldn’t have guessed what her favorite winter activity is, but when I read her describe it in her journal, I think, “Of course. Of course that would be her favorite thing.”
I just paused and looked for examples of some of the prompts and her responses, and I realized that put together, all of her answers show something else. This little window onto her world is such a gift for me because between the lines about her favorite breakfast or what she likes, it’s clear. She is happy. She is happy. And who knows what the future will bring, but for today, that’s enough.