Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Growing Bears

Two events with Berkeley have recently brought me unexpected joy. Sometimes it's easy to forget that she's on an ever-changing trajectory toward "adulthood", that even though she's just a little girl she's right in the middle of the process of growing up, that she's changing. You can sense it, like you can sense passing near someone on a foggy night, but until they get close enough, or the fog clears just right, you're not really sure what's out there.

A few nights ago we were out to dinner with a group of friends. Berkeley and Wren were the only children there. Berkeley sat at the table and did her usual things: played with her food before eating it, talking over other people, being loud, just typical three-year old stuff. The conversation amongst the adults turned to where some of them went to high school. There was a brief exchange and a minor pause in the conversation and Berkeley found it the perfect time to interject and said, "I go to school."

Writing about it now I don't know if I can even convey how great I found this. It made me laugh first and then upon reflection it ended up being the highlight of the day. It feels like a milestone. She's following free flowing adult conversation and not only understanding what is being spoken of but attempting to be a part of the conversation in a meaningful and non-destructive way. It felt very grown up to me, and part of the joy I felt stemmed from the moment's unexpectedness. I didn't know she could do it.

A few nights later I went to do some indoor rock climbing, this is a new thing for me and so I was telling Berkeley about it before I went and to help her understand what I was doing I showed her a little video of some kids climbing before she went to bed. I left to go climb while Robyn was in the middle of putting Berkeley to bed and when I came home Robyn was the only one awake. The next morning Berkeley called me into her bedroom. I pulled her out of bed and we went to the kitchen to have breakfast together, just the two of us. After I poured her cereal and sat down next to her she asked, "Papa, how was your rock climbing?"

Again I was taken by surprise. And again I feel inadequate at relaying why I found it extraordinary. The question required more memory and, maybe more importantly, more empathy, or interest in other people's enjoyment, than I expected out of her. It was an incredibly thoughtful question for someone who spends most of her days mostly worried about who is going to keep her entertained and play with her. Her concern, maybe expressed for the first time, wasn't about her enjoyment, but about someone else's.

Even more recently--this post is like three weeks in the making--Robyn went on her first photoshoot since Wren was born. When she returned home Berkeley asked, "How was your picture taking, Mama?" I wasn't taken by surprise this time, but instead I was a little embarrassed. I hadn't gotten around to asking Robyn about the details of her event, and our three-year old had to remind me about the proper way to be excited and interested in those you care the most about.