We may have only a few weeks of data, but I think it’s safe to say that the conventional wisdom about four, as an age, being better than three has a lot going for it: more language, better conversation, fewer public tantrums, and increased self-reliance. All these things have made for an outstanding holiday interval, for the most part. The strange outlier is some vestigial maternal clinginess that seems to have ratcheted up in intensity over the last few days. Kina is, in her words, a little kleengy.
“Kleengy” made its first appearance in these pages way back in Easter, in reference to her then-dominant stuffie, Puppy, who had apparently spent all morning pestering Kina for love and attention. This complaint did not come out of nowhere, I imagine, but without more specific notes from the time, I can neither confirm nor deny that Laurea or I have ever used the language “Okaay okaaay whaaat” in the heat of the moment. Parenting is strange, in that one both craves a child’s attention and is annoyed by it; the sweet spot is slender, and so we ping-pong back and forth between sweeping our kid into our arms and looking for a quiet spot to hide.
This needy child has resurfaced recently in a few notable ways (including some night waking that we thought we banished way back in February), and we’re confronted with two big questions:
Do we ignore these behaviors or comfort her?
Is this the moment where our baby finally disappears?
We’ve talked about behavioral regressions here recently, in the context of Kina’s selective return to a preverbal state, but I haven’t truly confronted in writing how pivotal this moment feels. With each developmental burst she encounters (many of which coincide with lost sleep and increased clinging) she gains enchanting new skills and language, but at the same time, parts of her vanish. Sometimes I’m not sure whether the fear I experience when she’s throwing a tantrum is about the tantrum itself or the loss the tantrum presages.
Do we want her to grow up or stay a baby forever? My gut certainly has an opinion, and it’s not exactly realistic.
In this morning’s edition, I talk about the “bad old days”, but even now I’m wistful for Kina’s baby years—and in a few years’ time, I’ll read today’s paper and miss this day terribly. We’re all (even Kina) constantly reckoning with the squishy little Ship of Theseus that is our daughter, constantly in flux, shedding diapers and malaprops as she rapidly expands. I keep meeting new kids when I wake up in the morning, and I love each of them, but I do wish she’d just slow down.
In the meantime, I sit in the back of the car as Kina screams for her mother, who has left for three minutes to pick up some cake. I try to comfort her, to reassure her in my presence and her mother’s impending return, but Kina is inconsolable, whipping herself around in her car seat and moaning no, no, no. I want to pretend it doesn’t bother me, but I think I just can’t place what “it” is—that she needs us so much, or that she soon won’t. In that confusion, I alternate between sadness and adoration, playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on my phone, trying to keep her here with me forever.
Today’s Parade is a tour-de-force collaboration between Kina and Laurea. The younger artist contributed all the marker strokes—portraits of Miss Clavel, Madeline, and random friends, accompanied by all the letters in the names Kina, Daddy, and Mommy. Laurea swooped in afterwards with the watercolors, lending the dreaminess of a two-week holiday staycation to what is now probably my favorite Parade in ten months.
I’ve been grateful to be able to spend so much time on these in the last two weeks on the morning and evening editions of The Daily Kina. It’s likely that shoehorning a workday back into my schedule will result in shorter emails, but I imagine that’s not all bad. Thanks for riding along these last several months, and in these last two weeks, in particular. They’ve been a real blast. See you Monday.