Once, when I had just graduated college, I was in the grocery store dairy aisle. These were the glory days (grocery shopping-wise), when a trip to the grocery store did not mean putting on 3 coats and 6 shoes to get out the door, unbuckling 3 people, trying hard to make sure no one died in the parking lot, trying to execute a pre-planned route through the store before the inevitable melt down from one or the other child. No, those days were in my distant future, and I was blissfully unaware. I was probably thinking about whether to play Rock Band or marathon a few episodes of 24 that evening, when I happened to overhear a kid asking her mom to buy the brown-shelled eggs instead of the white ones. “But mom, I want to try the chocolate ones!” The mom pressed on shopping, ignoring the child (And only now I know—she pressed on likely because it was T-minus 5 minutes to meltdown time). I remember thinking, When I have a kid, I will laugh at these statements.

Oh naive early 20s Mollie. You are so cute. Run along now, and enjoy your Jack Bauer and stop starting sentences with the most untrue statement ever muttered, “When I have a kid, I will…” (But wait, before you go, let’s put the kibosh on some other endings to that phrase—you will not have clean faced kids all the time—your children will have gallons of snot pouring forth from his or her shnoz at some point or another; you will not be able to control them in public or anywhere—there will be plenty of library and grocery store tantrums; and you will not always give your kids reasons for your decisions—you will use “Because I said so” as a valid reason for things daily.) And about this particular grocery store one? …I will laugh? Besides the fact that the mother was a woman on a get in-get out mission, she did laugh. If not at that moment in her heart, she laughed hours later, after sweet sweet bedtime—a time when all parents of little ones breathe (no one died), recover (here I am), and reflect (anything good?). If they are lucky, the answer is yes, and they can laugh and enjoy the best parts of raising tiny humans. If the answer that day is no, they can laugh and enjoy a glass of wine.

Oh, and, early 20s Mollie—while I have you. Here is just one future day with your 3 year old daughter. Perhaps this will explain things better.


“Where’s my suitcase?” Vivvi asks.

“What do you mean your suitcase…we’re getting dressed,” Husband Wally said.

“I want to wear my suitcase!” Vivvi demands.

“What? No, you’re wearing this,” he says, holding up her new tank top.

“My suitcase!” She cheers, grabbing the shirt, laughing, eyes welling up in joyful tears. “You found it!”

“Vivvi, that’s called a tank top,” he explains. She doesn’t care, happy that she got her wish.

VivviAnd so the day begins—a day like any other day with a 3-year-old, sure to involve a lot of interesting thoughts and logic, a lot of explaining about words and life. On the way to church for a meeting, Vivvi asks if W5 is her brother or her sister. I say he’s her brother. “That’s right,” she says. “Because he’s a boy, not a dog.” Yes, Vivvi. That is good enough for me. While I am meeting, she and her brother (not her dog) are playing nearby. She comes over to the table where I am sitting, and W5 is laughing his head off on the other side of the room. “Look mom!” I look down at her, still discussing a point with the Children’s Ministry director at our church. I see her blousy “suit case”, and I register what she is saying moments after her words have landed. “Look at my butt!” I lean over and see that below her blousy suit case, her pants are at her ankles. “Vivvi!” I scream.

The Children’s Ministry director, who has 2 kids of his own, just laughs, “It’s funny,” he says, “how kids are all the same.” Truth, I think, remembering that Wally did this his last day of preschool last year. Something for his teachers and friends to remember him by, I guess?

I give Vivvi a lecture on the way home. I didn’t know if any of it would sink in. Vivvi is an odd bird to us. Our son Wally is very logical, so he’s easy to explain the rules to—just make it dark black and bright white, and he gets it. Speak in absolutes. And, maybe because of this, he is affectable—take something away and he cries. Reward him and he glows. If you take Vivvi’s prized possession away (her pink puppy), she offers you her piggy too. And rewards are the same—for potty training, I offered a huge box of glorious prizes (donated from a friend with an older daughter). She could choose from dolls and books and a toy computer and new princess dresses—she fixated on mini plastic cups. It took some of the effect away when looking for praise from the family—”What did your parents give you for peeing on the potty?” they’d ask. “A cup,” she’d reply.

Later, when husband Wally gets home from work, we’re talking about his day as Vivvi practices her spins nearby. She is becoming quite the Angelina Ballerina. (A birthday scrapbook I have for the kids asks me each year for my current mental snapshot of the kids—this is mine for her, drowning in a sparkly Snow White dress, arms reaching back and then around, full force for momentum, spinning, spinning.) As we speak, I register that she is at my legs, hugging me. Her head is currently up to my thighs—this I know, because a second later I am involuntarily screaming in pain. I look down and she tears up at what she’s done. “What happened?” Wally asks. “She bit me!” I say, in shock. He takes her for a timeout and another lecture. “Did she listen?” I ask when he comes back. “Who knows,” he says.

And finally, it’s bedtime. I am helping her into her PJs, and she says, “Look, at this shirt, mom! It’s flip flops!” She must notice my look of confusion, because she says, “I mean, what is this called?”

“It’s called a tank top, Vivvi,” I explain.

“Oh yeah, a tank top,” she repeats. Did she get it?

So it will sink in, I go on. “It’s called a tank top because it has no sleeves,” I say.

“Right,” she says, and then after a pause:  “No sleeves, no biting, no taking off your pants.” And this time, I actually do laugh out loud.

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