So, the thing is… all about Jane.
I’m not sure how it happened but Jane is turning three. I blinked and there was this little girl standing before me –determined to dress herself, determined to have complete and utter control over her pottying (“Mom, could you give me a little privacy?”) and determined to…well, just… DETERMINED.
I guess I forgot to mention that Jane has started preschool. I have to laugh at myself because I’ve been so wrapped up in the trauma of sending my oldest daughter off to Kindergarten that I kind of glossed right over the fact that my youngest went off to school. Yes, Hurricane Jane Cooper (almost three) marched right off to school without so much as a backward glance. In fact, she flung a, “Bye, Barb!” over her shoulder and that was that.
I know what you’re thinking but I DIDN’T cry, thank you. She was SO ready for school and I was so glad for her. The second day of school, after I told her, “Today is a school day,” she got so excited, she ran out and got in the car —in her pajamas! At 7:00AM! (School starts at 8:30.)
What a difference between my two kids. It just cracks me up. My husband says the difference between Jane and Ana can be summed up by their relationships to our terrible cat. Ana, at age eighteen months, emerged from an encounter with the cat, big tears welling in her eyes as she sobbed, “Kitty MEAN!” whereas Jane, at the same age, came away from a similar moment saying breezily, “Kitty hiding.”
I feel like hiding sometimes, too.
Jane does everything with great gusto. She’s a creature of extremes. She will overwhelm us with how loving and sweet she can be. (My mom is still telling the story of how Jane asked her to read to her and then announced, with great certainty, “I sit in your WAP.” It wasn’t a question but then again, what’s to question?) Or she will literally knock us over in high dudgeon. Once, I suggested that it was time to go upstairs and have a little rest and she hit me from across the room with a peanut butter cracker. (Jane’s got ARM!)
Jane does everything with great decision. She never WALKS anywhere –that would be too noncommittal. When she’s angry, oh my gosh, she is ENRAGED. When she is sad, there’s no sniffling and martyrdom for that kid. She sits down and cries as if her heart is breaking. And when she’s feeling loving, she will climb right up you and nestle into that space that you didn’t even know you were saving just for her.
And tough? Oh my gosh, Jane is the Clint Eastwood of toddlers. (Sometimes, after I’ve threatened dire consequences, she’ll look right at me with an expression that clearly says, “Go ahead. Make my day.”) She’s somehow decided that to let on that she’s hurt is a sign of weakness and might force Mom to interrupt her fun. One day, I ran over her hand with my desk chair. Just rolled right over that tiny hand. I was horrified. I was so sure I’d broken some bones in it but Jane stood there, tears squeezing out of the corners of her eyes, saying, “I fine. I okay. I fine.”
It’s so funny because I can’t ever seem to really capture Jane on paper. Well, maybe in a few pictures. But not in words. Words are too slow or something and they just can’t contain her. I’m not the only one who thinks so. A few days ago when we ran into Jane’s teacher from summer camp, who confessed a bit sheepishly, “You know, when I see Jane on the playground, I just want to say, ‘YO! Girl FRIEND! Come on over here!”
I know just what she means, even if I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s that she’s the girlfriend you always wanted —the one who can teach you how to hot-wire your dad’s car and to toilet paper a house. The one who will tell you if your new outfit is dorky or that you deserve someone better than that schmuck who broke up with you. It’s impossible to think of Jane without smiling. She’s like a blend of Mia Hamm and Doctor Seuss: a fearless competitor with a totally committed sense of whimsy. She’s an utterly adorable, sweet, cuddly little tiger kitty. When she bites, it HURTS. And, frankly, she bites a lot but we all keep coming back for more. It’s hard to hold a grudge against Jane.
I admire Jane; I’ve learned a lot from her. For one thing, I’ve learned how important it is to have a clearly defined agenda. Once you have that, you can accomplish anything and all the people around you whose agendas are more vague simply fall before you. Say, for example you really want a cookie. I mean you REALLY WANT A COOKIE. Are you willing to ask for it over and over again at some really high frequency that sits right inside your poor mommy’s spine until she promises you a cookie —nay, she pulls out the flour and the sugar and the chocolate chips and she bakes you a freakin’ homemade cookie, asking only that you please, please STOP ASKING? Just hypothetically, are you THAT committed to a cookie? I think not.
I also admire that she doesn’t give a hoot what anyone thinks about her. Take, for example, this past Sunday when she single-handedly brought the children’s church service to a halt by lying on the floor and screeching with glee. I was MORTIFIED as I hauled her, kicking and screaming, out of the church hall. She was just mad she’d lost her audience. (And to add insult to embarrassment, as I indignantly recounted the whole episode to her father, he could barely repress his smile. He stood staring down at Jane, whose blond curls and blue eyes were working their magic. I stamped my foot and he looked up, guiltily. “You have to admit, she’s pretty darn cute.”)
Another thing I admire about Jane is that she is really FUNNY. I’ve always wanted to be really funny—the kind of funny my husband is, where you say something so fast that people’s laughter just escapes them and they make pig noises. Here’s a typical Jane story: A few nights ago, Ana said the grace over dinner and then Jane did her version, which was completely without real words but with the EXACT cadence and vocal inflection of Ana's right down to the "AMEN!" at the end. It was hilarious.
So I asked her, since she goes to the same Christian preschool that Ana went to, "Jane, do you say grace before you eat your lunch at school?"
She nodded emphatically.
"Can you say it now?"
"Five little monkeys jumping on the bed,
One fell off and bumped his head,
Mama called the Doctor and the Doctor said
No more little monkeys jumping on the bed!"
Guess who was making pig noises?
Happy Birthday, little Hurricane. You make me smile with my heart.
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Barbara Cooper 2003
Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (5) and Hurricane Jane (almost 3). She lives in Austin, Texas and she really hopes the Terrible Twos don’t give way to something much worse (but she’s already hiding her car keys just in case.)