Last night, just before midnight, I hurried up to Mookie's room to have one more look at my four-year-old daughter. I have really loved four. It's been a lovely year, mostly very easy and happy. Developmentally, something has shifted over the past few weeks--she's been cranky, testing limits, testing whether crying will get her whatever she wants (that didn't last long), and doing lots of yelling. I hope it doesn't mean that that's what Five is like, but will pass within a few weeks. We know she is nervous about kindergarten, which she seems to think is like a prison camp with lots of homework, and no playing, so that may be the cause of the tension. After a bad tantrum the other night, she tearfully told Joy, "I don't want to have a fit on my birthday."
But even with the crankiness, she's been a lot of fun. Reading in her book nook, alone or with us. Long games of make-believe with her various stuffed animals and dolls. Little tableaux all over the house. (When I got home last night, there was a jewelry-size cardboard box in the kitchen doorway. Beside it was her blue stepstool, with a family of ducks arranged underneath. Huh.)
And this morning, the big day, there was no fit. She wandered into the kitchen all sleepy and snuggly, told me about her dream, got dressed all by herself while I finished getting her cake into the oven, and declined to shower with me (so much for the dream of clean hair on her birthday. It's our dream, not hers), instead getting herself breakfast while I was showering. She patiently waited for us all to gather for the ceremonial opening of the presents. Our big girl.
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It's been a full, happy day. Joy and I both came to the birthday-party portion of the school day. Mookie's school
really knows how to make birthdays magical. There's a big sign on the birthday girl's cubby, with stars and beautiful multicolored lettering reading "Happy Birthday, [Mookie]!" The kids bake muffins earlier in the day--Mookie requested blueberry. At the end of story time, she gets to name the kids one by one to go wash their hands, while a few become the Birthday Band. As they gather their instruments, she dons a cape and sits on the birthday throne, and is then carried to the table as the Birthday Band accompanies the procession and everyone sings a special birthday song. The head table has a special high tray for the birthday girl, and members of the Birthday Band join her there, along with her family. She gets a muffin with a candle and everyone sings "Happy Birthday," adding "cha cha cha" after each line (a C5 innovation?).
On this occasion, several kids had gone to the City Hall rotunda around noon to see Irish dancing, and it made such an impression on them that they decided to put on a special performance for Mookie's party. Erin, her teacher, put on Irish music and they drummed and danced with gusto, and in some cases, with strikingly good form (one friend, A., really had the motionless-above-the-knees thing down). When the birthday muffins were done and kids started to leave the table (clearing their places as they went), many moved over to the smart board for an Irish dance party.
After some drawing, some writing of Dr. Seuss's name (the whole day had a bit of a flavor of Dr. Seuss celebration, since it's his birthday too; Erin was reading the kids Oh, the Places You'll Go!
when I came in), and some painting of other kids' faces, Mookie was ready to leave school a bit early for our family date seeing The Lorax.
And now we've had a light dinner and settled down. Mookie wanted to play with her new "pet vet" kit, so Joy let her put off bedtime for 15 minutes, and I tucked myself in. A few minutes later, Mookie came into our room and announced, with a great air of giving me a present, that she was going to snuggle with me. A few minutes after that, she was asleep on Joy's pillow.
Joy came in, discovered bedtime had happened on its own, and said what we say to each other at least once a week: "Look at that beautiful little girl." We have just been watching her as she sleeps. In the morning her cheeks will be pink, but right now she is still pale with tiredness. She takes my breath away. Shortly before bed, I asked Mookie if she had a happy birthday, and she wrapped her arms around me, snuggled her head against my chest, and said, "Yes, but most of all I love you." And now I'm going to close my laptop and lie down next to her for some sweet dreams.