Lightening tore fresh holes in the sky. The thunder was so loud it shook the foundation of our house. I woke suddenly and bolted upright, heart pounding. Meanwhile, Sophia, who rouses whenever I step on a creaky floorboard, slept unperturbed in her crib next door.
I didn’t want to be. I knew it was irrational. But I was terrified.
I debated running downstairs to Kevin, who was sleeping (or not) in his insomnia-resistant cave, for reassurance. And then I got to thinking about dependent and independent states, which turned my thoughts to Sophia.
In the last few weeks, Sophia has transitioned from a rather docile, mostly obedient, and largely dependent creature to a little girl with a will of her own and a distinct lack of coordination to execute that will.
Example #1: We are in a buffet-style salad restaurant in Florida with my sister, her husband, and my nephew. In an effort to be more flexible parenting-wise, I squirt out a white chemical concoction from a shiny aluminum machine which claims the stuff is frozen yogurt. I set it down in front of Sophia, who eyes it suspiciously, but after one orgasmic mouthful is hooked. She encircles the bowl with her right hand, and digs her spoon into the food-like substance with her left. The bowl wobbles precariously on the table, threatening to spill down her bib-less body. “Here, let me,” I offer helpfully, stabilizing the bowl. “NO! SOPHIE DO! SOPHIE DO!” she shouts, pushing my hand away with surprising force. “I’m just trying to help you,” I insist, now just letting my hand hover over the bowl. Even this is too invasive for her. She slaps my hand away, “SOPHIE DO IT!” With a look of great concentration, she successfully scoops out a spoonful and awkwardly twists her wrist 180 degrees to aim it towards her mouth. The melting, viscous yogurts slides and hangs off of the edge of the spoon. I am waiting, albeit at a safe distance, napkin in hand as she drags the spoon into her mouth, leaving a creamy trail across her cheek. I resist the impulse to wipe it clean.
Example #2: Sophia has never liked costume changes, but suddenly it’s an all out battle to get her out of her play clothes and into her pj’s. As I try to pull on the bottoms, she protests loudly and rolls around on the bed, eluding me. I grab a leg, try to insert it into the pants and she cries out “SOPHIE DO! SOPHIE DO!” reaching for them. Ripping the pants out of my hands, she attempts to put them on upside-down. I resist the impulse to reorient the pants as she tries repeatedly to aim her foot into a small hole. I try talking her through turning the pants around, and she listens. With one leg finally in, she claims success, abandons the project, and resumes rolling. Bracing for a fight, I guide her other leg into the pants and pull them up. Furious with my audacity to improve upon her work, Sophia endeavors to rip the pants off, pulling them back down over her diaper. There is a struggle. The pants are up. I am victorious. Sophia is pissed.
It is the hardest thing to stand back and let Sophia do for herself. I am not sure if it is because I am not yet ready to let go of her earlier phase of absolute dependence. Or if I'm the one who can’t tolerate her frustration at not experiencing immediate success. Or if I simply just want things to move along faster. It’s probably some combination of the three. I know she needs to do it and that I have to take a step back. It is the hovering that conveys a lack of capability. That breeds helplessness and fear. And so, I’m trying—but, still, it’s difficult to resist the impulse to take over.
Outside, the storm continued to punish the earth. Wide awake, I picked up an article by Michael Pollan about the pending extinction of cooking . A line from the page jumped out at me. Pollan derived this lesson from Julia Child, who, he explained, “took the fear out of cooking” for many women: “The only way you learn to flip things is just to flip them!” So simple. So true.
I didn’t go downstairs to Kevin. Sophia eventually did wake, cried out, and almost immediately went back to sleep. I didn’t go to her. I didn’t have to. She soothed herself. The storm subsided, and I, too, soothed myself and went back to sleep.