With our three kids nearly grown, in occasional moments of nostalgia I’ll longingly remark to my husband, “I wish I could go back and visit their early childhood for a day or an hour, just for a little while, to savor it again.” Of course that is impossible, but hosting our three-year-old niece overnight this past weekend filled in rather profoundly.
For a day and a half, time moved at a preschooler’s pace. We pulled out the Little Tikes party kitchen along with bins of plastic food, dishes, and pots for extended pretend play, then later moved on to large cardboard blocks to build towers as tall as Bridget, which she gleefully toppled. We read books; she drew pictures.
I had thought we might go to the zoo or a nearby farm, but since it was raining on Sunday we headed to the Children’s Museum for more building – with wood blocks, interlocking plastic grids, and my favorite – an arch from graduated vinyl covered blocks. It was fun to set aside tasks and just delight in this small person.
Bridget is very conversational and inquisitive, asks lots of questions, sometimes the same ones over and over again, her mental wheels obviously turning as she tries to grasp a particular concept.
“Aunt Peg, why do leaves fall?”
“What are we having for dinner?”
“What are we going to do now?”
“Aunt Peg, what happens when leaves turn colors?”
“Is it night-night time?”
“Is it wake-up time?”
“Aunt Peg, why do leaves change colors?”
Although Christianity draws clear distinction between the soul and the flesh, this weekend with Bridget reminded me how closely they are linked. I had nearly forgotten how care of the body is care of the soul when it comes to young children. Woven throughout the day, trips to the potty, putting shoes on and taking them off, brushing hair and putting it into a pony tail, preparing snacks, brushing teeth, helping into pajamas and tucking into bed are constitutive of relating to a three-year-old.
My favorite moment of our time together occurred while we stood in line to order chicken nuggets at the museum. It was crowded, so I picked her up and held her on my right hip. Eventually I felt one hand stroking the back of my neck and the other just inside my collar in a classic comfort gesture, true body language.Ah, I thought, she must be getting tired; we’ll head home after lunch.