Parenting happens gradually. So does independence. At least I think so. It feels like yesterday Piper was nursing, attached to my body. Last week she told me she could walk home alone from school. Detached. I walked ten feet behind her, of course, but she wanted to be out of my sight.
She’s becoming more independent. Sometimes I don’t even realize it until I turn around and find her fully dressed and almost ready to walk out the door. Who undressed her? Who picked out her clothes? Who helped her pull that shirt on? Piper. How did that happen? Sometimes it doesn’t.
Independence seems to be two steps forward, one step back. And just because Piper can doesn’t mean she will. And then sometimes she wants to and can’t. She’s still Piper.
This is how our chore chart has changed over the last year of blogging:
The best part? Dad and I are no longer on it. Believe me, we still have plenty of chores. We’re not lazing about on the couch eating grapes while Cinderella and her sister do our bidding, although that would be nice, too.
Sissy and Piper have simply taken on more. Sissy does a couple loads of laundry a week (sort, wash, fold) and then gets to boss Piper around putting it away. They set the dinner table and I don’t have to show them how anymore. They mostly remember their snacks and water bottles on their own. Sometimes I have to remind them but I don’t have to pack them. They clean up their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. They unpack their lunchboxes and wash them. They clean their rooms, reluctantly but independently. I’m not saying they do any of their chores perfectly, but they do them and that’s probably more important than my standards.
My standards have evolved gradually, too. Parenting, as hard as it is, makes me better, too. Who knew that was going to happen? Certainly not me. Whew.
If you’re a parent, you spend a good part of your waking hours as a taxi service. The hours stink. There are no benefits. Tips are terrible. Yet, you pick up, drop off, and wait. Repeat.
Piper and I were shuttling Sissy tonight to a choir concert. It was raining. The parking lot was crowded. There was a tornado watch. Dinner had been rushed. Traffic was a nightmare. You get the idea. On our way to the concert we’d picked up Daddy at the Metro. He was walking Sissy inside while Piper and I waited in the warm car.
Piper watched the other parents in the parking lot doing the same. We saw more than one parent running after a kid with a McDonald’s sack.
“Where’s everyone going?” Piper asked.
“Probably doing the same as us, P. Picking up. Dropping off. Rushing around,” I said.
“Where are they all coming from?”
“Work. Downtown. This is a tough time to get anywhere. Especially in this weather.”
“But why are they working?” Piper asked.
“We have to work. Daddy and I go to our jobs. We get paid and then we can take care of you. Food, clothes, toys, choir concerts. It all costs money.”
“Wow,” Piper said, “that sounds like a serious amount of responsibility. What a meany world!”
Piper’s been learning about manners this week at school. Her teacher took the opportunity to suggest some etiquette among the unruly kindergarten masses.
Piper is taking the manners very seriously and correcting our trespasses freely. This from a child who still leaves the bathroom door open so she can talk to us if she gets bored from the potty throne.
“Due to my recent manners training, Mom, I’ve decided to stop picking my nose,” Piper said.
When Piper woke up this morning with a raging fever and a sore throat, I wanted to cry. But I can’t. I’m the mom. So I gave her a dose of ibuprofen, stripped off her sweat soaked pajamas, and brought her to our bed. We cuddled and talked about how stinky it is to feel sick. “I know what would make me feel better,” Piper said.
“Anything, baby. What?” I asked.
“Hot noodle soup.”
“But you ate all the noodle soup yesterday,” I reminded her. “We’re all out.”
Tears welled in Piper’s eyes. Okay. Okay. I can make a fresh batch. From scratch. Before 6 a.m. Fine. I diced and simmered the broth. I boiled the noodles. I buttered a fresh slice of bread. Then I fed it to Piper with a spoon. She said her throat felt better. She said it would feel even better if she could watch Word Girl on the couch. I’m a sucker, I know.
A few hours later, after the fever broke and some of Piper’s energy returned, after the negative strep throat test and doctor’s visit, I brought her another bowl of hot noodle soup. Piper peered into the bowl at her beloved carrots and celery floating in a fragrant bath of broth and noodles and said, “Mom, I don’t do leftovers.”
A Piper doesn’t do blue jeans. They’re too stiff. She refuses to unbutton and zip. Tutus don’t easily slip over blue jeans and dancing is inhibited. So there.
Yet the leaves are changing and it’s starting to get cool. Blue jeans keep you warm. So yesterday we hauled out the hand-me-downs to add some layers to Piper’s tutu collection. Sissy made it into a fashion show. We blasted Lady Gaga and assessed new outfits with thumbs up and thumbs down. It was fun. At first. Piper gave everything a thumbs down. Too many blue jeans. Too many plain turtlenecks (Sissy was a bit more practical in her kindergarten fashion). Piper agreed to a few knit pants but only the ones with flowers, Eiffel Tower prints, and rainbows. The shirts were boring. The blue jeans were impossible. Piper was grumpy. So was I. Then she turned on Sissy. “Why couldn’t you like dresses and skirts?” she accused. “Now look what I have to deal with!” Sissy just rolled her eyes at her sister’s fussiness.
“Mom, you know what we need?” Sissy said.
“A shopping spree paid for by someone else?” In my mind I was trying to come up with a compromise between all the free hand-me-downs I’d laundered and stored and Piper’s fashion demands.
“Rice krispie treats.”
“Okay. A break would be good.” We pulled on fall jackets and walked to the store for the essentials. Along the way Piper was a little chilled. Bare legs in brisk fall weather will do that to you.
We made the rice krispies. We ate the rice krispies. Piper told us that marshmallows are harvested from the clouds. Sissy said, “Boy is she going to be disappointed when she learns about the water cycle.”
With bellies full of rice krispies we went back to abandoned clothes piles. Piper was more agreeable. I was more patient. Piper picked one pair of hot pink blue jeans with an elastic waist. She picked long sleeve t-shirts and tights that she could wear with her tutus. I showed her how we could layer all of her favorite rainbow t-shirts over the turtlenecks. Then we went back to finish off the rice krispie pan.