Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Becoming Dear Alex

Dear Alex holding Sad Thing...

It's been a long strange journey with Dear Alex over the last week and a half, and because I've been trying to write about her daily for Beautiful Wife, I've actually had the happy opportunity to pay closer attention to this child's many moods, idiosyncrasies and her ever-developing personality. It's definitely deepened my appreciation of her and her equanimity. She has fun, she pushes her limits and tries things and sometimes fails, but also sometimes succeeds. She takes it as it comes. There are so many little things that add up to make it fun and rewarding to watch this slow but daily growth in capacity and awareness, and it amazes me how complex and nuanced Dear Alex has become. I'm using big words and complex sentences to try to process what I'm trying to get at with this, wandering around a point intellectually, just to sum it up - I'm in love with Dear Alex, and the person she's becoming. There are little moments that make me smile, like her insistence on frequent hugs, especially when she somehow intuits that I'm feeling a little down. Because in her words, "hugs will make you happy". Or her instinctive reaching up to hold my hand as we come to cross a street. She'll put her free hand up in perfect imitation of the orange hand on the crossing sign as we wait for the "walking man" to appear. She knows a lot of things that I don't anymore, like how to talk to and relate to inanimate objects - I've been trying to come to a way to write about that, her understanding of the secret life of things and how utterly charming it is to hear her say a fresh "good morning" to the coffee table, and a cheery "hello" to her guitar, and maybe make up a song or two for the carpet on the floor. Of course, I'm writing about the universal experience of any two-and-a-half year old, but she's my two-and-a-half year old. As Dear Alex will sometimes say, "you and me, daddy."

Dear Alex has interesting relationships with her many stuffed animals, and a definite hierarchy of who's who, and for what emotional need she may be experiencing. There's the one constant, the ever-more-threadbare "original bunny", but the others, like knuffle bunny, they come and go - occasionally in the crib, occasionally banished for reasons known only to Dear Alex. She has developed a complex relationship with one unfortunate-looking stuffed bear who she named "Sad Thing" - definitively banned from the crib at bedtime, but sometimes called for when Dear Alex feels the need to cheer someone or something up. Dear Alex loves Sad Thing, then doesn't.

She takes pride in what she knows, and will share that with you if she's feeling like it - sometimes she doesn't care to engage with anyone at all - and can play by herself, endlessly inventing and reinventing scenes and scenarios to put her fleets of taxis and trucks and trains and little plastic people through.

Ah, what I guess I'm getting at is that incredible imagination, that I'm finally coming to appreciate now that she can sort of communicate just what the heck it is that she's doing - This is developing storytelling, and I'm hoping to give her lots of great ones to tell.

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