Thanks to the kindness of familiy, here in Maine I've been "sleeping in."
With instructions to wake her Ama Linda instead of her Mama, Annabel has tiptoed past my door each morning at first light and tramped upstairs to her grandmother's room.
The extra shuteye, however, hasn't made me any more tolerant as the parent of a preschooler.
I'm still vigilantly watching and waiting to pounce on Ittybit for the slightest bit of rough handling of her brother. I lose my cool at every toddler turn.
Her testing ways have set me on edge.
Gone are the nice words.
The pleases and thank-yous that once came so naturally to her have been replaced by demands in nasty tones.
And similarly, my nice words have gone, too.
Everything out of my mouth lately has been preceeded by one or any combination of the following phrases:
DON'T DO THAT!
I'M NOT HAPPY!
YOU MUST BE GENTLE!
NO! NO! NO!
STOP THAT NOW!
DON'T MAKE ME COUNT!
I try to remember just how much has changed in the past few weeks. I try to remind myself how many adjustments she, especially, has made in the last month alone.
When I asked her what people told her about her baby brother, thinking that she'd say they are always saying congratulations," I was sad to hear her more recent response. "They say 'be careful!'"
While he squirms and fidgets and cries under the weight of her kisses, I think about other times I've witnessed him stop squirming and fidgeting and crying in her mighty embrace.
On the occasions he screams in her lap, I hear the pain in her voice when she tells me he doesn't like her.
I tell her that he loves her, trying to reassure her. A white lie, perhaps, but one that has a fundamental truth: Love doesn't always feel good. It doesn't always say sweet things in your ear. Sometimes it's loud and shrill and ill-tempered. But even if its voice is hoarse, love is always there trying to set itself upright. Wanting to lift itself higher.
Love stumbles sometimes, too.