First, a breakthrough: This morning, when I brought Lucia to a friend’s house for our weekly babysitting swap, she put on a wobbly but brave face when I left and, my friend texted a bit later, cried for only twenty seconds before going off to play with little T. She played happily the whole time (I heard her laughing when I got to the door at pickup time!) and greeted me with a big smile and a cheerful “Hi!” instead of dissolving into plaintive tears at the sight of me. I was thrilled.
Perhaps because of the more trying episodes in weeks past, or perhaps because this is just a stage she’s in, Lucia has become extremely focused on babies and mamas and the fact that one can’t be (and usually isn’t) without the other. When she spots a baby on the street, she not only says “baby” but also “mama” or “daddy,” depending on who’s pushing the stroller or carrying the baby. She says the word-pair seriously, with a little nod of approval: “Baby. Mama.” “Yes, a baby with her mama,” I say back. “Yeah,” she affirms. Then sometimes she points to me—“Mama!” As though pleased to rediscover her own mama right there as she always is.
When we read books, she examines each picture for babies and mamas, pointing out each on every single page. Humans, animals, it doesn’t matter—every baby has a mama, and anything small is a baby. In Blueberries for Sal, a current favorite, there are a few pages where Little Sal can’t find her mama—and when Mama finally reappears, Lucia jabs her fingers at the page and yells “Mama!” excitedly, as though her own mother had been lost and found. She likes finding the mamas in books almost as much as she likes finding cats.
In books featuring human or animal families, she diligently names each member of the family: “Baby. Mama. Daddy.” (She gets a bit confused when there’s a baby and an older sibling, and we’re practicing saying “sister.”) And then she sits back and waits for the next page, the world just as it should be.