January 8, 2009


Sometime back in December Guthrie brought the movie Ice Age to me and wanted to watch it. I obliged and we watched some of it together and then I ran upstairs to switch over the laundry. She started crying. Not the your upstairs I'm downstairs kind of cry - that is SO whiny and is usually accompanied by someone throwing themselves prostrate at the foot of the stairs. Girl's got some drama. - it was a weird cry, a hurting, but not because of having gotten hurt kind of cry.
I came back downstairs and she led me to the tv. It's the part of the movie where the mom hands off the baby to the mammoth before she dies. It hadn't even occurred to me that she would get what this scene was about. The scene had never phased her before. We talked about the mom being sad and that that made us sad too. The she found some playdoh to play with or something. It was short-lived and something registered in the back of my mind, but I didn't put two and two together.

A couple weeks later she's doing it again. This time not about a movie, but she's discovered me crying and comes and gives me hugs and kisses and starts crying also. Which completely makes me cry harder. Somewhere I'm thinking, I know she's seen me cry before, I don't think it's healthy to hide your emotions from your kids. But, she's never had this reaction. She was so concerned. So empathic.

We went to the library the next week to check out books and I decided to pick up a baby sign language book about feelings. I thought it was probably too soon for something like that, but at the same time it's never too soon to name emotions. I was wrong. She caught on immediately. She began telling us she was happy. She began acting out sad and happy. Which I'll admit was slightly frustrating because when she's pretending to be sad she sounds very, very sad and I could never figure out what was wrong! She began taking notice when someone else was sad and becoming sad herself. When someone is laughing she tells us they are happy. She's much more able to identify the feelings of others than of herself. Except happy. She's pretty aware when she's happy.

My mom had to put her cat, Febee, to sleep right after Christmas. It was sad. Febee has been around since I was in high school. She was a handful and hated most everyone, but we loved her. I told Guthrie that Febee had died and that because of this Gramma was sad. Because of the previous weeks I knew it would be different from when her other cat Emma had died earlier in the fall. And it was different. I mean besides her running around yelling 'febee died, febee died' and totally inappropriate times - she was sad for my mom. She patted her arm and gave her hugs and told her 'gramma sad' (which is 'dieta' and then the sign for sad and some fake tears in guthrie speak). She spent days processing the information and would come up randomly and tell me that gramma was sad and when asked why would respond 'febee'. It was so interesting.

I don't know why I find this so amazing. I think it's the combination of Guthrie learning about feelings and learning early forms of empathy. It's also that her world view is changing. That she is no longer completely self-focused. This has been such a stark transformation for me to watch. So obvious that it makes me pause and just watch her.

I think it's amazing too because while Guthrie has always been Guthrie and her temperament has mostly been the same since she was about a month old it's like we're getting this more complete view of her. My friend Aprille recently blogged about how it's almost as if her and her son are the same person and I can completely understand. Almost as if there are threads tying me to Guthrie. For so long her needs have been my needs. Her joys are mine, etc. but I'm very aware that in the past year, but especially the past few months Guthrie's independence has become less about toddler BS and more about her just doing her own thing. I'm watching those threads get severed one by one and it's kind of amazing.

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