when i was pregnant with mairin i had a lot of anxiety about having a daughter. in part i was worried that i would lose her, as i had lost her older sister. but once that seemed unlikely, i was simply worried about raising a girl. more precisely, i was worried i would raise a floozy.

every time we go to a park and i see little girls running around in frilly skirts with nail polish (invariably chipped, because manicuring a 3-yr-old’s nails can NOT be an easy thing to do) i cringe. at summertime parties when i see girls in grade schools wearing belly-baring halters i look away. i mean, really. what are their parents thinking? who let the girls out the door looking like that? and worse, who made such outfits possible in the first place? don’t buy it for the kids, i reasoned, and they won’t have a chance to wear it.

even gifts of clothes can require careful management. a good friend of mine who travels regularly to italy brought m back an italian bikini. the top is the classic two-triangles-over-the-breasts style; the bottom is a thong. A TODDLER THONG! that’s just not right. but i dutifully took the bikini with us to the beach this past summer, and one day even put it on m. all the sane people on vacation with us agreed with me that it was a little creepy — a little too sexualized for a young child. (luckily, the diaper underneath the thong made it more funny than weird. but still.) m did NOT leave the house until she was wearing her jaunty, surfer-inspired outfit, with all her little baby girl parts appropriately covered.

well. my fears and failures — those that are obvious as well as pending — are here to haunt me. on a recent expedition to buy m an extra crib sheet i decided to have a look at shoes for her, since her older cousin handed down a lovely red velvet holiday dress that m can wear this year. now, m is a rough-and-tumble, robeez-wearing kinda kid. she falls a lot, and rarely cries while she picks herself up and toddles off. there is nothing demure about her. nice dresses and fancy shoes are not her thing. but every girl needs a party dress, right? and since all great outfits are built from the shoe up,  we needed to check things out.

as we looked at various shoes — a novelty for m, who typically gets little to no say in what she wears — she became enraptured with a pair of black patent mary janes. ok, i thought to myself. that’s kind of classic: red dress, white tights, black shoes. i can live with that. so we find a pair in her size, i take off one of her yellow-sunflower robeez, and i slip on one of the mary janes.

and that was that.

m would not let me take the shoe back off. i mean, i COULD take it off, but i was certainly going to hear about it. even the magic snack bag — a baggy endlessly supplied with cheerios, raisins and cheddar bunnies, and which makes all bad things seem bearable — did nothing to assuage the poor kid. she eventually had a meltdown in the baby-bedding aisle, the kind that requires you to hold the screaming child and rub her back while she snots and blub-blubs all over your shoulder. she eventually calmed down and was willing to sit back in the cart…as long as she could wear one of her shoes.

so ok, i think. it’s a bit of a novelty for her, she’s come down with a cold from her cousins over thanksgiving, and she’s suffering from massive holiday-craziness-induced sleep deprivation. she’s not herself. we’ll get home, we’ll show daddy the shoes, and when she’s ready to have them taken off we’ll put them away. all will be well.

[insert maniacal laughter here]

yesterday morning i got a call at work from s, telling me that m had cried and cried when he tried to put her brown robeez on her. she gave him sad face and the ASL sign for “all done” — what don’t you understand, daddy? i DO NOT WANT TO WEAR THOSE SHOES! she kept whining and reaching for the mary janes, which s dutifully put on. m spent the rest of the day gleefully clomp-clomping around in those stiff-soled shoes.

when i came home from work she came to show me her shoes. i took some pictures. (so what? a little enabling never hurt anyone.) then eventually it was dinnertime, and then bathtime, and then jammy time, and then…NO. NO BOTTLE. MUST HAVE SHOES.

the mary janes are NOT made to fit over fleece footed sleepers, but m would not rest until both shoes were on her feet. i wanted to win the small victory of at least not taking off  her pajamas. so we crammed and squeezed and shoved until, lo and behold, the kid was walking around in flowery-blue fleece jammies with black patent leather mary janes on her feet.

i didn’t even try to take them off until after she was asleep. i put them out of sight. i was not going to repeat this nonsense tomorrow.

alas, when it was time to put m’s robeez on this morning, she fussed, whined, looked completely forlorn, and practically screamed the “ALL DONE!” sign at me. she reached and reached for her shoe shelf, even though she could not see the shoes she wanted.  i caved. i pulled out the mary janes and put them on her feet. she was instantly as happy as, well, as a toddler who got her way. she clambered down off my lap and joyfully clomp-clomped her way around our second floor.

so there it is: mary jane as gateway drug. this is undoubtedly the beginning of a long and tortured relationship between my sense of propriety and m’s insistence on being her own person, dammit.

now how i do i make sure she doesn’t turn out to be a floozy?

mairin is one of eight cousins, ranging in age from 5 months (her fave, baby e) to 15 years (her least fave, cousin l, a tall kid whose height really scares her). throw all those kids in a room with a wii and let the fun begin.

which is to say, it’s been a crazy weekend.

last night i brought m home early because she kept climbing in my lap and squirming and crying, which didn’t annoy me until it began to interfere with my focus on my glass of wine . when m and i got home we put on jammies and brushed our teeth, climbed into the big bed in our room, and cuddled while she drank her bottle and fondled her bellybutton. when she was done she handed me her bottle and sank a little further into the bed.

but she didn’t close her eyes.

usually at bedtime m finishes her bottle she hands it to me, then rolls over and goes to sleep; a few minutes later i carry her into her crib. but last night she lay next to me, eyes wide open, slowly looking around the room. when it was clear to me she wasn’t going to go to sleep anytime soon i started talking to her quietly about her day. i reminded her of the games she’d played, the people she’d seen, how much fun she’d had. as i was talking she turned toward me and smiled that all-heart smile that every toddler reserves for just the right moment to melt a grown-up’s heart.

feeling all gooey and melty myself, i smiled back, kissed her on the top of her head, and kept talking. i told her what a good girl she was. her smile got bigger. i told her that she is my favorite 15-month-old. her smile got a little bit bigger. i told her i love her. she lifted her head a little more and then slowly started to nod.

yes mama, you love me.

tertia talked last week about the incredible feeling that is mommy-love — the all-encompassing affection and devotion that parents feel towards their kids. i love that feeling. love love love it. that feeling is my addiction: i love loving these little people. it makes me bigger and more spacious — my heart has a room in it for each daughter, and each room is its own little big sky country.

what more can a girl ask for?