Clara does not like to be helped. She spent the last weekend at the beach with my mom, sister, and niece pulling up stools to get her own drinks, opening and closing every door she could, climbing in and out of the bathtub, and, of course, getting herself dressed. There is no greater source of stress in our household than when Clara can’t get her pants over her diaper. With the angry insistence of a two-year-old, she swats any hand that helps her and writhes and screams against the powers that conspire to stifle her independence.
During this month long stay in Tampa, it has been fascinating to discover all the likenesses between my mom and me and me and Clara. It takes both my mom and me hours to get out of the house in the morning. And, when I’ve been given an address to the library near the beach and my mom continues to offer me the services of her cell phone’s mapping APP, as well as the visual display of a real paper map, I writhe uncomfortably as though someone is trying to pull my pants up for me.
I’ve had a little more patience with Clara since recognizing all the familiar signs. Although some personality traits seem to appear as early as two-years-old and stick around forever, every day I’m stunned by how much motherhood has changed me. While at the beach, I did not spend a lot of time at the beach. The sand was course and consisted mostly of broken shells so Clara wasn’t interested in beachcombing or sandcastle building. At one point, our group was trying to go for a walk and Clara was stopping every three paces to clean the sand out of her toes and shoes. So, Clara and I returned to the condo’s cleanly landscaped grounds and let the sun start its setting while we climbed stairs and chased lizards.
For awhile after Clara was born, I resented all the books I wasn’t reading, all the music I couldn’t hear over the crying, all the sunsets I couldn’t catch, and all the conversations I couldn’t finish. While I’ve always known that Barbie’s figure is ill-proportioned and that it was totally unnatural for the Little Mermaid’s hair to never look wet, I have spent a few days as an adult woman fantasizing about the various Mary Poppins, fairy godmothers, and scorned step-sisters that might saunter through the doorway and take care of everything so that I could both have a baby and not change my life in the least.
Now, I find myself preferring a good snuggle with Clara and Llama Llama Misses Mama to the New Yorker article I’ve been reading for the last week. Although missing a beautiful stroll along a blue, blue beach, I discovered I was tremendously content to watch Clara track insects. I like to look at her up close and marvel at how similar her eyes are to Aaron’s or look at her from a distance and observe how she’s metamorphosed into a little girl. I find that Clara and all her changes and interests are a new kind of aesthetic.