For the past few months I have been explaining to other parents that six-year-olds are like a treat for the countless, labor-intensive hours you've spent during all those months prior taking care of helpless, tiny creatures.
They're cute, yes, very little children. So cute, and I'm enjoying every moment of Adriana's babyhood in a way I didn't really know was possible, don't get me wrong. Now eight months, she is opinionated about the things she wants (all the food, and my iced coffee, and the toys that her older siblings very specifically does not want her to touch). She is babbling and flirting with everybody who so much as glances as her. I absolutely adore her, and am desperately clinging, as well, to the remnants of Gabriel's early years; the dimpled elbows that will soon be history.
But Nora! Nora has entered stage of youth that is delightful in completely new ways for me and J. She started first grade an uncertain reader, then - seemingly overnight - morphed into a total bookworm, with a basket of favorite titles by her bed sorted into varying piles. After our nightly bedtime ritual with them, Gabriel falls asleep quickly, but she flips on her little booklight and reads to herself for awhile.
She has myriad interests and hobbies that materialize in an instant. And she's cocky about her successes and expanding knowledge, but in a completely unassuming fashion, so it's endearing, rather than annoying, the way it can be with adults. "Well, I'm done with another Junie B. book," she'll tell us in a mock-disappointed tone that she doesn't quite pull off, as she's clearly dying for us to comment on her outstanding speed-reading skills.
The other day, scanning a nature guide about monkeys from the backseat of the car, she asked me my favorite kind, and I responded that I like capuchin monkeys because, let's be honest, that's one of the only kinds I'm aware of. She asked me if I knew where they were from, and I said Costa Rica, because I had, indeed, seen them there during our honeymoon. Then she asked me where squirrel monkeys were from. I didn't know. What about howler monkeys? I didn't know that either. She was overjoyed, holding the answers there in her hands, and not sharing them with me, as I was clearly undeserving.
How about Japanese macaques? She was pretty sure I didn't know where those were from! And she was getting an ego high, but I took her down a notch. "Um, I think they're probably from Japan, Nora."
She's suddenly aware of the whole wide world in a very real way, and of all the things she can do in it. We spent her spring break in Maine with my parents, and she decided she wanted to learn to knit. It was a difficult skill to teach, but she was a good student, and mostly got the hang of it. She wants to take piano lessons so badly, and when I told her that would be difficult because we don't have a piano, she wasn't deterred.
Then, this weekend, the inevitable, when she finally took a keen and sudden interest in the kids birding books and bird journal she'd accrued over the years. She was off and running, observing species in our backyard then noting their coloring, calls and habitat (for the house sparrow entry, she wisely entered: "sky.")
She and J had the nerd level in our house off the charts before too long and Nora's already scheduled their first birding trip for an upcoming Saturday. Needless to say, I'll skip it, but it's great to know that my husband finally has a willing partner for this particular hobby. Someone detail-oriented enough to truly get into it, and affectionately condescending enough to make fun of the rest of the family members when we can't tell a crow from a raven. If ravens even live here. Which I guess proves my point.