So, the thing is... Smiley Jane is madly in love with me. 

This is going a long way toward making up for this lousy week I am having.  (I almost said "crappy" but that would, in fact, have been too literal for everyone.  It's far too literal for me and I am living it.)  We're in the midst of potty training.  I don't know what I expected but I guess I thought that once Ana decided she was ready to be done with diapers, she would simply go on the potty when she felt the urge.  I didn't know about the learning curve.  I didn't know that at some point you have to forbid your child to play inside a closet, in case the urge to poop in there is overwhelming.  (Must have missed that edition of the Newsletter.)  

And Jane, lovely, Smiley Jane, has her first cold.  It's not even a full-blown cold with a runny nose or anything.  Like everything she does, it's a fairly NICE version of a cold.  Just a huge, hacking, wet cough that leaves her sounding like a Longshoreman.  (As an aside, why exactly do Longshoremen sound so bad?  I never really got that.  In fact, what IS a Longshoreman?)  But anyway, as bad as Jane feels, she just lights up when I am near.  And I couldn't feel much better if I won the Nobel Prize.   

Oh, it's so wonderful.  She's just smitten.  I could put that on my résumé if I still had one!  Tiny Jane is just totally enamored of me.  She grins in the midst of tears when she sees me come into the room.  Our eyes meet across the room and she winks at me --well, she WOULD if she could.  I can tell.  Just today, she was lying on the spare room bed while I folded clothes and she just laughed out loud to see me.  Not because she recognized that she would be seeing me do EXACTLY that same thing about three times a day for her whole life, either.  She just likes me.  

My oldest daughter is definitely a Daddy's girl and has been since day one.  It makes perfect sense because she looks exactly like him and she has about 98 percent of his personality traits.  I LOVE their relationship (more about dads and daughters in my next column) --it makes me so happy to see them together.  He gives her horse rides where she sprawls across his back and he lumbers about on all fours.  I grin and watch them.  He takes her to the zoo and the playground and out for pizza.  They have dates.  I grin and watch them and it makes me really happy.  Really.  I’m not saying that there's a strict division of labor and love at our house --clearly I spend the majority of time with both kids and Ana loves me, too.  But she just prefers Daddy.  I understand it and embrace that  --after all, I prefer him, too, and he doesn't even give ME rides on his back! (Although we could probably get on America’s Funniest Home Videos if he tried...) It's not a competition or anything.  Just a preference.   

But I'm so used to their twosome that it came as a big shock that Jane is a Mama's girl.  It's like Spring in January --this present of Jane's unmistakable positive reinforcement.  She clearly thinks I hung the moon.  She can SMELL me --when Dad gives her a bottle at night, I'm not even allowed in the room, even out of sight, because it's too distracting for her. Everything I do is PERFECT in her eyes.  At about six weeks, she started interrupting herself while nursing to look up at me, milk running down her chin, clearly trying to say something.  I said to my husband, "Look, Jane has a happy song, just like Ana did!" and he said, "No, she's telling you she LOVES you.  It's as plain as day."  And you know, I think she was!  Now she strokes my face tenderly.  I just love her so much. 

We're careful, though.  We don't want to make anyone jealous.  So, I steal little smooches when I'm changing her diapers.  Whenever I'm alone with Jane, I simply can't stop kissing her little head, or blowing little raspberries on her neck to elicit that belly laugh.  We laugh together over the baby in the mirror.  We say "ah-goo" and giggle.  Patty-cake is the funniest game ever. We dance a little.  She is so funny and so dear and so sweet, I could EAT her. 

And I'm reveling in this phase because I know it will pass at some point.  She'll discover her daddy plays a mean horsey and her world will broaden and I won't be the center of it anymore and that's how it's meant to be.  Gosh, she'll be crawling soon and then there will be loads more interesting things than watching me fold clothes.  And I'll probably wean her in the next few months so we won't have those really lovely intimate moments --not that there won't be OTHER moments; we just won’t have THOSE. 

It's amazing how good Tiny Jane’s obvious love makes me feel.  Despite the fact that this is a tough week and that I am so incredibly sleep-deprived (she's so nice but she still never sleeps) and the weather has been abysmal, I feel great because a fourteen-pound infant thinks, and shows me she thinks, that I can do no wrong.  And I want to live up to that faith in me! (Kind of my version of that bumper sticker about being ‘the person your dog thinks you are.’)  

I think there's a lesson there.  It's been a long time since I looked at my spouse and told him I think he's the greatest father and husband in the entire world.  I haven't told my mom lately that she's a truly wonderful mother and grandmother.  I haven't been reaching out to the people who mean so much to me in my life to let them know it.  I've been a little down in the dumps and I think that's made me more of an energy SUCKER than an energy GIVER. 

Unlike my Smiley Jane. 


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(c) Barbara Cooper 2001

Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3) and Jane (five months).  She lives in Austin, Texas where, at any given moment, at least one of her daughters is perfectly happy with her.