Mario enjoys dressing himself. Actually, I think it is more accurate to state that Mario hates others to dress him. He knows what works for him (which lately has been an old pair of black sweats and some plain colored long-sleeved shirt) and he wants to hear no different from a mom who wants him to wear a trendy, new short-sleeved polo shirt that she bought him months ago and he still has not worn (summer is over soon, buddy!). Mario is 3.
If Maria had a choice, Maria would allow her mom to dress her everyday. She wants to have the right to overrule any clothes selection made by me, but she wants me to ultimately put the clothes on her body. All the way down to her socks and undies. Maria is 5.
Yet, Maria is also gritty and bombastic and attentive. She senses emotions and feelings in people before most adults. She acts hawkish with her family always ready to protect them by any means. If Mario is crying, she will search all over the house to find his binkie and if she cannot locate it, she will think about what else would calm him down (“give him candy, mom, now!”). If Jon is having a stressful day, she will sit him on the couch and massage his shoulders (“It’s ok, dad, calmmm down.”). If I get hurt (typically by Mario’s kick in the face or punch in the gut), she swoops me up and immediately applies a band-aid (bleeding or not) while asking me how I feel every ten seconds and rubbing my head.
She cleans like a wild woman when in the mood. I can put her in charge of washing the floors, scrubbing the cabinets, beautifying the windows – she will do it all (except her own room). However, there is always one prerequisite – we have to play Cinderella while she is cleaning.
“Mom, act like you are my stepmother and you are making me clean – but you are a nice stepmother.”
“Cinderella, you better be cleaning so you can get to the ball and dance your tail off!”
“No, mom, so I can get to the ball and meet my prince.”
“You can meet a prince, darlin’ but you also need to have fun on your own and not be dependent on a man.”
“Oh, mom, just say it!”
Yeah, as much as I try to take the “fairy tale” out of the “fairy tale”, it does not work too well. “It is her age”, other mothers tell me, “she will have no desire to talk about boys in a few years.” Yeah, and I will turn 20 next year. We’ll see.
Maria is also one heck of a singer. We learned this fact during my sister’s reception at my parents’ farm in September. My uncle Jack played with his band for a couple of hours while people ate and hung out. After about a half of an hour, Maria walked over to the band, grabbed the microphone, and started singing. No inhibitions. Her cousin, Alana, stood by her side, a little shy and overwhelmed. And Maria not only sang, she sang with such passion and force. She held that microphone and swayed, moved it around her mouth, switched hands while continuing her tribute – a little budding Beyonce.
And then there is Mario – the second born. The “crazy little monkey” as we call him because it fits so well. He is a typical second born child – trying to get all the attention and spoiled (although as I think about it, Maria is just as spoiled being the first-born – I guess we are equal opportunity spoilers!). He will talk over Maria while she is trying to sing just to irritate her and have the audience focus on him rather than her. He will cry and flail is arms and scream with the hope of getting his way (typically done when he wants chocolate or candy before dinner and is told no). In addition to being a crazy little monkey, he is also an independent little stubborn mule. If he cannot get his sock on the way he likes it (he inherited from his Aunt Sarah an obsession for making the line on his sock lay directly over all of his toes) then he continues to try and try and try for however long it takes to get it right. On the weekends, so be it. Gives Jon and I more time to read the paper. But on weekdays it is maddening as we are trying to get out the door for Kindergarten and work.
He is the child that will go outside for an hour and find things to keep him busy without ever needing us to go out and play (Maria would not last five minutes). He loves to dig and play any kind of ball (he could throw a baseball or shoot baskets for hours) and throw plastic toys around the yard. He loves his golf but you cannot ever try to put a tee in the ground for him; you will have thought that you just encountered the Incredible Hulk with his explosive reaction. He wants to do it all himself. The same applies to breakfast. He wants to take the waffle out of the package, put it in the toaster, and put the syrup on it. He will only let me cut it and that is because I scared him by telling him if I don’t cut it he will choke to death from the huge pieces.
But, as much as Mario loves his independence, he still needs his family around him. He hates the thought of anyone but mommy taking him out of the car, putting him to bed, finding his bink, getting his food (although he did ask for dad to get his cereal the other morning which may be a minor breakthrough), sleeping with him. Maria left the other week for a couple of days and he continued to ask “Where is Ria? I miss her.” When she is home, he watches her like a hawk and repeats almost all she does and says (she used to always whine that she did not want to talk about what she did at preschool and when I ask him at dinner what he did, he responds: “I don’t want to talk about that right now, mom!”). When Jon went out of town for a few days, he cried on the way home one night for his daddy to come home. Both he and Maria are like pack dogs – they like to see the entire pack together.
Hopefully, that desire will stick around when they are 17 years old. However, somehow I see Maria dashing out the door to sing at the local bar and Mario darting out to play his fourth game of basketball for the day.