It is my suspicion that my husband thinks I coddle Katie too much. My husband has never really said those words, but I can tell by the way he looks at me. Granted, Katie is almost four years old. She is certainly not a baby anymore; she is not even a toddler.
What my husband doesn’t know is… sometimes she still calls me mama.
It’s the way she says it. Ma-ma. Slow and precise. Each syllable deliberate, much like it sounded when she was just a wee baby learning to talk. Ma-ma.
Take last night for instance. We put Katie to bed with a kiss and a hug. We closed her door softly behind us. Ten minutes later, she was calling. “Daddddddy…” This stalling technique has been in full swing for about three weeks now.
“I’ll go,” I said to my husband. He gave me a leave-her-alone-and-she’ll-stop-calling look. I went anyway.
I nudged Katie’s door open and peered into the darkness.
“What is it, Katie?” I whispered.
“I’m firsty, Mama,” she replied.
“No more drinks, Katie. It’s time to go to sleep now.”
“Firsty rhymes with wirsty and mirsty,” she observed. I did not reply and started to back out of the doorway, pulling the door shut.
“My knee hurts,” she tried again before I could make my exit.
“Close your eyes, Katie. Go to sleep.”
“I hot, Mama,” she pleaded.
I crept over and sat gently on the side of her bed, rubbing her back and telling her to think happy thoughts. Her unruly hair formed a tangle of curls around her face and my hand drifted up to smooth the curls. Katie giggled at my ticklish touch and I giggled back. She still laughs like a baby, from deep down in her belly sometimes. I watched her eyes start to droop close and felt mine start to do the same. I sat in silence for a long time, just staring and watching her breathe. She smiled up at me, and in her face I could still see the chubby-cheeked baby she once was. I could also see a glimpse, ever so slight, of the girl she is becoming.
My husband thinks I coddle her. He doesn’t know that Katie is right on the edge, caught somewhere between baby and girl. He doesn’t know that if you look at her long enough, you can see both her past and her future.
“Time for sleep, Katiebug,” I whispered.
“Okay, Mama,” she whispered back.
He doesn’t know that sometimes she still calls me mama.