Friday, April 4, 2008

Cathryn the Great

Cathryn Tippett Carlson is the second-born of our trio, which explains her middle name, a special gift passed down the matrilineal line to the first-born daughter. Just one of the many wonderful things she got from me, but more on that later. Cate was also our smallest baby, weighing in at a petite 3 lbs, 10 oz. Her fighting spirit showed itself early on when she started ripping her i.v. tube out in the NICU. I remember coming in one morning to find her with the i.v. implanted in her head; the nurse took one look at my face and rushed over to kindly explain that no, nothing was wrong, it was not as bad as it looked, it was actually one of the most painless locations for an i.v. and that they had to put it there because she kept tearing the ones in her hands and feet out. Okay, breeaaathhheeee. Looking back, that should have been my first clue.

Rynna drove me crazy while nursing; her favorite trick was to nurse just long enough to get the milk going and then pull away so that it sprayed all over. Then she would give me a big grin. Other things I remember about her early days: she was the first to smile, the first to get a tooth, she was the last to walk (she patiently watched her sister and brother work out all the messy details, studied them for a few days once they were up and toddling around, and then just got up and did it. None of that awkward falling for her!). Mainly though I remember her personality - her essential Rynna-ness that came to the fore early and has been going strong ever since. She loves to be the center of attention and will actively seek out the spotlight. She loves to laugh. She is a master of observation and a born behavioral scientist - "If I do this what will you do?" She loves to push people's buttons just to see what will happen. Maddening, but also somehow endearing.

On to the present: My mother likes to refer to her as my Karma Child. She drives me out of my mind with her dramatics: "Cate, would you please pick up your shoes?" "Arrghhh!" she huffs while simultaneously crossing her arms across her chest and flinging herself backwards on to the couch. One day when she was fake moaning/sobbing in the back seat of the car (because we would not pull over on the freeway to retrieve one of her 10,000 tiny plastic animals that had inadvertently fallen from her seat to the floor) I turned to Brian and said "Please shoot me when she becomes a teenager." To which he replied "And be alone with her? No way." She is the apple in our eye. Other than being a drama queen, she is also a collector, a trait I fear she inherited from me. Even as a very small baby she showed a preferential fondness for things that came in groups. All the red blocks. Or all the square blocks. Or all the rattles. You get the idea. Her current favorite collections: a group of about 12 small plastic baby animals (culled from the larger group of small plastic animals), 2) a group of approximately 8 stuffed dogs, including the twins Mustard and Ketchup, whom she carries around in a yellow plastic basket, 3) a set of 3 yellow rubber ducks (each a gift to the children from my mother, but which Cate has decided all belong to her now), and 4) 4 My Little Pony dolls. When she plays with her collections she must have ALL of the items in the collection or she will lose her mind. For instance, if she is playing with the MLP's and Ava takes the yellow one ("yellowy") which she sometimes wants to do because, after all, it is hers, there is much weeping and sadness. The skies are rent in two with the force of her outrage that someone would dare - WOULD DARE! - to break up the set. What are they thinking? Madness, I tell you! But when she has all of her coveted items securely in her grasp, she can spend literally hours lining them up, turning them around, marching them hither and yon, introducing them to various members of the family and pointing out their distinguishing traits ("This is the PURPLE pony. Her name is Purply. She has a JEWEL.") In fact, we spent much of this morning doing that very thing. I'm still not exactly sure where this slightly OCD tendency will lead her in life, but on the up side buying presents for her should be pretty easy.

Right now Cate seems to be the odd one out in our trio, often playing by herself while Jack and Ava play together. Sometimes I worry about this, envisioning her as a perpetual loner, desperately wanting to be a part of the group but not knowing how to go about it. And then I wake up and remember that this is Cate we are talking about, and that if she wanted to be a part of the group she would march right over and plop herself in the middle of it and start telling everyone else what to do. And strangely, they would do it. She has that weird kind of self confidence that projects outward on to other people, making them feel you do indeed know what you are doing and that they should naturally take direction from you. It is hard to explain. On several occasions I have seen her come in to a room where Jack and Ava are happily playing and interrupt them saying "Now here is the game we are going to play: we are going to get our blankets and betend they are tents and we are camping at the Otter Pond". And Jack and Ava will stop what they are doing and go get their blankets and come back for further instructions. Adryenne says she does the same thing at school, with the same results. I'm not sure what it is about her, but she is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Reading over all this I feel like I have painted a terrible picture of her. But in a way, that is part of her magic; she is a compulsive, bossy, button-pushing drama queen all wrapped up in something so genuinely open and wonderful that the final result is a little person so amazing she takes my breath away.

My challenge with Cate is to adore her without her knowing it, to nurture that self-confidence without feeding her inner tyrant, to realize that although I see much of myself in her she is not me and never will be. She is herself. And that is a wonderful thing.


Lauren said...

This is one of the best descriptions of a child I have ever read. As we discussed last night, Jenn, I'm mesmerized with Cate. I am just so in love with her spirit.

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