My daughters had been playing quietly for a good ten minutes, which is always cause for alarm.
After following a trail of graham cracker crumbs, I finally found them in the bathroom with my three-year-old on the potty and my six-year-old sitting on the floor in front of her – the two of them holding hands, rocking back and forth, singing row, row, row your boat.
My six-year-old is at the art table, drawing pictures of sunflowers when the tormented spirit of Van Gogh suddenly swoops in and possesses her body.
I can’t work with these lousy crayons, she yells.
I sit down next to her and explain that it’s the process not the product that matters, that when we slow down and take the time to observe something carefully, we move from passive absorption, as Maria Konnikova tells us, to active awareness.
The safety gate in our front hallway had been obsolete for a while – my three-year old had figured out how to unlock it by herself, and for the past few months we’d been primarily using it as a drying rack for wet mittens.
When I finally got around to disassembling it last week, my daughters treated it like the fall of the Berlin Wall and celebrated with some prolonged butt-wiggling
Off with your head, my five-year-old recently told me when I said no to a second piece of dessert.
Though after I explained to her what that phrase meant, she looked at me in a slight panic and asked: But would it grow back?
My daughter, of course, picked that line up from the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, but it got me thinking about Emily Dickinson, who said, If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
Take a sharpie away from my three-year-old and she will invoke Whitman, will begin sounding her barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.
But plop her on the toilet and the scene is much more reminiscent of the Romantics – as she ponders philosophical questions, her imagination wandering wildly and her intonations somewhere between speech and song.